Category Archives: Films & Pop Culture

Children’s Author Brings Love of Space to Young Readers

sue_100daysinorbitThere’s something captivating about space exploration that ignites the imagination. I felt it as a child watching Star Trek, and it’s evident in the public interest in the ISS, NASA, and in space visionaries like Richard Branson and Elon Musk.

That’s why I am so excited to feature Sue Ganz-Schmitt, a talented children’s book author, sue_nasa-launchmother and philanthropist. Sue has also served as a NASA Social correspondent, an experience that I enjoyed for the first time last April at the SpaceX launch to the ISS. She has taken insights from her behind-the-scenes tour of NASA and the launch pad and applied them to her children’s books.

Her third book, Planet Kindergarten, out this past August, earned a Kirkus starred review:  “A genius way to ease kids into the new adventure that is kindergarten.”  The Mommy Reads blog included this positive plug from a young reader:

“T is in love with Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt and Shane Prigmore.  We have read it 38 times… far.  It has been our bedtime story night after night.  This book is ABSOLUTELY perfect for my guy and I feel like maybe, just maybe, it was written just for him.  I love the rich vocabulary and comparison between outer space and the classroom.planet-kindergarten  Seriously-one of our best reads this summer!”

Below, Sue shares her unique background and how she has applied her love of the stars to touch children’s imaginations, and offers tips on how to connect with readers and with fellow writers.

Q. You have such an interesting background, Sue, with your interests in helping children all over the world. You also love space. How were you able to combine these passions as a book author?

Sue: My first book, Even Superhereos Get Diabetes, was inspired by a play-friend of my then sue_superheroesbookcovertwo-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  I wanted to reach out and help the family facing the shock of diagnosis.  I tried to find an empowering picture book they could read to him.  When I couldn’t find what I was looking for I decided to write my own book.

I watched the family become like superheroes in a blink – waking up several times a night to blood test their toddler, counting every bite of carbs he ate, injecting him several times a day.  Exhausted and worried, none of them complained – they just rose to the occasion with grace and strength.  I wanted to help them feel supported with this new unknown looming over them, and I wanted other kids to understand the medical challenge that their friends with diabetes face.

As a kindergartener, I watched several rocket launches that culminated in the Apollo 11 moon landing.  I was very inspired by NASA and had a fascination with space.   Almost subconsciously, a NASA reference found its way into this story where the hero discovers that his doctor has diabetes-related superpowers and a secret lair that looks like NASA’s mission control.

Q. What inspired your Planet Kindergarten book series?

Sue:  In my third book, Planet Kindergarten, I watched the kids from my daughter’s pre-school make the transition to kindergarten.  One of her best friends was having a really rough go of it and had to act as brave as an astronaut to get through it – but I could see lots of days he just wanted to abort this mission to kindergarten. A storyline came together and I wrote a book that I hoped would both inspire kids to be interested in space while easing their fears about their school journey.

Q. How did you incorporate real-life science and facts about space to make it engaging to such a young audience?

Sue: I cut my teeth on space-themed family TV shows like “Lost In Space” and “The Jetsons.” I visited NASA’s Kennedy Space Center while writing Planet Kindergarten and picked up some books on the Gemini/Apollo programs.  I poured through them, as well as lots of space fact books from Barnes and Noble.  One day I was online and found an article about hsue_illustrationsue_illustration2ow our earth is encircled by space trash (human created space debris).  I was so disturbed that not only are we polluting our own planet ­– but the orbit around our planet.  I had to include a nod to containing our trash in the first Planet Kindergarten book.

I love watching space-themed movies.  For my just released book, Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days in Orbit, you may pick up on some influence from the movie “Gravity” (spacewalk scene).  And the cover/last page image is modeled after a key scene in the movie, “The Right Stuff. ”

Q.What was the most challenging aspect of becoming a children’s author? The most rewarding aspect?

Sue: Great question, Anne. I think the most difficult part in pursuing a creative dream like becoming an author is perseverance.  There were many obstacles and self-doubts that I had to face.  I nearly gave up being a writer just two weeks before Planet Kindergarten went into a bidding war.

Being in a creative field, you are required to get feedback/critiques to make your work the best it can possibly be and that can cause you to question your abilities.  Also the road to get a publishing deal is fraught with rejection.  Even the best known authors have faced this (yes, you J.K. Rowling!).

