It was a wonderful opportunity to take the pre-festival version of the documentary Real Live Angels to Southern California to present it to three distinctly different audiences. The feedback has been immeasurably valuable; the acceptance and validation of the message empowering. For those who are not aware, Real Live Angels is a 45-minute documentary about a camp for people with special needs, in operation in north Texas since 1947. But it is also about our ability to change, to grow, to accept, to learn, to love as human beings. Although I long ago hoped (planned?) to do a documentary about Camp Summit, the chance came to light when I began working – at age 50 – on my masters in journalism at the University of Oklahoma. Today, I am on the verge of finishing that research and academic work surrounding the film, and ready to move into the next level of presenting this movie and its heartwarming messages of inclusion and possibilities to a broader audience.
But first things first; screenings help me get an idea for what is hitting and what is missing the mark. In California, at the National Broadcasting Society convention in Burbank, scheduling cost me a lions’ share of the audience in attendance. But those peers in the academic and professional worlds who were able to enjoy the movie each offered useful feedback and uniquely poised schools of thought. No one expressed any displeasure with the movie, and those who did share specific thoughts and suggestions clearly were moved by the film.
Next was a wholly selfish screening opportunity at Emerald Isle in Placentia, CA. This was a location for family and friends who otherwise would not get to see the film. The screen was small, and while of course family members who saw it loved it (they have no choice!), those who were there to see the movie for a variety of other reasons (proximity, message, personal connections to the special needs community), offered thoughtful feedback and useful suggestions. It was also a special treat for me to see Jamie Bolduc, one of the four musicians who provided music for the film. In her case, the song Circle was a powerful final anthem at the close of the movie. She hadn’t ever had the opportunity to record the song, which she wrote a decade and a half ago. But when I requested the song for the film’s soundtrack, she didn’t hesitate to go into her father Dave’s studio to record it. She had the opportunity to see the film, ask questions and enjoy the moment. It was important to me for her to see how the small audience there was moved by her song.
A larger and potentially more critical eye awaited at Cypress College in Orange County, California. The screening was hosted by the Journalism Department there, and my old friend (and a University of Oklahoma alumnus) Robert Mercer. Students, faculty and members of the academic community there took up approximately 30 seats for this screening, and afterwards every person in attendance took part in a lengthy discussion about the filmmaking, storytelling, Camp Summit community, research to date, and more. I received some powerful suggestions, questions and thoughts on the film, every ounce of it positive and constructive. more than a few people were interested in finding out about camps like Camp Summit in their area.
After four screenings to date including these three in California, I have been left with significant material for my academic research surrounding the effects of the film and a buoying confidence that this was the right story to share and the right way to share it.
There are two screenings remaining in March, 2014. The first is Sunday, March 23 at The Windsor in Dallas, Texas at 2:00 p.m. It is free and open to the public, as is the final screening of this academic phase, Thursday March 27 at 6:00 p.m. at Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. Afterwards, the plan is to continue to present the film in festivals around the country, perhaps the world, and ultimately gain distribution so that a wider audience can share in the story of this place where Real Live Angels help us change the way we see the world, and all of the people in it.
Submitted by Brent Weber, March 22, 2014