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.
Arlen

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!