The Subject Strikes Back: Lucy Block on ‘The Kids Grow Up’

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Whenever you make a personal doc, you have to brace for people ripping you, and sometimes in a very personal way.  I’m still amazed that so few slings and arrows have come my way for ’51 Birch Street’ over the years.  But with ‘The Kids Grow Up’ opening this Friday in NY, I’m steeling myself again, and probably with more reason.

It’s one thing to put your parents under the probing lens of your camera, quite another to put your young daughter there.  So I’m gonna get shots taken at me.  In fact, I already have (for the record, Doug Block does like his daughter Lucy).  Luckily, I also have my strong supporters.

But one important thing is that the shots will come at me and not Lucy (or so I’d like to believe).  Another is that I not only made exactly the film I wanted to make, but that Lucy is still speaking to me. Quite often, in fact, thank you.

One thing I promised myself was that before the film opened theatrically I’d have some kind of response from Lucy posted on our website.  And happily, before she went back to college in August, she sat down with me (and my camera) and did a 45-minute interview about her reaction to the film and to being the subject of an intensely personal film by her dad.  I should add that it was the first time I shot with Lucy since the end of filming three years ago.

The video is intended for the DVD extras of ‘The Kids,’ at least that’s the plan.  But I want to give Lucy a platform before then, so the following is an excerpt from the first few minutes of the interview, very lightly edited for better clarity.

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Modern Media Man Summit – Day 1

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9:50 EST – Ok, I give Cal Ripken credit.  Expected he’d just roll in, do a 15-minute shtick, collect his substantial fee and beat it.  But he spent almost an hour giving a talk by the indoor pool, telling baseball stories with leadership themes, answering questions, posing for photos and signing autographs (the dire warnings apparently didn’t come from him).  Can’t say he said anything particularly memorable but it was a living example of his impressive ironman work ethic.  Couldn’t bring myself to hand him a dvd, though I had my chance.  It just felt too cheesy.

Afterwards, talked to a few bloggers over drinks and chicken wings.  They seemed genuinely excited by The Kids, eager to see it.  These guys want to shoot an interview tomorrow.  Another is pushing a book driven by his popular blog and is clearly knowlegable about how to drive sales online.  Collected a handful of business cards, now flavored with medium hot sauce.

I came in with pretty moderate expectations but this could be a very fruitful few days.


6:21pm EST – On the flight down to Atlanta I try to push out of my mind the dozens of outreach emails I need to crank out and try to focus on the task at hand. 

The main one, of course, is I have a film about daddyhood that I want every last daddy blogger here to know — and blog — about.  For that I’ve lugged the usual assortment of screeners, postcards and business cards, and actually given some thought to what I’ll say on my Saturday panel.  Hopefully I can muster a dollop of personal charm, as well. 

Since I want every last daddy (and mommy and son and daughter) to know about The Kids, too, I’m eager to sharpen my social networking skill set.  The M3 website promises that I’ll learn all sorts of cutting edge tips and strategies for “harnessing the excitement and electricity of the Internet’s latest buzz” to build my brand. 

Happy days, because my brand sure needs building.  I mean, is this my brand?  Or is this?

But beyond all the Self-Promotion 2.0 stuff, I really do have a larger goal.  And that’s simply to get beyond any preconceptions about what the M3 Summit is and be open to what can happen when a bunch of thoughtful men who share their day-to-day experiences of fatherhood online get together in one place for a few days.  I’m not just eager for a social media revitalization.  I need to get my manhood mojo rising.

On that note, I’m about to head off to the opening night party featuring baseball great Cal Ripken, Jr.  We’ve been warned ahead of time not to ask Cal for autographs, not to take photos or to record him in any way, shape or form (all cell phones are to be confiscated at the door).  Dire consequences are in store for anyone who disobeys.

But nobody said nuthin’ about giving him a dvd screener.  Hmmm…

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The Edge of Dreaming on POV

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So you know, the last three years haven’t been exclusively about THE KIDS GROW UP.

