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This feature-length film will explore the human impulse to create, concentrate and discover the mystery of self.
This feature-length film will explore the human impulse to create, concentrate and discover the mystery of self.
65 backers pledged $6,550 to help bring this project to life.

Recent updates

Help FOCUSED LIFE reach audiences!

Hello friends and family,

Focused Life is finished and being submitted to festivals! At this crucial stage, we need your assistance in bringing it to as many audiences next year as possible.

Although the final cut is done, a film is really only “finished” when it gets seen, released, made available to view. Otherwise, there is no chance for it to have a positive impact. Even though we know not everyone will resonate with it, we feel very proud of the completed film, its vision, motivations and subtle unique qualities. There are folks out there who long to see it, who may feel empowered, maybe even transformed by it. These are the folks we feel a responsibility to reach.

My goal is to submit Focused Life to roughly 20 film festivals. With each submission costing $50 – $70, it adds up to about $1,400. So I am writing with the intention to raise money to cover these costs. If you feel inspired to donate, even if it’s $5 - $10, it will go a long way in sharing the film with others, getting it distributed and seen. All donors will be credited.

To make a tax-deductible donation, please click here:
http://www.thefilmcollaborative.org/fiscalspo…/…/focusedlife

Remembering that art can be transformative, I am confident and hopeful that Focused Life will contribute in this area. Attention can be a healing practice, and a way of resisting forces that work to disband our connection to ourselves and each other. This is one very important piece of a larger effort to promote healing and resilience.

With Gratitude,

Conor Provenzano

P.S. You can sign up to receive email updates on our progress and experiences at festivals on our website: http://focusedlifefilm.com/

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Some early feedback on Focused Life:

“Honestly, there were so many little details that I loved […] All that hard work really paid off. The thoughtful details weren’t lost on us, so they definitely won’t be lost on those who actually know docs.” - Angelica Rao

“It really calmed me down and kept bringing up memories from when I was putting a lot more effort into understanding my brain and why I was so out of whack. So much insight from so many people. I liked how you kind of crept up on people before entering their world.” - Ryan Hacker

“Just saw the trailer and I really like the subject of concentration. It is a subject we all struggle with so we all can relate to this film. Perhaps this film will make us see how we get so distracted by the things around us we have trouble finishing the tasks at hand. Looking forward to seeing this film in its entirety.” - Jackie Kreines

“Focus is a compelling, yet complex and amorphous subject, because it is a topic that is rarely discussed. I have confidence that FOCUSED LIFE will be an insightful, visually stunning, articulate, and inspirational exploration into a human topic that we all should be more educated about.” - Brian Patrick; Associate Chairman of the Film Studies Department at the University of Utah

“I have seen some of the raw, unedited clips from FOCUSED LIFE… Conor is able to engage his interviewees in ways that make their stories come alive. One feels with the person being interviewed the importance of their deep interests and why they devote so much time to them.” - Dr. Kevin Rathunde

“I really loved watching it, it is going to be well received and loved and it is going to create more peace in the world.” - Sarah Jane Burkholz

Picture-Lock and Submission to Sundance

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Friends and Supporters,

Two significant events occurred in the last month: I completed "picture-lock," meaning that there will be no more edits made to the documentary; and I submitted early to the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Given that in May of 2012 this project was still an embryo of ideas, I celebrate these important milestones and express gratitude for the many people who have helped bring it to this point.

Logline: A work that combines documentary and essay, FOCUSED LIFE examines the widespread need for attention in an age of pervasive distraction.

Synopsis: In the United States, ADHD is so common that some psychologists define it as a cultural norm. Many of us lack confidence in our ability to focus or simply don't notice how it impacts our lives. As something so integral to personal connection and well-being, how do we navigate living in a society that thrives on stealing our attention? FOCUSED LIFE explores the concept of focus and distraction through a series of interwoven vignettes in which people and practitioners give voice to the challenges of mental discipline. Filmed and edited with meditative fluidity, the result is an experiential essay on one of our most underestimated and endangered cognitive abilities.

From here, I will need to raise funds for color-correction and sound mastering, festival submissions and preparations. Any suggestions or tips on government grants, foundations, or private donations, would be helpful. Feel free to contact me if so. Recently I added a Facebook page for FOCUSED LIFE, which will be a good place to market with promotional imagery (a task I much enjoy) and to write anecdotes about the production process and current stages. I may add videos of scenes not used in the film as well.

After years of effort from May 2012 to the present, and as I turn 30 and begin to realize that there is not unlimited time to create meaningful work, one important question I ask myself is: will FOCUSED LIFE actually help people? As hard as it is to predict, I feel a newfound ability to ask the right questions that will ensure movement towards the achievement of desired impact. Clearly it is important to ask these questions as soon as possible and with every phase of new work.

