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March 4 at 8:30am

What Happens After Sundance?

By Ted Hope

Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s film American Promise screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Below is part 3 of 3 of an interview with them discussing what it was like to attend Sundance.  Prior sections included what it was like to get the confirmation call and  preparing the film for Sundance.

Joe: This has certainly been a roller-coaster ride for us.  We were accepted into our dream festival and left Park CIty, Utah with an amazing outcome.  We were honored with a special Jury Prize for achievement in documentary filmmaking and we received amazing reviews from the critics.  Yet, there is a cloud of worry looming over my head and I cannot pinpoint why.  It is not the 12 inches of snow outside my Brooklyn doorstep nor the cough I acquired from our nightly Sundance celebrating.  My concern is that our Sundance storybook beginning was just that – a beginning.  What happens next?


Michèle: I guess the concern (or fear) is that this will not continue.  And since returning to Brooklyn we clearly have not been recipients of the same attention and adulation.  We are back to life as parents , soccer practice and PTA meetings.  That’s not a bad thing, because the Sundance pace was unsustainable.  I have Joe’s same concerns.  I want my work, 13 years worth of it, to be seen and respected by our peers.  I want to be assured that we will make a difference in how the subject of academic achievement of Black boys is handled. But we can’t guarantee anything.  So, we work, we wait and we worry.


Idris:  That sentiment is pretty typical in this family.  My parents have invested so much time and effort into the making of this film but they can’t even relish this moment.  Well, me, I’m gonna relax and enjoy the moment before I need to get into my mid-term groove.  My parents’ dedication to this project has been inspiring to me and I’m proud of them but if someone dropped a shitload of money in their pockets right now, they would still be nervous about tomorrow.


Joe: I’m not sure things are that simple.  We have high expectations and we need to manage them.  The reality is that acceptance to  a festival is just the first step toward the realization of our goals for the film, behavior change.  We are coming to terms that every festival, every newspaper review, every community screening will be a struggle.  I guess this realization is the painful truth of film campaigns, results always require lots of hard work and uncertainty.     


Michèle:   But we had plans and we were prepared for post-Sundance journey. Over the next two years we will take American Promise on the road, hosting community screenings nationwide and partnering with organizations whose mission includes supporting Black males’ academic, social and emotional growth.  We are also completing a book,  American Promise, scheduled for an October 2013 release (Random House) for parents and other stakeholders aimed at helping to close the academic achievement gap.  We are also supporting an effort to raise $100,000 for  Big Brothers Big Sister’s Mentoring Brothers In Action Initiative and enlist 100 new mentors (of any background) for Black males, who have the hardest time finding mentors.  So, if you are reading this blog and you want to reduce Joe’s anxiety level, send $10.00 to Big Brother’s and Big Sisters by text, text BIG1 to 80100.


Joe: Or, you could just send me a note and say keep up the struggle my brother.


Part 1: “Be Careful What You Wish For

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