Monday, June 23, 2008

Last Thursday with "The Emily Program"

I won't forget last Thursday anytime soon. I flew to Minneapolis to screen "America the Beautiful," for an awesome eating disorders treatment facility called "The Emily Program."

About three weeks before the June 19th screening, one of their employees called me and informed me that they wanted to add a 9:30pm show in addition to the 7pm show that they already had scheduled. I didn't have the courage to tell her that it's extremely hard to get people out on a Thursday night to see a documentary and it'll be hard enough to sell out the 7pm show (264 seats), much less an additional show. But being the team player that I am, I just said "sure."

Well, to make a long story short. Not only did they sell out the 7pm show, but the 9:30pm show was 90% sold out as well. For the record, I want to say, the Emily Program Foundation rocks!

Theater line

We started out the day in Minneapolis doing media interviews. One notable interview was radio station 107.1 FM - The Lori and Julia Show. Imagine going to a radio station where your intent is discussing America's unhealthy obsession with beauty and upon entering the studio, the first thing that you see is a wall filled with pictures of Lori and Julia's "Hunky Hot Men of 2008." YIKES!!! I said to myself, this is going to be a loooooong interview. I tried to convert them, but they were too far gone into the land of hunkdom. For the record though, Lori and Julia were very nice.

Lori And Julia

After witnessing lines wrapped around the corner at the screening, and 2 sold-out shows, both with rousing standing ovations afterwards, I have to add the Minneapolis screening to my top 5 "All Time," screenings of "America the Beautiful."

In no particular order the top 5 screenings would be:

The Artivist Film Festival in California
AFI Dallas Film Festival Screening in Texas
Emily Program Screening in Minneapolis
The Chicago Theatrical Premiere of "America the Beautiful"
The Sneddon Theater Screening at the Durban International Film Festival (South Africa).

Within 24 hours of getting back to Chicago, people had already started posting articles/blogs about the Minneapolis screening. And 4 days later, I've already gotten 64 emails from people that attended the screening. They've expressed to me that "America the Beautiful," is not a movie - it's a neccessary movement. When we expand our theatrical run this fall, I'm going to insist that we come back to Minneapolis!

Here is a link to a blog that equates "America the Beautiful," with saving young girls:


Girl Media Maven

Darry acceptd Action Award from the Emily Program Foundation

I received this "Action Award," from Dr. Jillian Croll, president of the Emily Program Foundation. This is the first year that they gave out the award and it's for the awareness that "America the Beautiful," is bringing to the eating disorders community. I have to admit, I love making a difference in the world. The award was carved in a 50 pound rock. Not only did I have to carry that treasure back, but I missed my flight while airport security tried to open it to make sure nothing was inside. Their powerful scanners couldn't penetrate the massive hulking fixture. After 27 minutes of trying to open it, they took my word for it that I wasn't planning anything devious with "The Hulk.".

ATB Logo

Kitty Westin (left), president of the National Eating Disorders Coalition, attended the Minneapolis Emily Program Foundation Screening of "America the Beautiful," with her two lovely daughters. Speaking of Kitty, once it's set in stone, I'll have some amazing news to share with you.

ATB Logo
This is Jeanette Trompeter from Channel 4, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis. She seemed to be a very nice woman and I think she's on the board of the Emily Program Foundation. Don't hold me to that though.

ATB Logo

This was the mastermind behind the entire evening. She was the publicist and organizer of the Emily Program Foundation Screening. Lindsay shared with me that she'd never done anything like this before. Wherever you are right now, let's stand and give Lindsay a standing ovation. Great job!
Packed House at the Lagoon Theatre

During the Q and A in Minneapolis, a woman asked an interesting question - "why aren't there any African-American women here?"

This was a tricky question to answer because to arrive at a reasonable explanation could easily become non-starter or specious at best or at the very least "intellectually dishonest." So I told her I wasn't sure.

It was a very astute observation. After playing in 20 film festival screenings from South Africa, Maui and everywhere in between, it's true, I haven't seen many Black women.

I told her that in Chicago, starting June 20th, (the following day) we were opening the film at the ICE Theater in a Black neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. I was hoping that Blacks would come out to support the film if it showed in their neighborhood. Well, I stopped by the 2:15 show on Friday and there were 4 people in the theater. The Saturday 7:15 show had 25 ppl and the Saturday 9:45 show had 6. It was brutal. It's a phenom that I can't explain.

The way that that the theater business works (because remember their primary business is concessions - selling popcorn), is on every Monday they look at each film's gross (from the weekend) and the one's that aren't pulling their weight get thrown out on Thursday to make room for new movies coming in on Friday. There was no doubt in my mind that I was outta there. But the manager of the theater (a really nice guy) said let's keep "America the Beautiful," here one more week and try something different. The something different is to get the Black talk radio station in Chicago, WVON, to promote the film for this upcoming Friday, June 27th. He said the only way to get Blacks to come to a commercial house and watch a documentary is to promote it on talk radio. It makes sense, talk radio - talky documentary. So I look forward to seeing what happens next Friday. I will let you know.

After that I'm off to New York. On Tuesday July 1st at 4pm, I'm meeting with one of the cosmetics companies featured in the film. I'm thinking about hiring some of Barack Obama's secret service guys to go with me. Naaah, I'm sure it'll be peaceful. I haven't faced the industry yet. But you never know. Maybe human decency will override corporate greed and they'll agree that there's work to be done to help women and especially young girls and decide to join me in my quest. Don't laugh. I can be a little pollyanna at times.