As a sensitive introvert type – this has challenged me to grow. I have learned not to take rejection personally, but to get back to work each time to learn where my manuscript fell short, or to accept when the market isn’t timed right for my story.  I have learned when to let go and move ahead on a new project.  I often remind myself of the NASA themed line from Planet Kindergarten, “Failure is not an option!”

A reward for perseverance is when you hear from parents about how your book has helped sue_princessbookcovertheir child.  I have heard from parents with food allergies how The Princess and the Peanut helped their child not to feel alone; I heard from one parent who shared that their child decided to become a doctor to help other kids with diabetes, after reading Even Superheroes Get Diabetes.  And from lots of parents how Planet Kindergarten helped calm their children’s nerves over their first days of school.

Another rewarding part of this journey has been getting to go to NASA rocket launches and NASA Social events, behind the scenes tours at JPL, space lectures at CalTech, and spending time with the great folks at the Planetary Society.

Q. What one tip would you offer authors who want to reach a young audience, from pre-school to elementary ages?

Sue:  If they haven’t already, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (  I learned much of what I know about the craft of writing for children and the business side of publishing and promoting your work from them. They are an incredible resource for all levels of writers from those who are thinking of writing to those who have published numerous books.  A writing teacher once told everyone in our class to join, so I did.  It was the best career move I have ever made!

Q. How important is social media to building an author platform? How can parents find you?

Sue: Authors often spend their workday in solitary – we need ways to connect with our audience and others.  Social media keeps us in the face of the public. And while you shouldn’t over-promote your book on social media, people will build an impression of you and hopefully remember you when they see your book in the stores or featured online.

Don’t try to be everywhere, and if you aren’t keen on social media, just find the platform that you are most comfortable with and show up there often.  I tweet throughout the day.  I love Twitter as a newsfeed to learn more about science, technology, and space and to share that with my followers.  I also love using it to reach out and connect with space fans and other authors so we can support each other.  And – I met you there!  So lots to gain from it.

Q. What is next for you in terms of writing?

Sue: I just won an award for my new manuscript Space Cow.  So stay tuned for an adventure with a brave bovine heading to Mars!  I am also making a plan toward getting my Master’s Degree in Fine Arts (Writing for Young People).

About the Author  

sue_authorpicSue Ganz-Schmitt is a children’s book author, mother, musical theater producer, and philanthropist. Sue is passionate about helping children and families. She is co-founder of an AIDS orphanage in Haiti, has traveled to China to help medically-challenged orphans and set up a birthing clinic in rural India. She has performed on Broadway, run a marathon, and pursues other improbable challenges – as often as she can. Sue has authored four picture books found here: She has served as a NASA Social correspondent and as a volunteer for the Planetary Society. You can often find her with eyes to the stars. She tweets at @planetkbooks and @royallyallergic or connect with her on Facebook under key words:  royallyallergic and planetkindergarten.








For the Love of Star Trek


This month marks the 50-year anniversary of the classic Star Trek series.  The story of the starship Enterprise, first envisioned by Gene Roddenberry, and its five-year mission to “explore new life and new civilizations” has endured for five decades – spurring numerous TV series, nine movies (and counting), and a throng of Trek conventions. It’s also inspired a new generation of people to pursue the stars as scientists, astronauts and engineers.

As a writer born in the year of the Apollo landing, I have pursued my own passion for space, covering technology and space trends for the satellite industry. In April, I watched from Cape Canaveral as a SpaceX Dragon  rocketed into orbit on its mission to resupply the ISS. Within minutes SpaceX successfully landed the first phase on a drone ship.

Organizing a Birthday Worthy of a Vulcan

Fortunately for me, I married a Trekkie who had the good fortune to turn 50 recently. I marked my husband’s special day around our beloved series, complete with a “Live Long and Prosper” birthday cake, Spock ears for the guest of honor and party guests who got into the spirit by wearing T-shirts and even costumes in homage to the show.

It was so fun, replacing my spouse over the face of Kirk in the famous Spock death scene in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” when he utters the famous words, “I have been and always shall be your friend.”

I pulled together a Captain’s log for everyone to sign, and handed out “irradiated tribbles” as party favors for the youngest celebrants.

Meeting Captain Kirk

The next weekend was Dragon*Con, the world’s largest fantasy/SF convention, held annually in

William Shatner speaking at Dragon*Con 2016.

Atlanta, and whose guest of honor the last day was none other than Captain Kirk himself – William Shatner. My sister and I attended his standing-room-only talk, where he shared some of his recent activities, including working on “The Truth Is In the Stars,” a feature documentary   currently in production expected to be out by the end of 2016. The program poses the question of whether our society has the capacity to live up to Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision for humanity’s future.

