A Time and a Passion to Give

November 1, 2015

 

Take, take, take - we hear that over and over about some people in the entertainment industry … however, the production industry gives back to the community in more ways than anyone realizes. Oz wants you to know about these contributions. Starting with this issue, Oz Magazine will be highlighting production companies that have donated their time and services for charities and other good causes. Be inspired and let us know what you are doing to give back. Send info any time to OzCetera Editor, ozcetera@ozonline.tv.

 

“We Want To Do More”

           

           In all likelihood, Jennifer Felton is still suffering from jet lag and unpacking her bags from her recent trip to Kenya. Jennifer, who co-owns a production company, AVA, with her husband Ryan Felton, left her day job in mid-October for a nearly two-week trip to work in some of the most impoverished villages around Nairobi and to help escort five orphans to their new home at the House of Hope orphanage in Lodwar, Kenya.

 

            Jennifer, who is the director of business development for AVA, and Ryan, AVA’s producer and director, have been working for years with SERV International, a non-profit based in Canton, Ga. The trip is especially meaningful though because she was to meet Consiletta, an orphaned child that she and Ryan have been sponsoring through their company. “I am just so lucky to take part in this,” Jennifer said recently, as she rushed to prepare for her departure.

            The 10-member team from the Christian-based organization will deliver food and water to the slums of Nairobi and surrounding villages. In addition to bringing five children to House of Hope, the team will also take

 

on remodeling projects at the orphanage. “Many of these children lost their parents due to AIDS or civil unrest,” Jennifer explained. Some may have another family member to live with, but because of the entrenched poverty in the area, they are the last to get food when the family eats and there is no money to send them to school. “They are living a life a child should not have to live,” Jennifer said.

            The couple also works with several other charities and often donate their professional services. For example, when the Foster Care Support Foundation needed actors for a film they were doing on the organization's work, the Feltons volunteered. The foundation, based in Roswell, Ga., works with the state’s Department of Family and Children Services to provide foster families with clothes, school supplies, toys, and special equipment for the children they take in. Jennifer noted that when children are placed into foster care it is often an emergency situation. “When they arrive at a foster home, they often have nothing.”

            The couple also has donated production services for charity auctions, such as the one held by Angels of Life, which raises money for the Georgia Transplant Foundation. The money is used to support patients who have received organ transplants and to recognize the life-saving contributions of organ donors.

            Even as the Feltons prepare for a new business venture, the opening of Big Peach Studios in December, they are looking for their next project to give back. One idea they’ve discussed is to return to Kenya to produce a film about the work at the House of Hope orphanage.

            Simply put, says Jennifer, “We want to do more.”

 

SERV International is a Christ-centered organization that operates an orphanage and a large-scale

feeding operation in Kenya. For more information, contact www.SERVone.org.

The Foster Care Support Foundation provides clothing, infant equipment, and developmental toys to children in foster and relative care throughout Georgia. For more information, contact www.FosterCares.org.

The Georgia Transplant Foundation helps meet the educational, informational, and financial needs of organ transplant candidates, living donors, recipients, and their families. For more information, contact www.GATransplant.org.

 

“Meaningful Media”

 

 

            Danielle Bernstein had a mission when she founded Clear Films Productions, an independent film production company. That mission is based on her “belief that meaningful media makes a difference. If you’re in a position to reach people, I feel obligated to,” she said. “We would like to have a positive impact on the world.”

            So Bernstein, along with filmmaker and photographer Jason Maris, are adventurous and dedicated documentary filmmakers who use their commercial work from clients such as Atlanta Falcons, Adult Swim, and NASCAR to allow them to do pro bono work for organizations here and abroad. Bernstein said the company has a version of a nonprofit status that allows for tax credit for some of the projects.

            Headquartered in Atlanta in a 2,000 square foot studio near Virginia Highlands, she and Maris have partnered on ambitious projects, most recently a film about the African Children’s Choir in Uganda. Imba Means Sing is told through the story of Moses, a young boy living in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, whose family is too impoverished to afford to send him to first grade. But he becomes part of the choir, which he sees as a way out of his circumstances. The film follows Moses and the other choir members as they tour America to perform.

            Imba Means Sing has received numerous accolades, including the 2015 INDIEfest Award of Excellence for Women Filmmakers. 100% of the profits from the film are being donated to build a secondary school for Moses and other children. Bernstein also is working with childrens’ choirs and other partners here in the United States, where many school systems have limited or eliminated music programs because of budget constraints.

