The Implosion of Becoming Fools

A year ago today, we were in Guatemala documenting the implosion of Becoming Fools.

We were three days away from a big theatrical event called “Voz de las Calles”, which was the culmination of five months of rehearsals with street youth and professional entertainers. The road had not been entirely smooth. In fact, there were some major hurdles along the way. But, with the help of gracious volunteers, it looked like they were going to pull it off.

And then … three days before the show, the bottom dropped out …

One of the street youth with a leading role in the play had been in drug rehabilitation for a year. Three days before the show, he left his rehab and went back to the streets to consume drugs. My heart was broken. This guy wasn’t a “street youth” to me – he was a friend. I was rooting for him and his peers as they wrestled towards their goal of performing on a Guatemalan Broadway Stage.

A year ago today, we didn’t know if they would be able to pull it off. It seemed impossible:

  • Most of the cast were youth who still lived in the streets
  • The original director wrecked his motorcycle and couldn’t continue with the project
  • Funds had not been raised to pay for the theater rental
  • The cast had never finished the entire play in rehearsal
  • One of the lead characters left the show 3 days before the event
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The cast rehearses a symbolic scene where the hero is attacked by shadows.
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This is probably how Roberto, the theatrical director felt, as he tried to pull the show together in three days.
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Scott Moore documents the implosion of Becoming Fools, on his knees.
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A tired cast receives notes after rehearsal.
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The night ended with conflict as one of the cast members quit the show.

We didn’t know what would happen a year ago, but we all walked forward in faith .. Becoming Fools.

We captured a beautiful story that walks a tightrope between tragedy and comedy.

Fast forward to today …

We feel much like we did a year ago. It seems impossible.

We never raised the money needed to finish the film. But we believed in the project, so we subsidized it with our blood, sweat, tears, and personal savings.

The good news is that the film is finished.

The bad news is that so is our funding.

We need your help to share the story.

Will you join us in Becoming Fools and give a tax-deductible donation to help us release the film?

Give a tax-deductible donation.

 

Tamagochy

tamagochy_02

Tamagochy is a Guatemalan icon, made famous for his performances in the streets of historic Antigua, Guatemala. We saw him performing during our scouting trip in 2011 and were totally blown away by his creative talent. We first noticed the crowd surrounding him and wondered why everyone was gathered. We approached the crowd to explore and quickly realized they were watching a master at work. Before we knew it the crowd unglued us as more people joined behind us.

Being a filmmaker, I pulled out my camera to capture his antics. Of course, Tamagochy dialed right in and pulled me into his show to be part of the act. I remember thinking, “It would be so great if someone like this was a part of Becoming Fools.” But at the time, we didn’t know much about the film. I didn’t want to prematurely invite him into something that wouldn’t pan out. So I decided to keep quiet. It was hard for me to walk away and not say anything because I could see Tamagochy’s potential. I regretted that decision for the rest of the scouting trip.

I pulled up Tamagochy’s footage after returning home and again felt regret for not reaching out to him. I couldn’t believe I met him personally and didn’t mention a single thing about the film. I didn’t get his contact info and I didn’t ask him to sign a release form either. So this footage was never going to see the light of day … And then …

About a month after returning home, I received an email from … Tamagochy …

He heard about the Becoming Fools project and wanted to help. I just sat there for a moment in awe of what happened. I hadn’t said a thing. I had no idea how to contact him. But that didn’t matter. Tamagochy contacted us!

Tamagochy is an absolute star when it comes to talent. But he didn’t come in with arrogance as a professional. He joined the team as a humble servant, volunteering his time because he understood the issues these youth were facing. He proved to be an incredible treasure for both the street youth and the Becoming Fools story.

If you are ever in Antigua, Guatemala, make sure you take some time to enjoy his street performance … and when he passes the hat, tip him well, knowing that you are helping an incredible artist continue to help make the world a better place.

Here’s a scene from the Becoming Fools Theatrical event with Tamagochy and Toñito – both are featured in the documentary, Becoming Fools.

Prodigal Clown – Scene 2

Prodigal Clown – Scene – 02 from Athentikos on Vimeo.