Shatner examines the impact of Star Trek on popular culture, human innovation, discovery and creativity through one-on-one interviews with famous innovators, celebrities and politicians. He told Dragon*Con attendees about his conversation with Stephen Hawking, the world’s most famous theoretical physicist, who also is a big Star Trek fan.  A sufferer of ALS, Dr. Hawking has no muscle control, so talks using a small sensor activated by a muscle in his cheek. He uses this sensor to ‘type’ characters and numbers on his keyboard.

Shatner recalled how when Hawking asked him to share his favorite episode of Star Trek, his first reaction was to admit that he hardly remembers individual  shows, but then he thought more and realized that it was “the ones that expressed those brilliant ideas that tackled social issues like the stupidity of racial hatreds.” Shatner pointed to the episode, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” when two aliens from the same planet are differentiated due to one being black on the left side and white on the right and the other being the opposite.
“These stories appeal to our senses – these are the most powerful because they are based on something human,” he says,

Shatner then asked Hawking to share his favorite episode, to which he responded not too surprisingly, “Anything to do with black holes.”

Star Trek TNG character Data (played by Brent Spiner) with Stephen Hawking.

Interestingly, Hawking is the only person to ever play himself on Star Trek. In the Star Trek: TNG episode, “Descent,”  Data, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawking are playing poker.

Shatner demonstrated his humor and seemed to really enjoy his interplay with the fans during the Q&A session. When asked if Kirk had ended up with one woman in Star Trek, whom would she be, he responded, “Given Captain Kirk’s proclivities he would have liked to have ended up with all of them.”

leonard-book-jacketWhen the Q&A turned to his long-time collaborator, Leonard Nimoy, Shatner shared that he, like many men, struggled to have close male friends, and how their relationship grew over many years.

“He was my best friend,” he said, recalling how a heartfelt friendship developed and grew when the two actors’ paths continued to cross even after Star Trek was cancelled but then gained new life in syndication, which led to films and convention appearances.  Shatner said he wrote the memoir, Leonard,  in honor of their 50-year friendship, soon after Nimoy’s death in February 2015, to get as many memories down as he could.


Watching Spock Documentary


My husband and I capped off our month-long Trek lovefest by heading to the screening of “For the Love of Spock,”  a documentary and moving tribute to Nimoy written and directed by his son, Adam, which he funded through Kickstarter.

The screening, at the Plaza Theatre, Atlanta’s landmark and the city’s longest continuously operating movie theatre, was the perfect backdrop given its vintage feel. The documentary shed light on Nimoy the man, including his work ethic and family struggles.

I found the interviews with the elder Nimoy toward the end of his life especially moving as well as the many tributes from the original show and present-day cast of Star Trek, including filmmaker JJ Abrams.  Walter Koenig, who played Chekov, recalled how Nimoy stepped in when Koenig, Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were not cast in the 1973 animated Star Trek series.  Noting that the spirit of Star Trek was embracing diversity, and that the very cast members who most signify that diversity were being excluded, Nimoy refused to participate unless they were included.

There were many other behind-the-scenes tidbits revealed during the film, including the origin of the Vulcan greeting, which Nimoy devised from a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

I knew how hard Nimoy worked throughout his career, how seriously he took his craft, and the long hours spent on set and doing appearances.  Nimoy was the only actor kept when NBC rejected the original pilot, “The Cage,” as “too intellectual.”  NBC was interested enough in the concept to give Roddenberry the go-ahead to try again with a new cast that included Shatner as captain in place of Jeffrey Hunter.

During the documentary viewers see an excerpt of Nimoy laughing as he read the original Variety review of the show, which dubbed “Star Trek” a “dreary mess of confusion” and called Shatner’s performance “wooden” – hardly the description people use to describe Captain Kirk.  Overall, this documentary is definitely worth a viewing for those who loved the series and the character of Spock.

As for me, after catching up on some of my favorite episodes on the Star Trek marathon shown on the BBC America channel, I have resumed my normal routine with many fond Trek memories.

Thanks, Roddenberry, for your brilliant storytelling vision. It’s been quite a voyage!