            They also have done projects for charitable organizations closer to home. Maris has worked extensively with the Travis Manion Foundation, based in Doylestown, Pa., which assists veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. Travis Manion was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was killed in Al Anbar province in Iraq during his second deployment. Despite his fatal wounds, 1st Lt. Manion drew fire away from his patrol, all of whom survived the ambush. For his bravery, he was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star with Valor. Maris has filmed videos to share the mission of the foundation.

            Their next project, Homemade, is a feature-length documentary currently in production. The film will explore the invisible wounds of war, including traumatic brain injury and the “stigmas surrounding behavioral health in the military.”

            Maris and Bernstein are also active with the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation, which strives to create equity in education in the South, especially for low income students and students of color. They are helping to spread the word about the foundation through video content. “We do work a lot with the foundation,” Bernstein said.

            At the end of the day, Bernstein went into the business and created Clear Films Productions because “there is so much negative content out there,” she said. “We want to do media for good.”

 

 

To arrange a screening of Imba Means Sing or to donate to the cause of the film, contact www.ImbaFilm.com.

The Travis Manion Foundation helps veterans and the families of the fallen to achieve their goals throughout their personal journeys. For more information, contact www.TravisManion.org.

For nearly 150 years, the Southern Education Foundation has used collaboration, advocacy, and research to improve outcomes of students in the South, particularly low income students and students of color. For more information, contact www.SouthernEducation.org.

 

“I Try To Help Out”

 

            John Patrick Crum, owner of Dionysus Productions, based in Atlanta, became involved in charitable works when he was contacted by a real Hollywood insider, Peggy Goldwyn, wife of Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and daughter-in-law of pioneering movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn.

            Crum was living in Idaho, and Goldwyn needed help producing testimonials for a fundraiser for The Advocates, in Hailey, Idaho. The Advocates is an organization that works to end domestic abuse—both physical and emotional. The Advocates provides support services, education, and a shelter for women. The goal is to create a compassionate community, free of emotional and physical abuse. “When she contacted me, I said absolutely.” The testimonials he filmed were from women who had been helped by the organization and the staff members who helped guide them to success. Crum believed that getting the message out about the organization was essential because there were many women in that area, near the resort destination of Sun Valley, who found it difficult to come forward and ask for help. “They felt they might be judged.”

 

He has done other good works, including a feature piece about a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Healing Hands of Joy established by Allison Shigo. Located in Ethiopia, Healing Hands of Joy is a training center and home for women who have had obstetric fistula repair, a life-shattering complication of childbirth.

            Women in Africa who suffer from fistulas are often abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their villages. After receiving medical treatment, the women are trained by Healing Hands of Joy to become ambassadors for the Safe Motherhood program. The program advocates for skilled, facility-based childbirth and educates pregnant women.

 

            A documentary, A Walk to Beautiful, was co-produced by Shigo to chronicle the difficult lives of the women as they made their way to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, for treatment. The film showed how Healing Hands of Joy works to educate and empower the women as they prepare to return to their villages. “I did a feature piece with Alison about her NGO, about the movie, and about the disease itself,” Crum said.

            He too feels an obligation to serve the community through his production work.       “If I can, I try to help out,” he said.

 

Through education, shelter, and support services, The Advocates teaches people of all ages how to build and maintain healthy relationships. For more information, contact www.TheAdvocatesOrg.org.

Healing Hands of Joy works to make motherhood safer in Ethiopia and to eradicate preventable childbirth injuries such as obstetric fistula. For more information, contact www.HealingHandsofJoy.com.

 

“We Want To Raise Awareness”

 

            Tomorrow Pictures was founded by creative director Frederick Taylor and offers a wide-range of production services. Taylor brought Ellen Barnard on as a partner. Both feel an obligation to do what they can to help others, donating their time and professional skills. Taylor strongly believes he has an obligation to create work that tells a compelling story. Then he shares it, especially with young people, to demonstrate that, despite their circumstances, there is hope. He often screens After the Fall, a documentary about the children and teens in Romania infected with HIV. He said that when communism fell across Eastern Europe, the government standards for healthcare also disappeared. Hospitals began to reuse needles and the cross-contamination created an epidemic.

 

            What he saw were children who were treated as pariahs. They had to fight both HIV and the psychological trauma of being treated as lepers. So when he talks to teens in America, he wants to share the message: “Things may not be going just like you want, but that’s not just cause to give up the ship.” Taylor emphasizes, “Children are the future.” Born on the south side of Chicago, Taylor credits the adults who took interest in his life with his success. “I have become the person I am because people took an interest in me,” he said. “We have the ability to help and media has a tremendous impact.”

