I don't have much news on the play film front. It remains in stable condition while on life support. While it's not seeing visitors yet, it's having rich dreams. I'll let you know as soon as its condition changes!
In the meantime, as the nights get longer and darkness grows, I thought it might help to remind you that it's more important than ever to connect to the simple joy of being alive. Play not only lifts our spirits, it reveals the human heart's capacity to triumph over adversity.
To help you play in the dark, I made this little e-book describing Seven Paths to the playground:
It's free! So I wanted to make sure you, my dear backer, could get a copy if you want it.
I'll continue to send you free goodies as a way to thank you for your continuing patience and for holding the faith in the film!
Oh, and BTW: I just gave a TEDx talk in the Dominican Republic. Hey, it's a short movie about play! I'll send you a link as soon as I get it.
It's been quite awhile since you've heard from me. I've been waiting to write until I had some good news to share but I'm afraid if I wait any longer you'll forget what play film I'm even talking about. So here's the scoop, warts and all.
When last we met, NOW Playing had just gotten the green light from Oregon Public Broadcasting for a two-hour special, which we had developed with the fabulous support of the MacArthur Foundation. We were happy. Remember?
The first hard news came in January. PBS was changing its funding strategy to focus almost exclusively on narrative fiction (thanks to Downton Abbey's crazy success). They would not provide funding for NOW Playing nor promise us a prime time slot until they'd seen the finished production. I had been working closely with our PBS affiliate for a year to develop a two-hour special with the understanding that once they signed off we would present it to PBS Nation and hopefully, with a few revisions, receive one third of the budget. Now there was no point in bringing it to PBS national at all and I was left to raise over $1M on my own without the promise of a prime time slot. How could I possibly do that?
I know! I'll go to the MacArthur Foundation, I thought, hopefully. If they've funded the show's development, surely they'll help with the production funds. So I called MacArthur and, BOOM! I hit another wall. They had also just changed their funding strategy and were no longer funding individuals. As of this year they're only providing funds to granting organizations like Sundance and Tribeca. Unfortunately, these organizations don't fund shows like NOW Playing. I'm starting to feel a little defeated.
But, bleak though it seemed, I didn't give up. No sirree! There were promising leads to pursue and the possibility of another production company with more fundraising experience adopting the project. Besides, I thought, with all the wonderful support coming from our community, how could it NOT happen? So I kept peddling hard, steep though the path had become. Meanwhile, with all the money spent, I was now living off savings.
Months passed and all the leads went dry. It looked like it was over. I had taken a big risk, leaving my play consulting practice to work over four years ago and pouring myself into the project heart and soul. Watching it crash was utterly heartbreaking. I felt crushed and ashamed. I didn't want you to know. So I quietly licked my wounds and looked for work.
Then, just as I was about to let go (a.k.a. give up) completely there was a flicker of hope. I met with that seasoned production company with the fundraising chops and they said "THIS PROJECT HAS TO HAPPEN! You've done too much good work and the topic is too important to give up now." Alrighty then! If you say so. It could take awhile and there's no telling what will happen, but we're exploring the possibilities. So the play movie goes on.
While I won't be actively working on the show for a little while, this whole wild rumpus has taught me a lot. At some point I lost my north star - play! I got very serious about the project and it stopped being playful (I know, how ironic!). I agreed to cut content I really cared about and change the show in order to get the green light from PBS. I felt the burden of my responsibility to you, my supporters. I lost the joy behind the project and I believe that that's why the wells dried up inside and out.
Eventually, after a good long cry, I started to play again. I wrote a children's story for grown ups, explored new trails with my dogs, and danced every weekend. That's when the new production company appeared. I'm convinced it wasn't the strategic planning and coaching that got me and the project out of the slump, it was the playing!
So, while we all wait to see what's next for NOW Playing, I'm completely committed to bringing play back to the center of my life. Not only that, but I've decided to dedicate myself to helping other people do the same. I've rebooted my coaching practice, am writing more, and I'm in the beginning stages of creating a virtual play group. As an expression of my appreciation for your support and your patience, I invite you to be part of the first play group for some ridiculously huge discount. If you're interested in learning more about the group or want to know about other play offerings, sign up here and be sure to let me know you're a Kickstarter supporter.
As the saying goes, a tragedy is just a comedy that hasn't ended yet. The play goes on no matter what form it takes. I look forward to sharing some good belly laughs with you one day!
