Two New videos of Eustasio Rosales’ music!

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We had a great time discovering some more of my great grandfather’s music at a Crossing Borders Ensemble concert last month. You can watch videos of two songs we performed: A Mother To Her Son and The Tyger (the latter is set to the words of the famous William Blake poem). Carolina Gomez is such a talented singer and Johanna Ortegon’s accompaniment on piano is wonderful as well.

I was so excited that a bunch of people who subscribe to this email list were able to make it, it was fun to catch up! I hope to bring more of this musical time capsule to life soon.

Come see my Bronzeville documentary film?

If you’re in Chicago I’d love to see you at an upcoming free screening of my affordable homeownership documentary Blueprint for Bronzeville. The film is about a group of ordinary citizens working to make their community a better place, against all odds.

The Chicago Public Library is hosting two free screenings soon:

  • Friday, June 29 @ 2pm – Bessie Coleman Branch (map)
  • Wednesday, July 11 @ 5:30pm – Legler Branch (map)

I’ll be at both events along with my fellow producer Tristan Hanson and members from the group that we profiled in the film. It should be fun.

My mom screened the opera documentary!

My mom, Susan (in yellow above) who you may recognize from my long lost opera documentary screened the film for her swim buddies in my hometown in New Hampshire this past month! It apparently sparked a great discussion about family history afterward. How fun.

If you’d like to share the film with your family, it’s available on DVD and online streaming here. Every time I mention this somebody grabs a copy. (Are you that somebody this time?)

Buy Now

My video essay of the month

I can’t believe it’s already summer! And that means I’m almost halfway through the video-a-month challenge I’ve given myself this year. In the latest video essay I made, I deconstructed 5 sketchy marketing phrases that should make you instantly skeptical whenever you see them in an advertisement. It’s an exercise in critical thinking, please watch it here!

My earlier videos:

January: Shouldn’t we ban this type of commercial?

February: Why I changed my mind about illegal immigration

March: How to make $1 million (if you’re young)

April: What Caused the Great Recession? Explained in 3 Minutes

If you got something out of these video essays, please share them. They’re designed to be passed around.

Lastly, One Cool ThingTM

This is a new section in my newsletter where I’m sharing a neat link I found on the internet.

This month I actually want to plug a new project featuring the work of my wonderfully talented wife Tiffany Wilson (who some of you might recognize from my opera documentary!). She has written a great science fiction story called One Shot that has been selected to appear in a new anthology: If This Goes On (back the Kickstarter at that link – it ends this Thursday). It’s a collection of short stories that postulates what the future might look like if this strange moment in American political history continues.

We’re premeiring more of Eustasio Rosales’ long lost music!

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This month’s newsletter is packed with neat stuff but I want to kick things off by inviting you to a little concert this Sunday, May 27th at 2PM in Chicago. We’re performing some more undiscovered music by the composer Eustasio Rosales (my great grandfather), including an unfinished violin sonata which we had to finish to perform it! The image in the header above is of musical archeologists Johanna OrtegonTom Clowes and yours truly trying to decipher this “new-old” handwritten sheet music. I was of little help but they’re quite talented!

I have no idea what this music will sound like, but I hope you’ll join me at National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini 2520 N Lakeview Ave in Chicago at 2PM this Sunday to find out with me (map here, more event info here). Of course, it’ll be free and open to the public.

I gave a speech the other day!

This was quite an honor: the well known storyteller Nestor Gomez recently invited me to speak at a fundraiser for immigrant students at Truman College in Chicago. Nestor knew my story about discovering that my great grandmother accidentally lost her American citizenship when she married an immigrant (my great grandfather the composer Eustasio Rosales).

I shared that story and a bit more in my talk which you can watch above.

My video essay of the month

I’m making a video essay every month this year as part of a silly New Year’s resolution I made. It took me several years to finish two big long documentaries, so working quickly is kind of a refreshing challenge!

Here’s my latest video essay in which I try to explain what caused The Great Recession in just a couple of minutes… using props! I made kind of a mess– see for yourself.

As a recap: my first video of the month was about a type of TV commercial I really want to get rid of. The second was the story of changing my mind about a hot button political issue.  The third gave instructions for how to make $1 million (if you’re young). If you got something out of these video essays, please share them! They’re designed to be passed around.

Lastly, One Cool ThingTM

This is a new section in my newsletter where I’m sharing a neat link I found on the internet.

As both a documentary filmmaker and also now a person who’s now spent some time in front of the camera for my opera documentary, I’ve noticed a curious phenomenon… People have this tendency to become really stupid when you put a camera in their face. I think we all lose about 40 IQ points the moment we see a microphone.

So I enjoyed watching this short clip from a late night TV show where a producer took a camera and asked random people on the street to name a book… any book at all. Some of their answers were pretty funny as they desperately tried to think of the name of a book.

Until next month,

We got the coolest “fan mail” ever

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A middle school music teacher named Martin at a school in Clifton, Illinois found out about my long lost opera documentary, bought a DVD (they make a great gift!), and showed it to his students.