Prodigal Clown – A Symbolic Story of Their Lives

Professional clown Alfonso Ralda performing with José “Toñito” Tumax, a youth who was rescued from the streets.

Street youth joined professional entertainers on June 16, 2012 to present a symbolic story of their lives and honor a fallen hero. Professional Clown Italo Castro, devoted himself to mentoring street youth and became a father figure to many – even opening his home to them. Sadly, he tragically drowned in 2011. In the wake of his death, a group of Italo’s friends committed themselves to continuing his dream and began meeting weekly to train and prepare for a theatrical event.

After five months of rehearsals and many setbacks, the cast presented their story on the grand stage of Teatro Abril in Guatemala City to an audience of several hundred people. Athentikos documented the rehearsals and the theatrical event as part of the Becoming Fools Documentary, which will release later this year.

Here is a short scene from the theatrical event, featuring professional clown Alfonso Ralda performing with José “Toñito” Tumax, a youth who was rescued from the streets. Stay tuned for more scenes from the theatrical event … and for the premiere of the documentary, Becoming Fools.

 

Prodigal Clown – Scene – 01 from Athentikos on Vimeo.

My authenticity was challenged in prison

My authenticity was challenged in prison. I wasn’t incarcerated for committing a crime, but I was certainly a prisoner of ignorance. It took the wisdom of an “outlaw” to set me free.

It was 2008 and Amelia and I were in Guatemala to receive our second adopted son, Elliot. We traveled to Guatemala several times during the course of our adoptions and were blessed to have a friend named Joel, who serves there as a missionary. We wanted to document the culture for our children, so we asked him to show us the real Guatemala – the non-touristy places. On this particular trip, Joel pulled out all the stops. He invited me to meet some gang members in a maximum security prison. To be honest, hanging out with gang members in a prison wasn’t on my bucket list. But I reluctantly agreed to go.

We were required to leave our passports with a guard at the front desk. This was the first of many uncomfortable experiences that day. My passport was the only identification which undeniably proved I was a US citizen, and not a permanent resident of the facility. But this unnerving experience pales in comparison to what followed. A guard took us down the back side of the prison, through several locked double gates. We were stamped on our arms after passing through each secured area. As we passed through the final air lock and turned the corner, my heart was racing. In front of me through heavy steel bars, was a long, dark, gym-like hall, lit only by a few small windows high above which were also covered with steel bars. It was like a anarchist’s nightclub. The air was thick with dense smoke and loud Reggaeton music growled from every cell. The guard opened the heavy gate and after we entered, he locked the gate behind us and disappeared. Joel explained that if the guard entered with us, that he would likely be killed by the gang members. I thought, “That is comforting, I don’t want to see anyone killed.” Just as that thought raced through my mind, I turned and was surrounded by over a hundred men tattooed like war paint from head to toe. I quickly remembered why this wasn’t on my bucket list.

Thankfully most of the gang members were distracted by the entertainment we brought with us – a dentist – with tools, but no anesthetics. He set up shop at the back of the cell block and began to work on teeth as each patient tried their best to look tough during the procedure. I stayed close to Joel. After all, he was friends with these guys. Slowly, I let my guard down – which is ironic, because I am certain I looked like a deer in headlights. I began to look past the tattooed faces and realized that many of these warriors were just kids. One gang member shared his story with me … and then … he challenged my own story.

He knew I was visiting with a missionary and said,

“You Christians are in a gang just like us. You follow a leader. You have symbols, language, customs and code – just like us. The difference between your gang and my gang is that you have the luxury of being a hypocrite. If we aren’t authentic to our gang, we’re killed.”

Wow. I had no response to that – only questions.

Who am I? What leader do I follow? Am I a hypocrite?

I quickly realized that had we not adopted our sons, they could have ended up in a prison like these young men … and I followed that train of thought back to my own life. If I had grown up with these limitations, I too would likely be in this prison. I would have made the same decisions as these gang members in order to survive.

I had to respond. I couldn’t just adopt my two sons and move on with my life. I was responsible for the things I had seen. I wasn’t a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. I couldn’t do those things. But I was a creative. I had other creative friends who could join me to tell stories that would expose needs and inspire response to make a difference. That’s how our organization Athentikos (Greek for authentic) was born to expose and inspire through the art of story.