I'm also developing ideas for the next film - a wonderful feeling! This time I feel more focused and interested in collaboration, and a more urgent desire to work hard, in a timely manner.

My Best Abundant Wishes,

Conor Provenzano

FOCUSED LIFE Film Screening and Grant Update

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Hello generous and patient supporters,

The project is still alive and I have wonderful news to share.

1)  Since I last updated you, The Film Collaborative, an LA based 501(c)(3), accepted our request for fiscal sponsorship. Here is our fiscal sponsor page if you'd like to have a look! It includes a trailer, more info and the option to give a tax deductible donation.

2)  On November 1st I received a $10,000 grant from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation to finish the film. These funds will be used for 6 weeks of editing, travel, and music recording, among other costs.

3)  FOCUSED LIFE, in its current work-in-progress state, will be screened at the Salt Lake City Main Library on November 21st at 7:00pm. The event is free and open to to the public. I hope you can make it!

I am so grateful for your support and patience while this film continues its process. My apologies that it is such a long-term effort. At the same time, there are many documentaries that take 5 or more years. I think it's important to give any project the time it needs to properly develop, especially one as broad and ambitious as this.

Life is full of distractions - depression, doubt and despair - and I have struggled in past years to keep moving forward. At times I lost momentum and/or confidence in the vision, exhausted by so much talking about it, writing about it, thinking about it, and doing the hard work of meditation training, all while expending energy seeking funding.

But in the end, the film - as though a friend helping me in times of need, would encourage me to persevere: to be patient, pro-active, organized, and ask for help. I have learned so much about filmmaking. This has essentially been a masters degree without a diploma. I am very grateful for the experience.

There is a quote I like:

"Vision with out action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world."

Best Abundant Wishes,

Conor Provenzano

Director; FOCUSED LIFE

Focused Life

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Hello supporters, friends, family and curious minds... 

Remember this project? The one with a vague premise, having something to do with concentration, which you supported way back in May of 2012? It has been so long since the director has provided you with an update on its development that perhaps you’ve given up on it, or thought about it on occasion but only with a sense of bewilderment as to the lack of anything tangible resulting from your donation. As you read this very sentence now, you may be wondering why so much time has passed since the campaign was originally funded in May of 2012 and where the money has gone to and what you are ever going to be able to see. Has the director been jailed? Is he in a coma due to an unfortunate accident that has left this project in the hands of some family member or caretaker who does not have the will or desire to complete it, much less carry out the process of creating personalized, specialty gifts to send off to it’s funders? 

No! If such a thing were true, I would not be able to inform you that the film originally called "The Serpent Fire" is almost finished and will screen at the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City later this year. This will be the first release of a strong draft, with a running time around 100 minutes. I will send a formal invite as soon as the date and time have been decided.

I am overjoyed by the shape this film has taken, slowly but surely over the course of the last three years, into a rich narrative about the mind's potential. There will be roughly 30 interviews of people engaged in various applications of focus, as well as street interviews with strangers. Everyone has contributed insight to this complex topic, whether or not they decided to speak on camera.

I am sorry it has taken so long for me to update you. Please understand that this film has required me to develop a strong mind, one capable of rewiring the brain, and I assure you this takes time. I had some questions that needed answering, questions about the nature of mind, and the information presented itself when I was ready for it. As much as other people provided clues, ultimately those answers needed to be sought out within myself. 

As much as I have shaped this film, it has shaped me. Through the film I came to Vipassana meditation, which has become the cornerstone of my life, guiding me towards insight and away from things unworthy of my time and attention. Interestingly, the character strengths I have developed through making this film have been necessary for me to be at all successful in meditation, and such developments are gradual. The film, by nature, required of me a constellation of patience, persistence, intuition and action, all of which helped me through periods of great inspiration and great doubt. There were moments when I felt maddened by the cacophony of ideas in my head – like blurry jigsaw puzzle pieces to fit together somehow. But despite the initial lack of clarity I was sure of one thing – that there would eventually be a beautiful picture. Nothing could dissuade me from entering the process with all the force my mind and spirit could provide. Confidence in a vision is sometimes all you need to persist. 

Some of the best advice I have received is only two words: “Keep going.” I am still learning how to stay on target while developing several tasks, always looking for the next step (instead of thinking about how many steps there may be). I’ve learned how to get over fears that prevent me from connecting with people, from being a strong person and director. Sometimes this means filming a stranger from three feet away, or talking with someone without needing to interview them. Whenever I feel impatient or frustrated, I remembered something Stanley Kubrick said in an interview: “You can’t allow yourself to be frustrated because it just proves to be too much of a distraction.” 

