Look. I've been shooting all this stuff for years with the idea of making a film. But I could never come up with a good enough concept that seemed workable. Organizing is not my strong suit - I needed to work with people who could drive a project like this. Enter Julie Cavanagh, who had been promising since I met her in July 2009 she would look at my footage and develop some ideas.
Last August I invited Julie to my brand new man cave (which always seems filled with women and female cats) and we developed a short 8-minute film which we called Educational Dysfunction at the New York City DOE (which you can view here) about how the DOE discriminates against children with special needs. As a special ed teacher for a decade, Julie had a lot to say. We completed most of the film that afternoon. Looking at it today, I can see how many of the ideas and concepts were used later on. It was Julie's first experience working on a film and she was hooked.
The idea for The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman was hatched that day. During that afternoon we happened to look at the trailer for Waiting for Superman and were disgusted. The first instinct was to do a spoof but the hype over the next few weeks made it clear that a more serious response was needed. I gave her a video camera and she started doing interviews. A bunch of GEMers signed on to do lots of the most important stuff (I will write a lot more about them later) and we were off. In fact at that point I was able to take a lesser role in the nuts and bolts of the project and play more of a "tell me what you want me to do" role. Julie played the role of majordomo. (I learned from working on another film with someone similar to Julie that you must have someone play that role.)
One of the major decisions we made was to have on screen narrators involved in education guide people through the movie. Julie was clearly going to be one of them. It didn't take long to think of Harlem teacher Brian Jones, roughly the same age as Julie with a decade of experience, as co-host. (Brian, who stood toe-to-toe on Education Nation with Geoffry Canada, has professional acting experience.) Brian has a young baby and is a very busy guy but he has been there for every aspect of the film, including all the publicity work that is being done.
Brian and Julie gave structure to the film. I went up to Harlem to interview Brian and we did a wonderful day of shooting at various locations in Williamsburg with both Julie and Brian. The two of them look great on camera and really anchor the film.
We thought the project would take 6 weeks. It turned into 9 months. We started evaluation previews in mid-Februrary (not quite Spiderman but close) and kept revising and shooting more footage as the film grew from 52 minutes to over an hour. We had so much great material we could have done a 3 hour film. At this time I won't get into more details.
The reaction as been amazing. The best advertising we had was the negative reaction to WFS after all the hype. We have had requests from all over the nation asking for copies.
We expect many local screenings if you didn't get into the premiere. That the film was made from the efforts of working NYC educators (except for me) and parents is remarkable. I mean it is a real film, not those you-tuby things we've been doing. I watched "Inside Job" in the plane going over to Paris and I saw a lot of that in our film.