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Life Arts    H2'ed 4/21/13

Making the World a Better Place Through Inspirational Films

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JB: Do they teach that in film school?

HM: I don't know what they are currently teaching, so they may offer classes on this now.  When I was in school, I never even dreamt of being a director or producer.  I really focused on camera and post-production sound, thinking I was going to be a crew member, so I didn't take any directing or producing classes beyond the requirements.  In fact, I didn't understand why all my classmates wanted to be directors.  Unfortunately, I didn't take the documentary classes they offered, where that topic may have come up.

JB: You've already got a number of socially conscious documentaries under your belt, Holly. Can you talk about them a bit?

HM: In high school, I was already a budding activist and I remember quoting George Orwell on my entrance paper, saying all art should be political.  Right out of school, I was focused on getting experience and taking whatever jobs came along.

I had the idea for my first documentary, Hummingbird, a year after college, when I moved to Brazil. I had lived there as an exchange student in high school and moved to Rio right after graduation. While I was there in 1995, I read an article on sex trafficking and I was horrified.  There was never talk of sex trafficking in U.S. papers at the time and I started doing research because I just couldn't believe what I was reading.  Europeans would come to Brazil for sex tourism and some would lure girls back to Europe, [the girls] thinking they would be actresses or models.  When they got there, they would take away their passport and return ticket.

Through my research I found two programs working with girls that were at risk for falling into this trap.  It wasn't until 2000 that I had the courage to do any filming, and then since I was always doing this project on the side, we didn't finish until 2004, when it got into many festivals and won a lot of awards.   

Around the same time, I had just wrapped up the worst project of my life, where absolutely everything that could go wrong happened, and I ended up in therapy, questioning if this is what I really wanted to be doing with the rest of my life.  That's when I decided I would only work on things that really mattered.  

So, after that, I worked on two projects about the pharmaceutical industry, Side Effects, starring Katherine Heigl, which is a romantic comedy about a whistle-blower, so it's a cross between Bridget Jones and Erin Brokovich.  We followed that up with a little documentary on the marketing tactics of the pharmaceutical industry which we thought would be bonus material for the dvd.  As we finished the piece, we realized that it had too much good information to just be bonus material, so we released that film, Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety and it ended up being awarded one of the top films of 2008 by the American Library Association.  

Then I helped another friend with her film Maybe Baby , about single women getting pregnant with medical assistance.  

Then, the filmmakers from Vanishing of the Bees were looking for an executive producer and I jumped at the chance because I produced some commercials about pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and I saw the 3-5 year contracts farmers got into and how they were told these products would help them have better yield.  But I also saw that a lot of them didn't use the precautionary measures that were advised and they were getting higher rates of prostate cancers from the exposure.

I also executive produced a film on election integrity called Free For All and we are finishing up a project called Pay 2 Play about money in politics in the US.

JB: As Election Integrity Editor here at OpEdNews, Pay 2 Play is right up my alley. What's next for you?

HM: I am very excited to release Pay 2 Play hopefully later this year.  Most people are very concerned about the influence of money in politics, especially after the Supreme Court's decision with Citizens United.  This film will show the power of the individual to be a voice against the machine and hopefully will inspire more people to get active in their own ways.  

Additionally, we are in development on what's now being called Speak Up Project about date rape, which will be a collaborative film where we invite people to submit short pieces, whether it's a poem or photos or videos about their experiences   We want to create an online forum, a feature documentary and therapist-led community healing circles at high schools and colleges, to spark a national dialogue about sexual violence, with a focus on finding one's voice to heal.

JB: That sounds great. What haven't we talked about yet?

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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