And there were countless times in the past three years, each day, when I noticed my own vulnerability to distraction (you can imagine the kind of neurosis that caused…). Invariably it came down to a preference for low-effort, high-excitement experiences. In these moments I earnestly made an effort to build impulse control because it would have been insane for me to do otherwise – to make a film about focusing the mind, interviewing people who are saying all kinds of inspiring things about how to avoid distraction, thinking about focus practically all day, everyday for three years, and yet remain in the same predictable habit of being unfocused and unwell. Herein lies the value of art as an intentional approach to the acceleration of self-awareness, self-regulation and self-transcendence. It provides a great opportunity to directly observe the subject of investigation within oneself. 

The documentary has a new title: "Focused Life”. The title makes a statement about how focus is influenced by everything in our lives – the people we surround ourselves with, the conversations we have, what we choose to do, think about, and consume. It’s also a reference to the seriousness with which any person striving to liberate the mind from negativities must treat concentration – as a very high priority. One gradually starts to leave behind everything that impedes its development. Additionally, true focus is a long-term process cultivated across the lifespan, although the experience of it is always now. 

As a unique application of focus, meditation makes clear just how much negativity is unknowingly lying beneath the surface. When the mind is still enough to observe itself, when the capacity to focus is expanded and turned inward, transmutation of negativities happens by its own accord. We go into the suffering, observing it with understanding, and find more and more layers of reactivity from past experiences compressed deep into the psyche. I believe this is the real reason people are afraid of meditation. We are a culture that generally runs from pain, trying as best we can to distract ourselves from our own mind, which is conducive to more misery in the end. 

Even though our capitalistic culture is designed to distract us in every possible way from observing the reality inside, one should never doubt the possibility of becoming a highly moral, pure-minded and concentrated person, capable of great humility and wisdom. All it takes is the right application of our focus. The mind can be transformed, and so can the brains very structure. It may be hard to do, it may require repeated effort and regular devotion of time, but my own experience has been that the benefits far outweigh the cost. We have to remember that humans do all kinds of incredible things by way of rigorous mental application, and this is nothing but a reflection of our natural propensity to expand our understanding of this ephemeral reality. Is meditation really so hard to do? In about 10,000 years of evolution we’ve managed to expand our knowledge from rudimentary agriculture to the splitting of sub-atomic particles, creating spaceships capable of flying to the moon and back. Imagine what the human race would be capable of if meditation were seen for what it is and given priority. In my opinion, for whatever it’s worth, all of societies ills would start to fade away, because the roots of our problems originate in the mind, and that is where we can begin to transmute impurities. 

So you can see how this film has become a subject of great importance. It’s not just about focus and distraction, or rather, the subject does not end there. It’s about the greatness of our inherent potential, the road to self-mastery, and our ability to dissolve our own ego. It’s also about maturation of the nervous system and the brain, self-regulation, misery reduction, and creating a genuinely peaceful situation here on earth. But most of our energy is wasted on pleasure-seeking distractions from the reality within. This is the age-old lesson which humans find so hard to learn. 

Moving forward, I would like to thank you all again for trusting in this vision, one that will soon be coming to fruition. Filming is almost done and I’ve edited roughly half of the material. Expect to get an update in the next few months regarding a screening in Salt Lake City. Below are links to three sequences from the film. They should give an impression of how the style and content will look and feel. Please enjoy! 

https://vimeo.com/131602081 - password: joanofarc

https://vimeo.com/131594681 - password: inkwell

https://vimeo.com/123351135 - password: focusedlearning

If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me! I'd love to hear from you.

Warm Regards,

Metta,

Conor Provenzano

Patiently, Persistently

Hi Everyone,

It's been a while since the last update, so I just want to let you know what I've been filming recently and what my plans are.

I just finished filming/interviewing folks down at the Violin Making School of America in Salt Lake City. It was a great experience! One of the participants (Alfred Rordame) practices Yoga, and our interview session explored the necessity of focus as applied to violin building. He spoke very well about the subtleties that demand hours of work in order to refine. I think this film is very much going to be about "work". You could say, how humans benefit from putting work into things ("work" here meaning nothing but concentrated mental effort).

I also just did some filming with a juggler named Mather, who does amazing stuff! I brought my gear down to the farmers market and found him juggling for money. It blew me away what he was able to do (up to 9 balls at once, for example). You could see the concentration very clearly...

There are many insightful people slowly becoming a part of this film. The main challenge for me is to be patient in allowing production to manifest. It can be understandably difficult to convince working adults with kids to be a part of this. I find that the key is gentle persistence, as with learning anything.

Here are some examples of sequences in planning: an avalanche survivor, an OBGYN doctor, a saxophone player, a piano teacher, a Vipassana meditator and a Yoga instructor. Additionally I am filming random people in the streets (mainly when they aren't aware), taking street photos and I'm about to start editing the rough cut as I go along!

I'd like to thank everyone for being patient, especially with these long stretches in between updates. There are some production stills below - enjoy!

Conor

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  • Image 292197 original