What does it mean to be authentic? Here are a couple definitions:

Not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique
Having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence

Authenticity is a powerful and humbling attribute, because being authentic reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly. It reminds us that we aren’t perfect and we can’t do everything on our own. Practically speaking, being authentic means acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses and confidently abiding in that identity to integrate into community with others. Like the young man told me in prison, being authentic identifies you with your “gang”. It undeniably links you your leader and connects you to others identified with you, who fill different roles.

In my case, being authentic means humbly being identified with Christ as my leader. I also means using my uniqueness in purposeful existence; it means using my creativity to tell stories that help solve problems. But it also means acknowledging my limitations and depending on others because I cannot do this on my own. I am only a small part of a much larger story.  Being authentic necessitates interdependency lived out in faith, hope and love.

Who are you?

What leader do you follow?

How can your authentic identity integrate into a solution with others to make a difference?

Diving Into Documentary Production

Strong waves on Guatemala's south coast.

Diving into documentary production is like diving into the ocean. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, but you can easily drown in it.

A year ago today I said goodbye to my family to spend 2 1/2 months in Guatemala producing Becoming Fools. At the time, I was anxious to get to Guatemala to start capturing the story. I had been directing the production from the US for a couple months and that proved to be quite frustrating. Every day there was a new conflict and obstacle that seemed to distract forward momentum. At least that’s what it felt like, because bad news travels fast – especially when you are trying to do something good. So, I hopped on a plane to dive into this film and immerse myself in something I felt called to do.

Saying goodbye to my son to go to Guatemala for 2.5 months to produce Becoming Fools.

I thought my presence in Guatemala would somehow bring continuity to production. I thought that things would be easier once I was physically in the country. But, I thought wrong. Proximity to conflict doesn’t give you any advantage to control it. It wasn’t any easier. It was just a different kind of difficulty – and in many ways, even more difficult. I was simply closer to the waves that kept crashing down on everything and was quickly carried out to sea just like everyone else. But I know two things about waves that also hold true for documentary film production:

  1. Don’t fight the current
  2. Never swim alone

Charles Dickens was onto something when he wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …” That prophetic description held true for the Becoming Fools production. It was grueling. It was stressful. It was absolutely heart wrenching at times. But, it was also one of the most joyful times of my life. I locked arms with close friends and purposefully dove into the crushing breakers with them because we believed in something greater than ourselves. We were all swept away by the crashing waves and pushed beyond our comfort zones. But somehow, “together was better” because we weren’t swimming alone. It was this community – this mutual trust and interdependency that gave us confidence to keep going in the face of enormous adversity. We all dove in together.

This is what you call irony – because in reality, none of us knew how to swim in the first place.

None of us had the capacity to accomplish the goal. All of us had failed at some point. We weren’t the dream team and at times it felt like a real nightmare. But somehow our group of incapable individuals was made capable, because it was called together by the One who makes all things possible. In this calling, my incapacity gives someone else strength … and vice versa, when we are committed to each other in the collaborative process.

But working together it isn’t easy. It’s ugly and full of dysfunction in the process. We all make mistakes at times and hurt each other in ways that would seem to prevent anything from being accomplished. A group of frightened people climbing on each other, gasping for air to survive in a surging tide will almost certainly drown each other. But we have a life raft if we will choose the right perspective. Somehow over the long run, the ugliness cancels itself out in a beautiful algebraic expression of grace, if the equation is built on a constant of God’s love. That love makes up for our mistakes and turns our pride of self ambition into a sacrifice for others. Thankfully, that love is a life raft big enough for all of us.

I dove into the ocean of documentary production hoping to make a difference in the lives of youth living in the streets. I’ve spent the last year being tossed around by a current I cannot control, and I still have no idea where it’s taking me. But, with help from my fellow fools, I’ll keep holding on to this life raft of love that transforms an ocean filled with broken people into an ark of redeeming grace, capable of bringing hope to distant shores.

 

You can join the story. Click below to give a tax-deductible donation to Athentikos.

