One person has the power to make a difference. This is a philosophy that filmmakers Gail Mooney and her daughter Erin Kelly take to heart and live and work by. With their latest project Opening Our Eyes you might say it is more like the power of two.
Gail Mooney is a photographer and a lifelong storyteller. She is co-partner of Kelly/Mooney Productions with Tom Kelly, a visual communications company based in the NYC metro area. She has over 30 years experience shooting for international magazines, major corporations and institutions with a client list that includes such prestigious names as: National Geographic, Smithsonian, Travel & Leisure, AT&T and American Express.
Although she has worked for major corporations on all types of advertising and commercial work, Mooney’s true passion is to use her craft, whether it is still imagery or motion, to create awareness and bring about change. In 1999 Mooney began producing and shooting video projects, and since then her company has become fully integrated with motion. She has produced three short documentaries: Freedom’s Ride – a story about two diverse groups of high school students retracing the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, The Delta Blues Musicians and Through the Hearts and Hands of Children – about the NJ Youth Symphony.
Her latest film project, Opening Our Eyes, was inspired by a young woman named Maggie Doyne. Doyne was a high school classmate of Mooney’s daughter, Erin Kelly. After graduating from high school in 2005, Doyne decided to take a break instead of heading directly to college. She ended up in Nepal, where at the age of 19, she built a home for war-orphaned children using her saved babysitting earnings. Doyne is still living in Nepal but now has 35 children under her care and has just finished construction on a primary school to accommodate up to 250 children. The story of Doyne and the power of one became the seed for the mother/daughter team of Mooney and Kelly to create the project Opening Our Eyes.
Erin Kelly, who worked on sound and acted as producer of the film project, has always had a passion for travel and learning about different cultures. She graduated Magna cum laude from Northwestern University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, International Studies and Spanish. She lives in Chicago and works as a Program Manager with the Center for Cultural Interchange (CCI), a non-profit international educational exchange organization that helps to facilitate cultural exchange programs for international high school students in the U.S.
Opening Our Eyes was a self-assigned project for the mother and daughter filmmakers and probably could not have been produced or even come about just two years ago. With the advent of social media, the Web and advances in technology with video gear, Nola Productions, LLC (an arm of Kelly/Mooney Productions) was able to create this feature-length documentary without the validation of a client or financing from a publisher. “We live in an age where the independent creator can tell the stories they feel compelled to tell and distribute them through a variety of platforms without the need of a distributor. If one has the passion and is willing to do the work - anything is possible. That's very liberating for both the consumer as well as the creator,” says Mooney.
With the story of Maggie Doyne as their inspiration, the mother/daughter team embarked in the summer of 2010 on a 99-day journey around the globe in search of people who are making a positive difference in the world. They filmed eleven stories of change makers on six continents, people who are making the world a better place — one person at a time. Their stories include: a trek to Thailand’s remote northern hill-tribe villages to visit a physician offering medical care; a successful event planner in Australia who saw good food being dumped daily and started a food-rescue program and displaced autoworkers who are fighting for basic human rights in the declining neighborhoods of inner city Detroit.
The production literally was a "two-woman crew" shooting a feature length documentary with virtually no budget. They were very resourceful and relied on airline miles, hotel rewards, Amex points and trades with hotels and manufacturers for accommodations and gear. Since they were also shooting still images, they opted for the HDSLR solution because they could not bring two-camera systems for such an extensive journey. “We needed to fit all our gear and personal belongings into two backpacks and two suitcases,” says Mooney. They were very often in remote situations without electricity, so keeping batteries charged in order to download video and still image captures was always a challenge. Mooney’s blog, Journeys of a Hybrid , even itemizes the exact equipment in her HDSLR kit to fit into two backpacks.
"It's not just a movie - it's a movement” has become applicable to the filmmakers in more ways than they imagined. Their three-month journey produced a 76-minute documentary that is now making the rounds through the film festivals. Next year it will be released to DVD. They also have 5,000 still image captures that will be used for e-books and exhibitions. Opening Our Eyes has already been invited by the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (March 7-11, 2012) with sponsorship from CAL POLY (California Polytechnic State University). Singer/songwriter Jackson Browne has granted them rights for the use of his song “Alive in the World,” for film festivals and community screenings and their latest news is that The San Francisco Film Society is now a fiscal sponsor for the film. This means they can apply for grants and accept tax deductible donations under their 501C3 umbrella. Filmmakers often enter into a fiscal sponsorship contract with a nonprofit to receive tax-exempt status for a specific project or event since trying to acquire that status can be an extremely lengthy and involved process. Also on the schedule, Mooney has been invited to give a talk about the film in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The goal of Opening Our Eyes is to inspire and move people to action and it is doing just that. The “power of one,” where ordinary people are doing extraordinary things and changing lives is not only attracting sponsors but enthusiastic audience response in early previews. The Opening Our Eyes trailer can be viewed here and has now been seen in over 114 countries - more than half the countries in the world. You can see more of Mooney’s multimedia projects at www.kellymooney.com, and visit the project site Opening Our Eyes for all details about the film and to sign up for information on updates and schedules.
There are several ways to donate for those interested in making a contribution to Opening Our Eyes:
- Through IndieGoGo – and get a reward -
- Through the San Francisco Film Society online -
- Via Check: Payable to San Francisco Film Society (Write Opening Our Eyes FSP 1378 in Memo Line)
Send to: San Francisco Film Society – ATTN: Finance Department, 39 Mesa St., Suite 110,The Presidio,San Francisco CA 94129-1025
Above: Girl with green eyes at The Kopila Valley Primary School in Surkhet, Nepal. School that Maggie Doyne built last year.
Below: Erin Kelly and Gail Mooney with children and their hard wood seedlings provided to them by Gina Low of Apeca in small village along the Amazon River in Peru. They will plant these seedlings and tend to them until they are adults. Their trees are then meant as lumber from which they can build their homes.