I will keep you abreast of the latest developments, especially one regarding a special announcement for our July 17th VIP Special Screening in New York. The film opens in New York on either August 1st or 8th and we plan on lighting up the skies with publicity.

A 6 year old walked up to me after a screening in Chicago and she said "Mister can I tell you a joke?"

I said "sure."

She said, "Where do you find a dog with no legs?"

I said, "I don't know."

She said, "exactly where you left him at."

I laughed so hard, that I had to immediately find the restroom.

Until next time,

Darryl Roberts

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ebert Interview

I'd like to bring something to your attention. "America the Beautiful," isn't supposed to exist. At least not in the form where you'd ever actually see it. I've had to fight all the conventional wisdom of Hollywood. This is how it's supposed to go - 1. You make an independent film. 2. When you're done, you get John Sloss as a producer's rep. 3. John Sloss uses his clout to get you into the Sundance or Toronto Film Festival. 4. You win a special jury prize or an audience award at one of the festivals. 5. Your film then gets picked up by one of the independent Hollywood distributors. 6. The independent distributor releases your film in NY and L.A., then you come out in 25-50 additional cities. The industry has very little tolerance for films that don't follow this exact trajectory.

Well we had no other choice but to skip steps 1 through 4, but "America the Beautiful," is fortunate enough to enjoy the fruits of steps 5 and 6. The entire industry is amazed at how we did it and one day I want to share the entire story with all of you. But for now, I'll just say, no one person or even industry knows all and don't let such a person/industry destroy your vision.

As if we weren't lucky enough just to be getting a national release, last week I received an email from Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz, saying that Mr. Ebert wanted to interview me. My first thought was who in the world would send this kind of prank email at a time in my life when I can be vulnerable. But I decided to play along and guess what, it was real. Keep in mind, Roger is the holy moly, the cotton candy, the Genghis Khan of movie critics. I've seen hundreds of movies based on his thumb tilting up. So when she asked if I could be at their house at 5pm, my first thought was to sleep in the car a little ways down the street to make sure that I wasn't late. But then I thought, naah, that would be unseemly, it's best to exercise some decorum here.

Before sharing the link to his interview which is in today's Chicago Sun-Times, I'd like to say that by popular demand, "America the Beautiful," is opening at the ICE Theater in Chicago next Friday June 20th. When you read Roger's article you'll see the significance of opening in that particular theater. It was such an honor to be interviewed by a legend. I'll try to live up to it.

By the way, yesterday a cosmetics company contacted me wanting to see the film. They said that they'd heard all about it. I guess they couldn't wait for me to get to NY. I will keep you posted on that saga. But you must promise me one thing. Since I spent 5 years putting the film together to inform and empower you, if the cosmetics industry totally disrupts my life, you'll at least offer me a warm meal. I wouldn't mind sleeping on the street, but not eating would be shock and awe!

Without further ado...My interview with Roger Ebert.

Click here to read Roger Ebert's Article

See you next weekend at the ICE Theater at 87th and the Dan Ryan.

With love,

Darryl Roberts

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Last Days at the Landmark

I've
always wondered what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a Mike
Tyson knockout punch. I finally got a chance to feel that feeling this
past weekend. Our 3 week winning streak at the Landmark was ended by
the mezmerizing opening weekend of "Sex and the City." Our primary demo
is 18-34 women and so is "Sex and the City's." So this particular
weekend women in Chicago chose to attend Cosmopolitan parties and see
"Sex in the City," instead of going to see a documentary that explains
why that's so important in the first place. I'm not blaming you at all,
because I almost did it myself.

Personal note to Sarah Jessica Parker: "You could have allowed some of the women to come see our movie this weekend."

Seriously,
it was a great 1 month run at the Landmark. This Thursday will be our
last day at the Landmark (2828 N. Clark), so if you haven't seen the
film yet, you have 2 more days.

We're about to play in 100
theaters across the country in 35 cities and if we're as successful in
the remaining cities as we were at the Landmark, then we'll emerge as
one of the top grossing documentaries of 2008.

The next city in
our national theatrical tour is New York. New York is normally a very
tough market and I'm going to need all of your help and support on a
grass roots level. I think we should be fine because the YWCA, the
oldest organization in America fighting for the rights of women, is
joining us as a national promotional partner. They have 23 centers in
the state of NY and they're going to mobilize women enmass to support
"America the Beautiful." You'll be hearing a lot about the YWCA in the
weeks to come.

Also a national celebrity (contract not signed so
I can't mention who), is joining me in NY to do publicity and help get
the word out. I must say, I'm grateful for all the support that I've
gotten for my little movie. The turnout in Chicago, put us on the map
as a major player in the theatrical documentary world.

I've been
warned that the fashion and cosmetics industries aren't going to be too
happy with me coming onto their home turf calling them out for their
part in the travesty that I call "The systematic assault on women's
self-esteem." But I promise you one thing. No matter what happens,
I'll keep you up to date and I won't buckle.

After spending 5
years putting this film together, the one thing that I do know is that
I'm not going to rest until there's a national commitment from the
fashion, cosmetics and dieting industries, to end eating disorders in
young girls and a pledge to help women realize their full potential
instead of having a low-self esteem deriving from the way that they
look or an unhealthy body image. If the beauty industry wants me to go
away and stop exposing them with this film, then work to stop that from
happening, then I'm gone. That's my promise to you.

In the
meantime, Chicago thanks a million for making this a film that's now
going to get a national release and I'll see everyone in New York the
first week of August.

Darryl Roberts