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Real Social Innovation … Straight from TED Talks

Real Social Innovation ... Straight from TED Talks

In 2008, Athentikos was founded through a calling of authentic response to tell inspiring stories of hope through the art of story.  Over the years, we have sought to do so in a way that is self-sustaining.  But now, as we begin the process of marketing our second documentary, Becoming Fools, we are unfortunately little more self-sustaining than we were 5 years ago.  Why?  What role do we play in social innovation that brings positive change to the world around us while at the same time allows us to continue working in the way we feel called?  We have asked ourselves these questions so many times.  We have brainstormed for endless hours to develop new campaigns that will allow us to continue telling stories of hope.  And each time, we walk away with the same 3 solutions:  One, we need more money.  Two, we need more people.  And three, we need more time.  Other non-profit organizations we have met through our many endeavors face the same limiting and complicated roadblocks.  At times, it seems that in order to be a non-profit, your organization must face limited human and financial resources as well as time restraints.

BUT we haven’t lost hope.  And how could we?  Over the past 7 months throughout the editing process as I watched Becoming Fools, I was repeatedly reminded of the street kids’ hope in themselves, in the future, in the hope of something better, in the hope of change despite the odds stacked against them.  Then a few days ago, our good friend Joel Van Dyke sent us a video from TED Talks.  (I watched it immediately, as I fell in love with TED Talks after attending a TEDx Conference in Guatemala last year.)  This particular video Joel sent us was about social innovation, real social innovation.  The speaker, Dan Pallotta is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, author and social innovator himself.  His presentation challenged the audience on the role of the non-profit sector in the business world.

Pallotta began by posing the question:  Does the non-profit sector have a serious role to play in changing the world?  And if so, then why have non-profit organizations failed to make a large difference in the world?  Pallotta suggests that there is a double standard that prevents the non-profit sector from assuming a position powerful enough to reach large-scale social change.  He gives several staggering statistics to support his point:

  • In the US, giving to charities has remained at 2% of the GDP since the 1970s.
  • From 1970 to 2009, only 144 non-profit organizations crossed the $50 million annual revenue barriers while 46, 136 for-profit organizations crossed the same barrier.
  • Poverty has remained stuck at 12% of the US population for the past 40 years.

Pallotta suggests that there is one rulebook for the non-profit sector, and a contrasting one for the rest of the world. He supports this point by addressing 5 specific areas in which there is a discrepancy between what is expected or allowed from the non-profit sector in contrast with what is expected or allowed from the rest of the world.  The major limitations placed on non-profits fall into the categories of compensation, advertising/marketing, risk taking, time and profit.  In addition to these limitations forced upon the non-profit sector, Pallotta warns against our nation’s obsession with keeping the overhead of charities and non-profit organizations low.  He explains the limitation of this obsession by sharing the history of a largely successful for-profit business, Amazon.

Amazon went their first 6 years in business without returning any profit to investors.  The investors waited patiently because there was a long-term goal they knew they could reach.  But what would happen to a non-profit organization if they went 6 years building their infrastructure before giving any money to the poor?  Pallotta’s answers: crucifixion.

Pallotta ends his presentation by stating:  “Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, we kept charity overhead low.”  With laugher and applause the crowd shows their agreement with this statement.  Obsession with overhead prevents a for-profit business from growing their team and their reach, which in turn grows their profit and benefit to society.  The exact same is true for a non-profit organization. The focus shouldn’t be on an organization’s overhead, Pallotta argues, but rather charitable and generous giving to mark this generation’s contribution to social innovation and change.  But what will it take to transform our nation’s minds from demanding a different business plan for non-profit organization than that allowed to for-profit businesses?

This video from TED Talks gave me new insight into the world of non-profit organizations.  It gave me inspiration and hope for Athentikos, for our future, for something better, for social innovation, for change.  I believe our mission is simple: to tell inspiring stories of hope through the art of story.  And our goal is clear: to inspire people to authentically respond in order that change may occur in the lives of those they help as well as in their own life.  The only thing left to figure out then is: how do we become a successful, self-sustaining organization that can continue to live out our mission and pursue our goal?