            Barnard, executive producer of Tomorrow Pictures, has traveled with her team from the Mukuru informal settlements of Nairobi, Kenya, to Kathmandu, Nepal. “We’ve done a lot of different things,” Barnard said during a recent interview. The project in Nepal was to document the work of Himalayan Children’s Charities (HCC), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Georgia and run by a couple in Alpharetta. The video is being used to help raise funds for the organization. HCC has a house in Kathmandu to help children receive an education and possibly continue on to college. “Many kids are in orphanages because their parents can’t afford them,” Barnard said. The nonprofit works with institutionalized, orphaned, and abandoned children to help them become strong, goal-oriented adults. The charity provides family-style support and continuous education from kindergarten through high school and university.

            Barnard and her team also ventured to Kenya to film the work of a program called HIV-Free Generation. The goal of the program is to revolutionize HIV prevention through education aimed at those ages 10 to 24. The film was shot in conjunction with the Emory University School of Public Health. While Emory covered travel expenses, everything else was an in-kind donation by Tomorrow Pictures. “It was a great trip,” Barnard said. “We worked with kids in the area.” And they ended up making a dear friend, Moses Wahor. “The first day we were shooting in the settlement, this kid came over and starting helping us,” Barnard said. Wahor hadn’t been hired as part of the crew, but he was excited about the production and wanted to be part of it. Barnard and Taylor kept him on, and he now does man-on-the-street reports from Nairobi for their production company.

            Recently, they did a free video for Digital Insurance to promote a charity function the company holds annually for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. They have worked with Cure Childhood Cancer, another Atlanta nonprofit group, which funds targeted cancer research and supports the patients who are battling childhood cancer and their families. “We donated some event coverage,” Barnard said, and produced videos for their website. For the past six years, Tomorrow Pictures has been a sponsor for EarthShare of Georgia, an organization that connects people to trusted nonprofits that are working to conserve and protect our air, land, and water. “We create video for their annual events and help them with other video and media projects when we can,” Barnard explained. “This is all done as donation.”

            What all of these organizations have in common is that they are working for long-term solutions. “We want to raise awareness in these organizations—the ones that leave behind a sustainable project.”

 

Himalayan Children’s Charities educates, nurtures, and mentors vulnerable, marginalized children in the Himalayas in order to break the cycle of poverty and create productive members of society. For more information, contact www.HCCNepal.org.

CURE Childhood Cancer invests in cooperative research efforts to end childhood cancers. For more information, contact www.CureChildhoodCancer.org.

EarthShare of Georgia connects those interested in protecting and conserving natural resources to trusted nonprofit organizations. For more information, contact www.EarthShareGA.org.

 

“A Part Of Our Passion”

 

            Atlanta ImageArts helped out with a new kind of fundraiser in October—one you didn’t even have to attend to be part of. The Smart Party for the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund was streamed live from Atlanta’s Ponce City Market so that anyone could participate. The fundraiser was driven by social media with participants networking with their contacts to raise money for the fund. A leader board kept tabs throughout the event showing the most social of the participants and who was bringing in the most donations.

 

            “We sent a crew for the live stream and they were very happy,” said Sally Danneman, the operations manager for Atlanta ImageArts, one of the sponsors to the event. Her husband, Jody Danneman, who is the executive producer and president, helms the production company. Their team stays busy working on projects for broadcast and corporate television and live events. But Sally said they have also known they wanted to help their community and organizations doing good works. “We’re not always able to write a big check, but we donate as much time as we can,” she said.

            The company works with a range of charitable organizations in Georgia, such as the Jeannette Rankin Fund in Athens, which provides scholarships nationwide for women 35 and older to allow them to complete college. Jody, an alumnus of the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, also has also donated production time to the journalism school, Sally said.

            Jody and Sally also support the Caring Hands Fund for the Presbyterian Homes of Georgia. Presbyterian Homes provides living communities for those 62 and older. The villages offer access to multiple levels of care including memory support, skilled nursing care, and end-of-life services through hospice. Since Presbyterian Homes offers housing to those across the financial spectrum, the organization raises money to support residents with limited resources. “The residents are allowed to stay,” Sally said, even when their financial means are exhausted. The couple volunteered their time and services for the 2015 Caring Hands Ceilidh Auction, a sold-out event held in October.

            They will continue their charitable works because it is part of their passion. “We have always felt strongly about that,” Sally told Oz.

 

The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund provides scholarships and support to low-income women ages 35 and older across the United States. For more information, contact www.RankinFoundation.org.

Presbyterian Homes of Georgia offers continuing care to adults aged 62 and older regardless of faith. Its levels of care include supportive living, memory support, and rehabilitation services. For more information, contact www.PresbyterianHomesInc.org.

 

 

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