It’s interesting how sometimes life can challenge the strength of your conviction by putting you in the situation to question a decision you made. This is a glimpse of my story from being a healthcare professional to becoming a Documentary Film Producer.
Valentine’s Day of 2020, my last day working full time for a Rehabilitation Agency as a Traveling Supervisor/Clinical Specialist. My decision to leave a stable career doesn’t have anything to do with the company I was working for. As a matter of fact, I’m quite satisfied and happy with my work responsibilities and my position within the company. It has something more to do with following my gut instinct and listening to my heart as far as my next journey in life.
It all started with a conversation with the subjects of the documentary over dinner almost a year ago. At that time, I recently just met the female subject and have known the male subject of the film for quite some time. One of the topics of conversation was about their dance partnership and their vision as professional dance partner. Call it divine intervention or maybe having been consumed few glasses of wine, I was able to talk them out that what they are trying to do is so revolutionary and their backstories are something out of a fictional film, that they should have a documentary about it. I guess, they had this “ahah” moment that they immediately called the Award Winning Brian Thomas to be their Director. He then suggested to them that they will need a Producer. Like the professional dancers they were, they synchronically looked at me and for lack of better words, begged me to be their “pretend Producer” until they can find one. At that time the spirit of wine took over me and I said, “why not.”
That moment when I responded “why not” will forever change my life’s trajectory. In order to keep up with my “pretend Producer” status, I decided to actually join them on a weekend of June 2019 as they compete and perform at Disco America in Essington, PA . To make the long story short, that weekend resonated something from within me that led me to decide to stop pretending and for real produce a documentary about their journey. By the way, I don’t know anything about producing films nor it was even on my agenda at that time. That is a different story in itself.
Why I decided to actually produce a documentary even after the fact I don’t have any lick of experience in doing so? Well, that weekend, made me realize that perhaps being happy and satisfied weren’t enough to live your life to the fullest. Perhaps, in order to create the change that you want, you need to aim for joy and challenge. And that opportunity presented itself to me in a form of going through an unchartered territory.
One may ask, what happened that weekend? Let me try to explain this the best way I can, you know when you witness and experience something that is so transcending it gave you that tingling sensation, bigger than yourself moment? That’s what I felt ! Listening about their vision as a dance partner did not provide the justice it deserves after witnessing firsthand on how their message can resonate beyond the world of dance.
FollowLeadLOVE, the title of the documentary about Abdiel Jacobsen and Kristine Bendul. A Queer Person of Color and an Aging Female broadway veteran who joined forces to once and for all help break the barriers of the World of Ballroom Competition’ s Male to Lead and Female to Follow. Their vision is to take it to the next level of TRUE GENDER EQUALITY. This is a film that will TRANSCEND beyond the World of Dance. A documentary that will tackle the nuances of our SOCIAL and CULTURAL landscape by looking at issues such as INCLUSIVENESS, DIVERSITY, ACCEPTANCE, FEMALE EMPOWERMENT & EQUALITY. This synopsis pretty much encapsulates my feeling and thinking at that moment. Hence, I made the decision to take the LEAP of FAITH.
Director: Award Winning & Emmy Nominee Brian Thomas
Production Company: Transend’Daens
Production Asst/Social Media Strategist : Mason Chapello
Fast Forward to present day. We are in the midst of Global Chaos due to the Pandemic caused by COVID-19. Stock Markets taking a massive nosedive, businesses closing, unemployment reaching fever pitch, quarantine, lock down, social distancing and all these uncertainties affecting both our Global Economy and Citizens. Believe me if I have to charge a dollar for every time I hear or was implied to me that my timing was unfortunate, I will have enough money to last me until I can go back socializing in person and experience our new normal way of living. Well, I don’t blame them it can be perceived as a real bad timing. However, instead of getting stuck and dwelling on that thought, I want to go through this with optimism. Don’t get me wrong it did add another level of challenge to me as the producer of the documentary from an Independent Production Company looking to raise funds to complete the film while we are in the midst of this crazy times.
Every morning I read excerpts from a book entitled The Power of Kabbalah by Yehuda Berg. Even Though, I don’t practice Kabbalah there’s something about its contents that provide me some level of inspiration and comfort. One of the excerpts from the book that resonated to me is the part when it stated about “Obstacles are our opportunity to connect to the light.” That “transforming is the purpose of our lives, and only an obstacle can give us that opportunity.” So, I am taking this extra obstacle presented to me as an opportunity to not only use my time to raise funds to complete this passion project but to also optimize the platform I have and maximize it to work on a CALL TO ACTION bigger than myself, bigger than my original mission.
The Artists and Creative Community is one of the most affected community right now. That is why as a producer of the documentary FollowLeadLOVE and as an artist myself, I decided to restructure our fundraising campaign by making sure we also collaborate with organizations that support the Artists and people who work on industries that were hit heavily by this uncertainties. Now more than ever, we are relying almost exclusively on artistic output with Social Distancing and being Locked down as pretty much our only option if we want to flatten the curve. From binge watching shows, watching films, reading books, listening to music, and so much more activities that artists created for us. That is why, it is so important for me to contribute by being one of the advocates to continuously support creative projects in order to help get us all through this. Imagine how hard and more difficult it will be for us to cope psychologically as a human race without all these artistic & creative works?
Another renewed mission that I have as a documentary film producer is to continue working with the production crew for this project by making sure that they are getting paid instead of being laid off. These are artists that I respect and adore. I also restructured our fundraising campaign and looking into coordinating with other organizations to collaborate with, whose mission is to provide support to the creative & artist community especially in times like this and institutions that support arts in healthcare program. We also restructured our Additional Incentives/Rewards Program by including on our packages incentives from service & hospitality industries which also took a major financial hit and have to lay off their staff.
This call to action will not only help complete the documentary I am producing and the artists working behind the scenes but will also create the POSITIVE RIPPLE EFFECT which we need right now by making sure we PAY IT FORWARD by helping other artists, creative organizations & those people who lost their jobs who work on service & hospitality industry. This is our call to action to make sure that we do our part to help the CREATIVE & ARTS COMMUNITY. Even with Social Distancing and lack of physical human connection, it is so vital for us to keep our virtual interconnectivity with kindness, empathy and love. I know that TOGETHER we can all get through this and welcome the new world of normalcy with fervent HOPE, OPTIMISM and a better perspective to what HUMANITY is all about.
Taking a major leap of faith requires going through an adventure of a lifetime and this is my NEXT BIG ADVENTURE. The more I trek through this, the more it gives me the reason why I did what I did. In my own little way, this will be my contribution to humanity by being one of the VESSELS to the VOICELESS, MARGINALIZED & UNDERREPRESENTED while using the platform of producing socio-cultural relevant films as my soapbox. Having decided to take a major leap of faith right at the cusps of this Pandemic Chaos and devote my time to produce a documentary entitled FollowLeadLOVE may be a fool’s errand for some. But this fool knows that this is another way of affirming a personal philosophy of his. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you from & what journey you are in, as long as you always AIM TO BECOME A BETTER VERSION OF THYSELF FOR IT DESERVES NOTHING LESS.
The documentary film FollowLeadLOVE is is also a Fiscally Sponsored Project 501 (c)(3) via Fractured Atlas please see link for https://fundraising.fracturedatlas.org/follow-lead-love