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Archive for October, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

When Walid Amani showed up for the casting call, he had no idea what was just over the horizon for the aspiring actor who was in possession of the prized SAG card.  He had roles in a couple of independent movies, episodes of NCIS and Lie to Me.  But this one would be very different.  Here in Hollywood, he is a long way from the University of Minnesota where he earned a degree in computer science.  He’s a trained classical pianist.  But when the film’s director and producer agreed with the casting agent saw the test outtakes, Walid would be on his way to India.  He was perfect for the part.

In his former life, he was a natural at the computer.  He can figure things out.  His piano concerts were inspiring.  But acting trumped those other career tracks.  He attacked the craft with the same intensity and focus he brought to those two familiar keyboards.  This role would demand more than he imagined.  He’s conversant in several languages, including Hindi.  He consulted dialect and linguistic coaches, here in California and there in India.  He would play the role of a Dalit man committed to provide and care for an eight-year-old daughter.  His native tongue would be Telegu, and he would speak limited English with a heavy Indian accent.  He would familiarize himself with life in the outcast slum.

So he did his homework.  He practiced until he found a character voice.  And then they introduced him to an eight-year old girl with jet-black hair, big bright eyes and an engaging smile.  Persis Karen, a Dalit, was picked from a large collection of uniformed students who had been snatched from sure hopelessness in neighboring slums.  These girls were engaged in a formal, intense education, which included English, in the heart of India.  They were eager cadidates.  When the director of the movie first met young Persis, he knew he had found Annika.   She would be Walid’s daughter.  He would take the name Kiran.  They would spend the next six weeks together, inseparable.

As I sat in the theater in Nashville after the focus group screening of the film in which Walid and Persis play a major role as Kiran and Annika, I listened in as folks who had little background in the world of India’s Dalit population shared their response to the film.  They expressed wonder and amazement at the performances, which touched them deeply.  Kiran, hopeless, lost, with no means of providing for the daughter he loves, accepts a modest sum of money (rupees) in exchange for the promise of a better life for his little girl.  His new American friend, Caden (Cody Longo), is outraged.  The ugly American becomes a man with possessed by a cause.  The two of them emerge as unlikely partners in a search and rescue mission that takes us into some of India’s darker shadows.

Last night, we met four of the actors who played major roles in the new film, Not Today.  Brent Martz (Producer) and Jon Van Dyke (Director) interviewed them, as they played finished extended scenes.  They reminisced over six weeks of filming on location in India, where their lives were forever changed.  All of them.

The focus group in Nashville raved over the performance of Cody Longo, who plays a privileged Orange County millennial, Caden Welles, who on a sort of dare, goes to India for no other reason than to party with his college pals.  They are the quintessential ugly Americans.  He leaves behind a girlfriend, Audrey (Cassie Scerbo), who loves him but fears what he is becoming.  She’s in turmoil.  Caden’s mother, Sarah (Shari Widmann), divorced from Caden’s father and remarried to Luke (Jon Schneider), knows Caden’s inner strife, and wants desperately for him to find wholeness.  The unexpected quest to find Annika changes everything.  They all delivered.  Their performances rock.  Brent and Jon captured it on film – a stunning achievement.

I’ve always liked DVDs because they include “The Making Of,” which takes us into the background of the story, the on location shooting, a discussion of the film’s purpose and meaning.  Last night, we enjoyed the Making Of Not Today live and in person.

We now have a growing sense of confidence and anticipation that this film is going to reach a large audience, bring awareness and motivation, which, we trust, will mobilize an army.

Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2011

 

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Monday October 10, 2011

When the announcement hit the headlines several weeks ago, that Steve Jobs could no longer carry the load as CEO of Apple, I remember the sadness. I also recall thinking that I would write about him. Even then, people in the tech business were on the search for words big enough to capture something of the legacy of the man who got a cancer that not even the best of the best, not even unlimited funds could cure. I thought about it, too, because Steve Jobs’ legacy touched me, as well.

Hoopla around Apple product announcements is what we expect anymore. Most recently, my anticipation revved up more over IOS 5 than a new “iPhone 5”. The new operating system, and the promise of iCloud had me waiting with that old Mac eagerness that I share with millions. A new iPhone can wait, I thought, but that new operating system. Wow. So when the new CEO (Tim Cook, Jobs’ handpicked successor) took to the stage somehow to fill the Jobian blue jeans, black turtle neck and shoes, the world was watching. Within minutes, we all took note of the subdued presentation and muted applause. For the most part, the whole ninety minutes, while packed with whiz-bang enhancements and new capabilities and processing speed felt off the mark. The whole thing was typified by the near groan you could hear around the world when Cook introduced the iPhone 4S? (Not the 5.) You could a most hear the line from Princess Bride… Inconceivable!