The Odds Are In Your Favor with the Final Hunger Games


Today, The Writing Well features a movie review of the final Hunger Games’ movie, Mockingjay – Part 2, which opened over the weekend with an estimated $101 million in North America and $146 million internationally.  The post, written by Chicago-based blogger and movie buff Spencer Blohm, is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of Suzanne Collins’ blockbuster books and the film adaptations.  I last wrote about this film after a Dragon*Con YA panel that explored whether the first film delivered the goods given the huge popularity of the books.

Spencer tells Spencer_HeadShotme he is a lifelong movie lover and wishes it were possible to time travel back to the golden era of Hollywood cinema and meet Judy Garland — though Jennifer Lawrence would be “pretty cool, too.” Take it away, Spencer!

 * * * * * * * * *


For the past three years, no dystopian film franchise has garnered more audience and critical praise than The Hunger Games series. It blends all the aspects of action, science fiction, political commentary and romance that young audiences crave while giving viewers a grim reminder of what a corrupt society can do to the world. Although the end of this film series is bittersweet, Katniss Everdeen’s saga goes out with a bang in Mockingjay – Part 2.


The eponymous first book, written by Suzanne Collins, has flown off shelves since its debut in 2008, and the sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, were both instant bestsellers. The trilogy revolves around teenage Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and the Districts of Panem, which are under the tight rule of the vindictive President Snow (Donald Sutherland), and the vicious Hunger Games, which sacrifice innocent children supposedly in the name of unity. While the first two films put Katniss in the arena to fight for her and her sort-of love interest Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) lives, the final two installments focus on the downfall of the corrupt society and the ways Katniss must change and fight for a better world. Before you see the newest film, you can catch up on the three previous installments on cable TV and Hulu.


The films in the franchise have become progressively more intense with each installment, much like the books. As Katniss grows from an unlucky adolescent to a true revolutionary, she’s burdened with her own morality and grittier ethical decisions. Mockingjay – Part 2 doesn’t hold back from the heartbreaking events of the final novel, edging it away from teen flick to a political and thought-provoking action/adventure film. Although still a teenager in the final installment, Katniss has grown into a powerful symbol of courage and sacrifice — all while remaining flawed and inarguably human.

KatnissDespite Lawrence’s acting capabilities, it is apparent she’s worn Katniss for just about as long as she can. Lawrence has simply outgrown the role, which shows onscreen. She has evolved into an Oscar-winning actress since the first Hunger Games film, and the young adult novel series just isn’t her platform anymore. But just because the role is a bit stale doesn’t mean the movie is a dud. In fact, it’s an explosive send-off to a beloved film series. The emotional climax is performed perfectly, and fan favorite roles (including Elizabeth Banks‘ flamboyant Effie Trinket and Woody Harrelson‘s sardonic Haymitch Abernathy) get their chance to shine before the series ends. This film also showcases the talent of several generations of actresses. Julianne Moore stuns as the icy Alma Coin and Game of ThronesGwendoline Christie appears as one of the only new characters to come into the last film.


The influence of the Hunger Games films have reached far past theater screens, and they inhabit a vital place in YA and dystopian film history. The series did not necessarily need to be drawn out for four movies instead of three (a common Hollywood device), and the leading lady can definitely benefit from hanging up her bow and arrows, but luckily, this last film is sure to leave a lasting impact on fans and newcomers alike.

Dragon*Con 2015 — Memorable Moments


300 BC

I attended my fourth Dragon*Con this past weekend after a two-year hiatus and it didn’t disappoint. The event – dubbed “the wildest geek convention on the planet” by TripAdvisor – drew 65,000 fantasy and scifi fans to downtown Atlanta.

Sherrilyn Kenyon and I.

In honor of the annual Labor Day weekend spectacle, The Writing Well is sharing a few pearls of wisdom from some of the literary set of speakers who I heard present on author and writing panels (see last section of post).

Touching Tributes to Nimoy, Lee

Before going there, I want to pay homage to some of the entertainment panels I attended this year. As a fan of classic Trek, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, I was thrilled to attend the tribute to Leonard Nimoy and iconic British actor Christopher LeeChristopher

Lee, who passed away in February and in June of this year, respectively. A few interesting notes about Lee I learned: he spoke seven languages, made a heavy metal album and was the only Lord of the Rings cast member who actually met J.R.R. Tolkien (and read the books every year).

As for Nimoy, I could devote an entire blog to my favorite scifi actor. He was much more than the token alien cast opposite Captain Kirk on Trek; he was an accomplished director, photographer and poet with seven books under his name. He touched all of those outcasts in the world who were nerdy before nerdy was cool.