It's been a long time since you've gotten an update from me. I wanted to wait until I had some real news to share. And when we got the MacArthur Foundation Development grant last November we got really busy cooking up a proposal for a six-hour series. Series development is a little like a sausage factory, so we'll spare you the gory details. Okay, maybe not all the gory details. As a matter of fact, here are some of the gory details right now.
Some Gory Details
After spending six months working on the series, we submitted our proposal to Oregon Public Broadcasting, our presenting PBS station. A few hours later we got a note back telling us to make it a two-hour special. After staring blankly at the wall for a few days, we realized that this was actually great news and that a shorter show would have a much bigger impact. So we scraped our jaws off the floor, rolled up our sleeves (a g a i n) and six months later submitted a proposal for a two-hour show that we all love and are excited to produce. A few revisions later, we got the green light!
A Long Road
It's been over three years since you supported our Kickstarter campaign! Since then the project has taken a lot of twists and turns, all ultimately toward a bigger impact. I know we all thought by we'd be sipping Champagne at the world premier by now so I want to reassure you that this is the same project and it is definitely going to happen...and that the Champagne will only taste sweeter when we do finally raise our glasses. So, after three years, I want to thank you for being so patient, for your continued support, and for just hanging in there with me! I'm humbled, grateful, and eager to produce a smart, inspiring, powerful, beautiful case for play.
Now that I'm no longer chained to my desk working on the proposal and while our team is busy hitting the road to raise the funds for the show (it's true, it takes more than the $42K we raised on the Kickstarter to produce a 2 hour PBS Special), I'm available in a new way for the first time in years! This is the official announcement that opening my coaching practice to those of you who want to unleash your hearts and bring more play to your life and world. I only have space for five coaching clients so I'm giving my Kickstarter supporters first dibs plus a free session. I'm also available to make some productive mischief in your organization through some exciting programs designed to turn your workplace into a play space. Let me know if you want to play.
We were in high gear shaping Now Playing as a six hour PBS series when a small miracle occurred. At approximately 9:07am this morning (Pacific time) Garbanzo snorted, the stars aligned, and we became officially ready to start talking to potential sponsors and institutional partners.
So here’s the big invitation to you!
Do you know any organization that might want to be associated with the emerging play movement and is in a position to sponsor a TV series (and accompanying website)? If you do, I have some great materials you can share with them. I also brought in a fabulous person who’s leading our sponsorship efforts and I know just how much she wants to work with you (a LOT). So introduce us to your cousins, your friends, your friends of friends of cousins of uncles who are working in any...
…that might be interested in supporting the play cause.
We’d be happy to compensate you on a commission basis and, of course, friendly intros are also ever so welcome.
We're thrilled to announce that NOW Playing has received a rare development grant from the MacArthur Foundation. This will enable us to turn our research into a real plan for a multi-part PBS series.
You could say we're feeling pretty good about that!
We're also absolutely thrilled to have Oregon Public Broadcasting as our PBS broadcasting partner. OPB could not be a better fit for us since they have a strong national focus and know how to work with independent producers, like us, who want to make shows that don't look like anything else on television. OPB will be helping shepherd the project to PBS National so we can get a national air date. We're psyched about that.
New Team Member
We also have a wonderful addition to our team. The amazing, adorable, and highly effective Susanna Pollack has come on board to develop our business partnerships. After eight years setting up deals at BBC she knows a little bit about funding and distribution. We're delighted (and lucky) to have her!
We also are a little dazzled by our new illustrious advisors who have recently joined our board. Stand up now, wherever you are, and put your hands together for...
Joi Ito - Activist, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and director of the MIT Media Lab…and three time college drop out.
Donna Friedman Meir - Principal and founder of LEMONADE Creative Consulting, past president of National Geographic Kids Entertainment and held senior executive positions with the WB Television Network and Nickelodeon. Very ticklish.
Michael Carter Ph.D- Learning & digital media luminary. Early advisor to Steve Jobs, oversaw educational new media research at Apple's Advanced Technology Group.
Every day we can keep working on this important project with such fabulous playmates is a dream come true and a day closer to having this important message playing in front of millions of viewers. So we have lots of reasons to celebrate…as we roll up our sleeves for four months of development!
Thanks for playing your part before we had such an impressive list of mucky mucks involved. You sure know how to spot talent :-)!
Gwen, Garbanzo, and the whole, expanding NOW Playing team