The HBO premiere of The Kids Grow Up is only days away and the dvd release is just over a month away. And, while we’ve had months and months to prepare for both, it’s still kind of a stunning prospect.
Between the film festival circuit and our theatrical release, the film has been screening in front of enthusiastic audiences for over a year-and-a-half now. So it’s exceedingly strange to think that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in terms of numbers of people who will ultimately see it.
The temptation at such a moment is to call undue attention to myself, and to boost my ever-so-brilliant career as a filmmaker. And I don’t mean to discourage anyone, feel free to say nice things. But gradually over the past year, I’ve come around to pushing a considerably different agenda. Let me go back a bit to explain.
When you tell a personal story, particularly one about your family, it’s important to place it in some kind of larger social context. During the films’ making, the one that emerged was the sharp contrast in fatherhood styles and attitudes between my old-school authoritarian father and me, and then between me and my step-son Josh (who’s about to take yet another year off to be a stay-at-home dad – something I could never imagine doing). It’s a vivid illustration of just how much more involved and emotionally engaged dads are in the lives of their children these days, and the greater balance we’re trying to find between the workplace and home. There’s been a huge cultural shift over the past few generations.
In preparing to do our theatrical release last fall with very little in the way of a traditional marketing budget, we decided to focus much of our outreach efforts on gaining the support of the growing legions of “mommy bloggers” and their readers. In the course of researching and identifying the best and most influential, we also discovered a small but growing cadre of “daddy bloggers”.
The Modern Media Man Summit last fall was pretty much of a disaster, but it was eye-opening in terms of meeting men who are determined to change perceptions of modern-day fatherhood. Among those that impressed me most were the dynamic Roland Warren, President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, and Doug French, a terrific and well-connected blogger who’s spearheading the Dad 2.0 Summit (which will surely be the galvanizing conference for dads and dad bloggers that M3 only dreamed of being).
I forget who coined the phrase “It’s not a movie, it’s a movement.” In our case that’s probably overstating things a bit, but after M3 I began to feel the film could play a role, and maybe a significant role, in changing public perceptions, as well. When HBO agreed to premiere The Kids Grow Up on Father’s Day, it gave us the perfect opportunity to steer the conversation away from my particular parenting story to this larger story that’s playing out in the culture.
With Doug and Roland joining the uber-talented blogger Catherine Connors and me at our wonderful HBO screening and ‘Dad 2.0′ panel the other night, it felt like the culmination of a long and concerted effort. And, in terms of using the broadcast as a launchpad for thoughtful discussion, hopefully a new beginning, too.
On the eve of the television premiere, it’s nice to think that parents — and especially time-challenged parents of young kids — who would no way in hell pay babysitter money on top of ticket prices to see a documentary in a theater, can now see The Kids Grow Up in the comfort of their chaotic homes. I like to imagine them watching sprawled on the floor, reduced to fetal position just thinking about their little tykes growing up and leaving the nest.
I also like to think there will be plenty of mom and dad bloggers out there watching. My hope is that they won’t so much review the film as use it as a springboard for their own thoughts and ideas about the new, involved, emotionally-engaged Dad 2.0.
I, for one, can’t wait to read what they have to say.