He also had a record album produced named appropriately, Highly Illogical. He was well liked and respected by his cast members – he was accepting of certain cast members who were not well liked.

He hated being typecast as Spock in the early years but grew to appreciate the character and what Spock symbolized well beyond the series– a half-human and half-Vulcan who struggled to balance his warring halves and to belong. His final tweet to followers before his death on Feb. 27 reflected his wisdom and humanity: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.” He signed the tweet off with “LLAP,” a nod to his famous Spock moniker, “live long and prosper.”

Snodgrass and Star Trek TNG
Vendor_StarTrekArtworkI also attended Melinda Snodgrass’s highly entertaining session on her early work as a screenwriter for “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” A good friend to author George R.R. Martin, Melinda got her break when she penned “A Measure of a Man” on spec.

Many fans consider it one of the greatest episodes featuring the android character, Data, as well as one of the best of Star Trek – the inspiration for the episode was the famous Dred Scott case. Data goes on trial and Captain Picard must prove he is legally a sentient being with rights and freedoms under Federation law when transfer orders demand Data’s reassignment for study and disassembly.

“Trek had never shot an episode like this that was very dialogue-heavy – it was a court room drama. When they finished shooting, it was 13 minutes too long so they cut 13 minutes out of it,” recalled Snodgrass. She was snuck a copy of the director’s cut with the full footage. She kept it until CBS Television decided to do a Blu-ray version of the series and requested her copy back.

One of the scenes in the extended version was between Picard and his first officer, Wil Riker, played by Jonathan Frakes where the two men were fencing. While Patrick Stewart was an accomplished fencer, Frakes wasn’t given time to learn technique for the scene and had to settle for doing the voiceover as an acting double fought Picard.

“I like the scene because I always thought Riker was overlooked and not given proper stature. He often ended up seeming weak,” Snodgrass said, pointing out how the character turned down the chance to command his own ship, preferring to remain on the Enterprise. “I wanted to see some rivalry. Jonathan nailed it – he said, ‘I’m going to beat you. I’m going to win.’ I like what they did in that moment. There was some power there.”

Six - BSGThe long queue line was worth it to attend the celebrity panel of “Battlestar Galactica,” the 2004 to 2009 remake of the 70s hit by Ronald D. Moore. Who doesn’t love Cylons – including BattlestarGalacticathe six impersonators of “Six” in the audience and Commander Adama (played by the incomparable Edward James Olmos)?


A few of my favorite costumes:

StarWars_Beauty Outlander The ShiningDragonCon_Constume2 DragonCon_Costume Avatar Mother and ChildSuperman_WonderWomanWeepingAngel_Dr Who

Writing Wisdom from Dragon*Con’s Wordsmiths:

NYT Bestselling Author Panel (L to R) Laurell K. Hamilton, Peter Hamilton, Michael Stackpole and Jim Butcher.

NYT Bestselling Author Panel (L to R) Laurell K. Hamilton, Peter Hamilton, Michael Stackpole and Jim Butcher.

#1 “I think my English literature degree set me back two years – telling a story is not the kind of thing you learn in an English class.” — Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files


Laurell K. Hamilton

#2If I over-outline it takes away the impetus for me to write.” – Laurell K. Hamilton, author of The Anita Blake Series

#3 The characters I have the most fun with are the ones whose views I never share.” – Peter F. Hamilton, Dragon*Con Literary Guest of Honor


Carol Barrowman

Carol Barrowman

#4 “When you’re done with your novel, put the whole book on a page, then a paragraph and then a tagline; you should be able to talk about your book in 30 seconds.” – Carole Barrowman, co-author of children’s book series, Hollow Earth, with brother, John Barrowman

#5 “I love drawing on real people. Writers are eavesdroppers and peeping toms (without looking through blinds). A lot of my characters are often amalgamations of real people. I knew a Quaker and I made him a pornographer who does snuff films. He loved it!” — Jonathan Maberry

#6 “[When using beta readers] one of the things I found helpful is to have them assign ABCD to passages – A is for awesome, B is for bored, C is for confused and D is for don’t care.” – A.J. Huntley

Lane and Ruckus Skye, husband-wife filmmakers

Lane and Ruckus Skye, husband-wife filmmakers

#“7How do you write realistic dialogue? How do you make it ‘real?’ Think of what the world would say – eavesdropping on people talking. One trick: they don’t talk in compete sentences – words drop.” – Lane Skye, independent filmmaker