For the next day or so, the question was asked, “What is UP with Apple?”. Are they losing their edge, already?

Then came the news alert, which arrived in my world just the President indicated. He commented that it was a remarkable tribute to a remarkable man that that news of his untimely death (age 56) came to most of us on a device he gave to us. For me, the iPhone. “Steve Jobs has died, according to a report from Apple, Inc.” was all the text message said. I felt the air go out of my lungs for a moment as I processed the thought. Too soon, came to mind. Too soon. Sadnesses rolled over me again.

Immediately, I realized why the product presentation came off as something less than spectacular. Certainly, the new CEO knew. Many of the insiders both in the audience and on stage knew, too. Steve Jobs was close. Very close. His demise, eminent. It would be only a matter of hours. It is a tribute to the secrecy Jobs insisted on throughout his career that kept any of the rest of us from knowing how very serious his condition had become. As much as I thought I knew about the man, I was unaware that he was married; much less about the four children, all of whom stood around the bed as the man who would be soon compared to Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison and Henry Ford breathed his last. He would leave behind the most valuable company in the world, with more cash in the bank than the Federal government. But the children and the extended family and his wife of nineteen years, Lauren, mother to three of his children, would grieve the untimely loss of a husband and a father too soon, just as the rest of us would. Money, power, influence, fame – all secondary.

While I never met the man, his work did impact my life. Significantly. Substantially. And will continue to do so. Not just because four years ago I gave away my last PC and traded windows machines in for Macs and iPhones and iPods and now an iPad (I’m writing this on the iPad at somewhere around thirty five thousand feet somewhere above Arizona), but because these tools happily occupy a good portion of my day, every day. My PC friends will be quick to remind me that Jobs didn’t really INVENT any of that stuff (you’ll hear the disgust in their voice, annoyed by the hyperbole and overuse of the word “icon”). While they have a point, the devices and integration and innovation and accessibility that is now a regular part of my day came from the company that Steve built. No, Jobs did not invent the Internet, but the World Wide Web was built on one of Jobs’ most outrageously powerful machines, the NeXT. He didn’t invent MP3s either. Or GPS. Or the digital camera. Or flash memory. Or eBooks.

But he put them all in my pocket.

As I have reflected on how my life has changed in the last few years, I realize how much control I have over the content I digest. I am way less dependent on the public airwaves, where I was once stuck with network drivel and endless advertising. I choose my podcast. My music. I’ve read way more books an ever. I’ve written a couple of books of my own on machines made by Steve, and I have instant access to research and fact checking and dictionary and encyclopedias at my fingertips. I can access my documents, keep connected to my family and friends, edit my photos and videos, speak to and see my grandkids who are thousands of miles away. I record my thoughts while barreling down the freeway and then send the recording to myself via email. I send Carolyn a text, she taps the screen and sees my location on a map, including my speed and my estimated time of arrival home. She can even see the traffic conditions. I text her again from the tarmac and tell her I love her. And I’m only getting started. It’s all in my pocket.

Oh yes. That iPhone 4S. It’s “for Steve.”

If Steven Jobs had lived his three score and ten and then some, we may not be reflecting as we are today over the contribution he has made to so many. When he recruited John Scully, the CEO of Pepsi, to come and run Apple way back in 1983, he asked, “What would you rather do? Sell sugared water or come with me and change the world?”

That got him. It got me, too.

I’d rather change the world.

copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2011

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Grandparenting

This week, we do something out of the box.  My good friend, Annie Moffatt, has created a remarkable web site.  A veteran teacher and mom to two great girls, Audrey and Sophie, she has created a web presence which makes her creative materials available to educators, parents and grandparents to get involved in the learning process.  She calls her site The Moffatt Girls.  You’ll want to take a look at her materials.

Annie inaugurates a weekly podcast today.  I am her first guest.  So instead of reading text this week, listen in to the twelve minute interview.  She asks me about my role as a grandfather.  I hope you enjoy it.

When you get to the site – read Annie;s introduction, then look scroll down and for the “blogtalkradio” widget in the right column.  Click on the play button. Let us know what you think.  Forward the link!

THE MOFFATT GIRLS

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