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.
Holy crap, the day of our theatrical premiere is here at last! I did a tech check at the Angelika this morning and came away happy with the projection, especially given that they’re not used to digital projection. The manager couldn’t have been nicer – treated me to a double cappucino and moved the blow-up of our humongous Sunday NY Times article outside right next to the box office window.
It’s not like I’m hardened to all this, but we have a group of eager young people in our office here, and they’re super excited about the upcoming weekend. And everyone’s thrilled with the incredible coverage and many great reviews we’ve gotten. A. O. Scott in the New York Times calls The Kids “remarkable” and gives it a Critics’ Pick, as does New York Magazine. Eric Hynes in the Village Voice calls it “nakedly personal” and “profoundly universal,” and Andrew O’Hehir in Salon.com says it’s a “powerful, wrenching movie” (not to worry, he also called it “funny” and “irresistible”).
When you have a movie opening soon in theaters that’s essentially a documentary about your daughter (ok, it’s a lot more, but still) and you have little money to market it, you better get pretty damned creative with your marketing. And you better get your sorry ass in gear and start blogging, too.
That’s why I’ll be in Atlanta for the next 3 days at a noteworthy event called the Modern Media Man Summit. Saturday morning I’ll be speaking on a panel called “Over-Sharing: When it comes to your family, how much is too much?” It’s meant for bloggers but could there possibly be a more apropos topic for someone who makes personal docs about his family (not to mention, his teenage daughter!)?
If nothing else, the Summit should bring up lots of food for thought. How are men experiencing fatherhood these days? How are they writing about it? Will the “daddy blogger” movement ever grow to anywhere near the level of “mommy bloggers“? Where oh where is the male Dooce?
I’m bringing along my adorable new notebook laptop, will take it all in like a sponge and hopefully be a bloggin’ and twitterin’ fool. So check back often, I’ll be updating my posts throughout the event.
The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is flat-out one of the best documentary festivals in the world. It’s relatively small, very intimate and draws a bevy of documentary enthusiasts that fill up virtually every screening, whether day or night, weekday or weekend.
So no surprise that our Saturday morning breakfast special screening (10:10am!) was packed. And happy to report it couldn’t possibly have gone better.
It’s still a relatively new experience to see The Kids Grow Up with an audience, so I was relieved and thrilled at how loud and frequent the laughs came during the first half hour, which is where most of the intended laughs happen to be. As for the last half hour, where we invite the audience to go weak-kneed, curl into fetal position and burst into tears, well, it looks like we succeeded on that account, as well.
It was hugely gratifying over the next two days to have people come up to me and Marjorie and tell us how much they loved the film. Many said it was their favorite film of the festival, which is nice even if they were stretching things a bit, or even flat-out lying. Feel free to continue to lie to me like that in the future, dear readers.
I return much more confident that the film touches audiences deeply. The notion has been reinforced by any number of Facebook and Twitter postings, and emails like the following from an audience member named Leah Janosko from Cary, North Carolina.
I just wanted to express my gratitude for your film “The Kids Grow Up.” I was one of the lucky (sniffling) people that had the fortune to attend your screening on Saturday morning in Durham. I was moved and touched. Your ability to put yourself and your family totally out there in such an honest, authentic and vulnerable way is such a gift to anyone who sees this film. I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it.
I am the mother of a 16 year old girl (my only daughter) and it was as if you made this film specifically for me. The insights of both you and your wife were comforting in the sense that I am not the only one with these feelings. I found it interesting that during one of your answers from the Q&A following the viewing, you explained that your daughter was concerned that people would see this film and think that they know her. I came away not with knowing her but better knowing myself. Lucy represented my daughter with her laughter, intelligence, eye rolls and need for independence. Seeing how you coped (and anguished) with Lucy, is helping me process the complexity of emotions that I am feeling during this similar period of my life.
My only suggestion would be to please include longer credits at the end as I needed more time to compose myself before the lights came up.
I will keep up with information on your website and look forward to recommending this film to friends who may have an opportunity to view it. I congratulate you on an amazing piece of work and look forward to your future projects.
Our web design worker bees are working hard to create a discussion forum on the website here, not just for wonderful reactions to the film (though don’t hesitate) but for wise and pithy discussion of parenting issues brought up by the film. Having had a ton of experience from The D-Word, I’ll be doing some of the moderating myself, and hope to bring in an experienced co-host, as well. It will hopefully be up and running sometime in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for that.
Tuesday, April 6
In a few days, the fun begins. The film gets out in front of audiences again.
It’s been a quite a while since IDFA, we’ve been laying low. But a lot is happening behind the scenes and hopefully we can share the news soon. All I can say at this point is The Kids Grow Up will almost certainly have a theatrical release, probably beginning in the early fall. So stay tuned.
But now it’s time to get out on the festival circuit at last. On Thursday, Lori and I head down to the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC, and it’s going to be a great three days. Like at IDFA, we come not just to screen The Kids Grow Up but as producers of The Edge of Dreaming, which is part of the New Docs competition. And I’ll be on the Grand Jury, which means the festival flies me down and puts me up in the lap of luxury!
THE KIDS GROW UP will have its’ world premiere next month at IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam), the largest and most prestigious of all documentary festivals. It’s playing in the Reflecting Images: Masters section, along with new or recent docs by, well, there’s no other term, masters such as D.A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus, Frederick Wiseman, Michael Moore, Joe Berlinger, Susan Froemke, Julien Temple and Michael Winterbottom. So it’s quite an honor and my hat size has swelled accordingly.
Hard to believe but tomorrow is the final layback of mixed soundtrack to color corrected picture and then… The Kids Grow Up is done. It’s a bittersweet moment.
I’ve been living with this film, in one form or another, for over 20 years. Or, to be more precise, from the moment my daughter Lucy was born. Not that I knew right away she would someday be the subject of a film. But because as I continued to tape with her over the years, and really only a little at a time, I began to suspect there was the makings of a film there.