A few days later I got a big envelope in the mail. Inside was the coolest “fan mail” ever— a thick stack of handwritten letters from sixth graders! They had questions (“How much money did it cost to put on the opera?“), comments (“My favorite part of the show was when the lady got stabbed!“) and even little doodles of musical notes in the margins.

It made me so happy to read the letters from these young students saying things like “It was my first time watching an opera but it was pretty good and I’m a boy.” I ended up recording a short video response which I sent to the class to answer their questions and thank them for watching. How fun! If you want to order a DVD or watch the online streaming version you can do so here.

One wrong turn = many ferns

On my way to a community screening of Blueprint for Bronzeville, Tristan Hanson and I’s documentary that follows a group of African American affordable homeownership activists, I got a little lost. The screening was organized by the good folks at the Gene Siskel Film Center but it was hosted by the Garfield Park Conservatory. I took a wrong turn or two while looking for the screening room and I and found myself in the middle of all sorts of flora!

It was like stepping from a chilly Chicago day into a Jurassic paradise. Eventually I did find the screening room, but only after bumbling through a half dozen other habitats. Anyway, I highly recommended visiting the Garfield Park Conservatory if you’re in Chicago and you’ve never been there before (especially when the weather is cold). The screening itself was fun and the Chicago Citizen African American newspaper interviewed me and wrote a cover story about the event.

By the way, if you’re in Chicago and you want to see this film, stop by our Saturday, April 28th noon screening at the Chicago Independent Film (+TV) Festival at The New 400 Theater up by Loyola.

My video of the month

I’m making a video essay every month this year as part of a silly New Year’s resolution challenge for myself. After working on two big documentaries that took many years, it’s been fun and difficult to try to finish things quickly!

My first video of the month was about a type of TV commercial I really want to get rid of. The second was the story of changing my mind about a hot button political issue.

Today I’m pleased to share with you my third video essay, which is about the incredible power of compound interest and details how a person can harness it to make $1 million (if they’re young). If you got something out of these video essays, please share them! They’re designed to be passed around.

Lastly, one cool thing

This is a new section in my newsletter where I’m sharing a neat link I found on the internet.

This month, I want to spotlight a remarkable true story that a stranger shared on Twitter. Read and scroll down this short thread— 11 brief tweets in all– and you’ll see why it’s been shared hundreds of thousands of times. It takes place in a college classroom, the author is a student. It is one part heartbreaking, two parts inspiring, and I won’t spoil any more for you.

Until next month, your faithful correspondent is signing off.

P.S. – This is my very obnoxious reminder that after 4.5 years of work, the DVD for The Way to Andina funny opera adventure documentary is finally available, and it would officially make my day if you ordered it!

The Way to Andina is now available on DVD & streaming!

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Well, this is exciting: the time has finally come!

After working on this project to resurrect my great grandfather’s long lost opera for 4 and a half years, I just released the DVD for The Way to Andina, the funny documentary about the adventure for sale on my website. (There’s also an online streaming version with identical bonus features.) It includes:

  • The full 70 minute documentary
  • 4 Deleted scenes
  • A making-of featurette
  • Video of the full opera (subtitled in English)
  • English & Spanish subtitles

If you’d like to watch the documentary or support this project, you can now buy a DVD or watch the online streaming version. Thank you again for all your support along this journey.

The film has now played at about a dozen film festivals across the country, winning 4 awards and was recently broadcast on Chicago’s PBS station. It’s been a hell of a run and we’re not done yet. Here’s a sampling of what people are saying about the film:

“This story has everything: family, immigrants music, a love parallelogram, and a puzzle that is put together over 50 years later” – Darcel Rockett, Chicago Tribune

“Delightful, if often disastrous” — Chicago Magazine

“This is incredible… what an awesome story!” — Jon Hansen, WCIU-TV

“Truly an inspirational film” — Pepe Vargas, Director of the Latino Cultural Center of Chicago

“I’m glad no one was around…cuz a brotha was bawling by the end of the documentary!!!” — Some random dude named Mustafa on Twitter

Order the film now

A dispatch from the San Diego Latino Film Festival

I recently went out to the San Diego Latino Film Festival which screened the film. They showed the film to middle school students from three local schools and it was a ton of fun, although I have never had a Q&A that wild before. (Let’s just say I have… a lot of respect for teachers!)

My video essay of the month

This year as part of my New Year’s resolutions, I’m making one short video each month. The first one was about a type of commercial I’d love to ban from the airwaves. Here’s my second video about a discovery I made that changed my mind about a very hot button political topic.

It relates very closely to the opera documentary so I hope you’ll watch it. (And maybe even share it too!) I’ll send you my third video next month, or you can subscribe to my YouTube Channel to get notified earlier once I publish it.

One cool thing

One of my favorite podcasts, Scriptnotes (a podcast about screenwriting) inspired me to add a new section to this newsletter. I’m ripping them off and calling it my “one cool thing”– something I discovered that I want to share with people.

So here’s my first one cool thing: this 2 minute inspirational video called “The Gap” by German filmmaker Daniel Sax. It’s narrated by Ira Glass from This American Life and I’ve watched it approximately once a year for the past several years. In fact I just recently recommended it to a creative high school student I met at a film festival who asked if he would ever be satisfied with his own work. This video speaks to me in a very profound way, and judging by the fact that it now has over a million views I don’t think I’m the only one!