Watch Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong.

Click below to give a tax-deductible donation to Athentikos.

Give a tax-deductible donation.

The Official Becoming Fools Movie Trailer

Drum roll, please …. After much anticipation, we are thrilled to release the official Becoming Fools Movie Trailer.

We’re not yet finished with the film, but we’re close. It’s in the final phase of post-production: coloring, music, mixing, animation, art, and credits.

After a year of pre-production and research, 6 months of production and 6 months of editing and post-production, we are rounding the turn towards the finish line. My heart has swung through all emotions imaginable over the course of this journey – from loving the story, to absolutely hating it, to loving it again.

The production phase is my favorite. It is a time when we are out in the world together, collaborating, capturing a story and experiencing the richness of community. It’s hard work, but somehow we don’t notice because we are together. You should hear the laughter at 2 AM when we’re logging footage, after a 12 hour shoot in a dirty environment … and the water is off, so you can’t take a shower before bed. It is a true joy!

Then there is the flip side. If production is a joy because of community, then editing is the Alcatraz prison of loneliness. To be honest, I often wrestle with depression while editing a film. It is a long period of isolation in the “editing cave” with only small spurts of community when we evaluate the film. And because those small doses of community are focused on critically evaluating the film, it usually results in me having to spend more time editing in isolation. Don’t get me wrong. I greatly value constructive criticism during the process and want our films to be the best they can be! It just begins to take its toll after 6 months of 16 hour work days. Needless to say, I am very glad that I can see the light at the end of the editing tunnel!

After all this work, the film is slightly different than we originally imagined. But, this is normal because you never have control over all the production elements in a documentary. In this case, we were thrown some pretty big wild cards during production. I compared it to riding a wild bull. We just held on tight, kept the cameras rolling, and prayed we were capturing what we needed to tell a great story. Thankfully, we captured some great stuff!

During a recent Athentikos meeting, we engaged in a deep and honest discussion about the film. We asked some  tough questions ….

Is this a compelling story?

Does this film achieve what we set out to do?

Is the story depicted in the final edit the same story we passionately felt called to produce in the beginning?

It was unanimous. Even though the story is different than we initially imagined, it compellingly accomplishes the goal we set out to achieve. This is the story God called us to tell.

It’s full of warm characters, beautiful tension and redemption that we couldn’t have written better if we wrote it as a narrative. It still makes me cry … and I have seen it thousands of times over the course of editing! So, either I am completely off my rocker, or this story truly connects to the heart.

As we work diligently to wrap up the final details in this project, I have mixed emotions. I’ve committed 2 years of my life to developing, filming and editing this story. I’ve grown to love these street youth as dear friends. Their delicate charm has captured my heart! I would love for this film to raise awareness and bring needed resources to this issue! But, I have no idea what will become of it all.

We raised enough funding to get through production. But we still lack the financial resources to release the film. Unfortunately, we can’t subsidize this next phase with our sweat equity. Unless we receive additional funding, we will be forced to put the film on hold. We truly believe this story has the potential to make a difference in the lives of street youth around the world. But we need your help … will you consider giving a donation?

As of right now, we only have one official film screening planned. Let’s make it count!

Becoming Fools will screen at the Omaha Film Festival on Sunday March 10 at 12:15 PM.

Gather your friends and meet us there! If you are too far away to attend, please help us make noise so we can try to fill the theater. Use every means necessary to tell people about this opportunity to see the film: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, phone calls, post cards, smoke signal … and especially talking face to face!

Please watch the trailer and share it. Give a donation if you can. Work with us to help bring the film to your city. Let’s become fools together and make a difference!

Give a tax-deductible donation to help us release the film.

Behind The Scenes: Cameras!

Behind The Scenes: Cameras!

I recently created and published a video talking about one of the cameras we used on the ‘Becoming Fools’ production, the Canon C300. I got such a great response I decided to also publish it here as well. I know it’s more of a tech type video but I added quite a bit of behind the scenes footage in the video itself so it was worth sharing to those who like to view that sort of thing.

To view the full post on my own personal blog, you can check that out by clicking here.