A truly extraordinary personal documentary that I helped produce will air in the U.S. on POV tomorrow night (Tuesday).  Amy Hardie’s THE EDGE OF DREAMING takes on the subject of dreams.  And particularly what happens when Amy — a science filmmaker, skeptic and happy mother of three — dreams that her own death will take place within the year.  Then her health progressively starts failing.

THE EDGE OF DREAMING is one of those rare films that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it.  I’m very proud to have played a role in it, and want to acknowledge the contributions of my fellow producers – Amy, Lori Cheatle and George Chignell.  It’s been a long haul, but tomorrow is one of the great payoffs.

So make a date with your local PBS station, 10pm EST (though check your local listings).  I urge you not to miss it.  But, happily, if you do, or live outside the U.S., it can be seen online for free starting Wednesday and continuing for the next three months.

For more info about the film, the trailer, an interview with Amy and all that good stuff, go to the POV website.  An even better trailer can be seen here on YouTube.

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A Special Jury Prize At Silverdocs, And Something Even Better

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It was a sweet few days for The Kids at Silverdocs.  And not just because we came away from it with a Special Jury Prize in the feature docs competition. 

The first screening was Lucy’s first time seeing the film with an audience, and the first time she took part in a Q&A.   Since she’s been away most of the past year studying abroad in Buenos Aires, we haven’t talked much about the film, either.   Partly by design but mostly following Lucy’s lead.  She hasn’t really wanted to talk much about it.  So, needless to say, I was more than a bit nervous about what her reaction would be.  Not so much about the film itself, but in seeing herself up on the big screen in front of strangers.

As she later admitted, the first Q&A (above) was hard.   She looked a bit shell-shocked and her answers were pretty brief and general.  But by the time of the second screening two days later, she’d had time to think about it and talk to other filmmakers and filmgoers she met while hanging out.   At that Q&A, Lucy was poised and articulate.  She said that it’s been almost 3 years from the filming and she feels like it’s almost another person she’s watching up there.  And that it’s a good film and she’s glad she’ll have this portrait of herself and her family to look back on in the years ahead.  Hopefully no one heard my loud sigh of relief while she said it.

I wish I could have seen more of the great docs screening there (though I’ve seen a lot from my Full Frame jury duty and from the weekly Stranger Than Fiction screenings here in NYC).  I would have especially liked to see Marwencol, which I’ve heard such great things about, and Wo Ai Ni Mommy, the eventual Grand Jury Prize winner.  But I was mostly tending to my two stars.   Marjorie I knew would have a great time, she almost always does at the festivals she attends.  But Lucy was the wild card, and she seemed to really enjoy the whole Silverdocs experience. 

Hopefully, the week marks a new beginning of my ability to write more frequently and candidly about the film.  It’s one thing as a director to be protective of his “star”.   But as a father, I needed to know my daughter was really okay about the film before I could move forward and talk about it in depth.

So, many thanks to Sky Sitney and the Silverdocs staff for a special week.  And, of course, the features competition jury for the very special recognition.

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Shadow Distribution Picks Up “The Kids Grow Up”

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As announced in indieWIRE and other trades yesterday, Shadow Distribution will handle the North American theatrical release of Doug Block’s feature documentary “The Kids Grow Up.”  The film will premiere on Oct 29 at the Angelika Film Center in New York City before expanding its run to other cities (including the Laemmle Sunset 5 in LA on Nov 12).

Block tackles a similar personal narrative in his follow up to his acclaimed documentary “51 Birch Street,” in which Block dissected his parents’ marriage and his relationship with his father. In a similar vein, “The Kids Grow Up” explores the director’s own bond with his daughter.

“We’re thrilled to be able to bring this moving, honest, funny, beautiful and important film to North American audiences,” said Shadow president Ken Eisen. “Doug’s made a film that’s truly universal precisely because it’s so personal.”

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