Until next month, your faithful correspondent is signing off.

It’s been a busy month

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Here’s a quick update on our project where we resurrected my great-grandfather’s long lost opera and made a documentary about the adventure:

This month I’ve been working on fulfilling our Kickstarter donor rewards. (If you donated to our Kickstarter campaign to help fund the opera and you haven’t gotten an email with your reward information yet, let me know!)

The “Andina” TV broadcast last month was a success!

Our film recently aired on WTTW, Chicago’s PBS station, and I got so many nice emails and tweets and Facebook messages from strangers who saw the program! I have to say, getting an avalanche of feedback from Chicagoans who enjoyed the movie is of the coolest darn things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Here is a tiny sampling of what people had to say:

“Watching and thoroughly enjoying #mymomiscrying” – Kimberly

“I’m glad no one was around…cuz a brotha was bawling by the end of the documentary!!!” – Mustafa

“The documentary that both my dog and I give two paws up, it’s ‘Andina Lives’ by @arlenparsa” – Mariah

The film will re-air locally later this year and I want to pursue other broadcast opportunities as well, outside of this area. We’ll see if anyone else is interested!

Celebrating Black History Month

Tristan Hanson and I recently had the honor of screening our documentary Blueprint for Bronzeville (about housing discrimination and affordable homeownership activists) at a private Black History Month event hosted by BMO Harris Bank for its employees and clients. It was truly a delightful event and we had some important discussions afterward about both our shared history as a city and the work needed to build an equitable future for all residents.

One more thing – my “video of the month”

In January I made a weird New Year’s resolution to make and publish one video every month of 2018. It’s sort of an experiment. After having completed two films that took many years to make (The Way to Andina and Blueprint for Bronzeville), I’m eager to experiment with making short work much faster. I think this first video was a success: it got about 10,000 views the day after I uploaded it!

So without further ado, I want to share with you my first of 12 videos this year from January. It’s about a topic I care about and I hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to watch it (and share it if you like it). I’ll send you my second video next month, or you can subscribe to my YouTube Channel to get notified earlier once I publish it.

Adios for now,

We’re gonna be on TV!

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We have some exciting news!

This Thursday, January 25th, the film will be broadcast on local PBS in Chicago! If you’re in the broadcast area, tune into WTTW, Channel 11 at 9PM Thursday night.

The film will also be rebroadcast on Friday at 3PM on WTTW Prime and on the regular main WTTW channel this Sunday at 5PM.

Chicago Magazine just listed our upcoming broadcast as part of their “The Shut-In’s Guide to Winter” wedged in between the Netflix show Easy and Showtime’s The Chi. We got a kick out of how they described the film:

This is very exciting for me, because I’ve never had one of my films air on TV before.

In other news…

Our documentary The Way to Andina will also be shown at the Classical Arts Film Festival out in Napa, California on Saturday, February 10th.

I’m busy putting together the DVD and getting ready to send out Kickstarter digital downloads to backers, etc. More on that soon.

Signing off until next time,

P.S. – If you have other ideas about where to screen this documentary, just contact me and we’ll make it happen. We’ve already gotten some good referrals and connections from this PS that I include at the bottom of every post I write.

Our long lost opera documentary won 3 more awards!

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Just wanted to give you a quick update on my project where we resurrected a long lost opera and made a funny documentary film about the adventure.

In the last two months we screened the film in five festivals from coast to coast (that’s a lot of Fs!). Here’s some photos from our recent adventures:

Along the way the film won three new awards:

  • Audience Choice Award – Nederland Music Film Festival
  • Best Documentary Feature – Georgia Latino Film Festival
  • Committee Choice Award – Tulipanes Film Festival
  • By the way, I’m doing a project where I take a photo every day this year and post it to my Instagram if you have any interest in following along.

    One of the most meaningful experiences I had on the road with the film was when an audience member approached me after a screening and told me “You know, I really wasn’t sure about this whole opera music thing when my friend dragged me to this screening…”

    I laughed and assured her that I completely understood where she was coming from and that I was pretty skeptical of “the whole opera music thing” when I started this project way back in 2013. She replied “But you know what? When I saw the end of the film when they were performing it, I was really getting into it!” We took a goofy selfie on her phone and said goodbye.

    In other news…

    My fellow documentary filmmaker Tristan Hanson and I also did 2 more screenings of our other new documentary Blueprint for Bronzeville about affordable homeownership in a historic African American neighborhood. We ended up winning the Best Feature Award at The Collected Voices Film Festival!

    The activist group we filmed in the movie is also starting to use the documentary as an organizing tool at church screenings in their community which is very exciting. I think this particular film has a great destiny in academia too so we’re starting to talk with professors about using the film in their classrooms.

    Signing off until next time,

    P.S. – If you have other ideas about where to screen either film, just contact me and we’ll make it happen. We’ve already gotten some good referrals and connections from this PS that I include at the bottom of every update.