Why do we keep marching forward in something that seems so foolish?

We are fools.

Why do we keep marching forward in something that seems so foolish?

Seriously, sometimes I wonder if I am just stubborn or stupid. Either way, we are foolish for marching forward. Today, I finally finished editing Becoming Fools … and …  we received our first response back from a film festival in which we submitted the film. It went like this:

“I’m sorry to inform you that your project was not selected … Best of luck with your future projects.”

Not the most encouraging news on this milestone of production …

Now, let me set the stage for this message. I’ve been working on the Becoming Fools documentary for two years; full time for the last year and a half. And really … Full time is an understatement. It’s more like 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. I don’t share this for sympathy. I share it to reinforce the fact that I am truly, without a doubt … foolish.

From the very beginning, every step of this journey has been foolish. It’s been a marathon of impossible hurdles strung together to taunt our souls to give up:

▪    The protagonist of the story died while we were in pre-production.
▪    Amelia and I lost our day jobs within 3 weeks of each other & we were left without secure income.
▪    Our Kickstarter fundraiser failed to raise the funds we needed to produce the film.
▪    Funds were not raised to pay for the live theatrical event which is documented in the film.
▪    The lead character of the live theatrical event quit and went back to the streets.
▪    485 hours of footage needed to be translated before we could edit it down to feature length
▪    The edit took 5 months of working 16 hours a day, six days a week.
▪    We missed the opportunity to enter several large film festivals for the season.
▪    Technical difficulties made finalizing the edit very difficult.
▪    Our 1st Film Festival notice was negative.
▪    We don’t have any funds to release the film.

… And yet we continue …. WHY?

There are days in which I wonder if I have wasted the last few years of my life investing into this foolish endeavor. Somedays it stings the very core of my being and I feel like a total failure.

But then I take a deep breath and remember why we started this project: it is a story that needs to be shared so that it may inspire.

What is failure? What is foolish? Italo could be considered both. He lived his life according to the passion that God gave him. He risked his life in dangerous city streets to care for kids who were not likely to change. In fact, most of the kids he cared for still wrestle with some sort of addiction and never totally left the streets. But Italo didn’t die in the streets where he risked his life. And … His passion was reborn into not just one person, but an entire community of fools that believe they can make a difference together.

Was Italo a fool? Yes. Was he a failure? Absolutely not.

Like Italo, we continue because we ARE fools living life according to the passion God has given us, and with that established, there is no way we can fail. So we keep marching forward …

 

Will you consider giving a tax-deductible donation to help us finish this story & make a difference in the lives of homeless youth?

Give a tax-deductible donation.

 

2012 was a year of adventure and blessing for Athentikos

2012 Athentikos Collage

We are grateful to be able to share the journey of 2012 with you:

  • Athentikos took a risk and began production
    on the Becoming Fools documentary without full funding, believing God
    would provide. As of December 2012, the film is 75% complete.
  • Athentikos was blessed with our first production intern, Brandon Rojano.
  • In June, Athentikos partnered with Guatemalan Churches, NGO’s, Local and Federal Government in a consultation event to explore homelessness and present an official report to the Guatemalan Government.
  • In June, homeless youth shared their story through a theatrical performance in front of over 400 people in Guatemala’s historic Teatro Abril.
  • Athentikos served on a leadership team with Lemonade International & Vidas Plenas to host an annual Art Camp
    for 100 at-risk kids in the community of La Limonada. Guatemala.
    Athentikos provided over 70% of the funding through individual donations
    and a grant given by LEGO.

Stories inspire change and hope. We are thankful to be
able to share these incredible blessings from 2012! They would not be
possible without you! Please help Athentikos continue to inspire through
the art of story by giving a tax-deductible gift of $50, $100, $200 or
more. Your investment will be exponentially returned as it inspires through the art of story throughout 2013 and years to come!

Thank you for believing with us and generously sharing your time, talent
and treasure! We are all part of this story to inspire together!

Help us inspire hope by giving a tax-deductible donation.

Please give online today or send a check to:

Athentikos PO Box 1902 Springhill, TN 37174

Thank you,

Scott & Amelia Moore

www.athentikos.com