Lou Anders

Lou Anders

#8 “Story begins with a character who wants something – you boil it down to what they want most and what’s the worst thing that can happen to them? And it does.” – Lou Anders

AJ Huntley and Jonathan Maberry

AJ Huntley and Jonathan Maberry

#9 “Books are organic. I allow for organic growth – which often calls for changes in storytelling.”
– Jonathan Maberry

#10 “Characters come to life when I know their voice – I know how they will respond to certain situations.” – Naomi Novik

#11 “Story has to come first.” – Delilah Dawson

#12 “Never give up.” – Sherrilyn Kenyon



The Art of the Book Review: A Conversation with Elaine Newton

By Anne Wainscott-Sargent

Every month starting in November through March, Naples, Florida, book lovers are treated to the insights of Elaine Newton, creator of the Critic’s Choice book club. This is no ordinary book club, and Elaine is no ordinary reviewer.

The self-described “compulsive researcher” and retired Toronto-based university professor in literature, humanities and psychology has taught people of all ages since the 1960s. She brings a lifelong love of books to her Elaine Newtoninterdisciplinary approach to her craft, which in essence is a master class in the art of the book review.

Her audience walks away with an entirely new appreciation for a work and a hunger for more. Elaine’s chosen books include critically acclaimed bestsellers and many of the most talked-about books of the last few decades, from Memoirs of a Geisha and Cold Mountain to The Goldfinch, The Help and The Paris Wife.

This past spring marked the 25th anniversary of her popular lecture series  (check out a list of all the books she has reviewed here). She frequently fills all 4,000 seats in Artis — Naples – the city’s Philharmonic Center for the Arts – making Critic’s Choice arguably the biggest book club in the world. Building on the success of her book series, Elaine now does film reviews, too.
“Once you’ve been to one, you never want to miss one,” says one loyal subscriber to her series.

The Writing Well caught up with the Phil’s “popular professor” in early June, after she’d left Naples for the cooler climate of her native Toronto. Below in a heartfelt Q&A, Elaine shares what she looks for in a great story, her critique process and what keeps her reading and engaged as a critic and lecturer year after year.

Q.  What do you look for in a book to tackle it in your lecture series? Does it have to meet a certain set of criteria of powerful storytelling?

Elaine: The final selection of the six books for the series is the end result of a long, but rewarding process that first produces the 35 novel Summer Reading List selection that I give out in April. I create that list with the help, over four or five months, of several key readers at Barnes and Nobles. Then I re-read about 12 novels from that list, chosen because I already have a sense that they would be fine choices for my audiences to read, and at the same time be novels I can live with, and think about, and respect over the many hours it will take to prepare the lectures.

My chosen novels must be extremely well-written, engaging, skillfully structured, peopled by characters who come off the page and are alive. But above all, I look for the human dimension, the moral wisdom. A book worth reading a number of times….I also want diversity in subject matter, authors, style, for the series.JoyofReading
The truth is…I would like each book we read in Critics Choice to be a masterly example of why we all read at all. Of the joy it gives us. The way it gives us perspective on the world we live in, and on ourselves in that world. Why would I ever ask anyone to read a novel if I didn’t think it was worthy of his or her time.

Q. What is your “process” for a typical book review in your lecture series? How long does it take from the moment you select a work to delivering your lecture? What is the most time-consuming part of the process?

Elaine: You really don’t want to know the work behind the “craft” do you? Untold hours. I am a compulsive researcher, and an obsessive re-reader. I need to know everything I can about the author, the subject, the publication path, and my own responses to all aspects of the novel itself. My husband will tell you that I “live” with the book and its author for the month of lecture writing. I write for four or five hours most days when I am in preparation mode — longer if I am nearing the presentation. I write in long hand, re-write in longhand, edit in long hand, and then a day or two beforehand, I rewrite a “clean” copy. Now you see why I must truly appreciate the novels I choose.

Q. Have you ever heard from an author, whose work you reviewed?

Elaine: Yes, a few times and from filmmakers too, after the movie reviews. Phillip Roth was in The-Human-Stainthe audience for The Human Stain. Michael Ondaatje and Margaret Atwood were in the lecture hall when we taught courses together, and I lectured on their novels.
And of course, we have now had seven authors with me in our once-a-year Authors Dialogue at the Phil and we have spoken together of their work. So, in effect they have heard me review their work.  I also worked as book critic for The Toronto Globe and Mail for over 10 years. Any author who wished could read my reviews.

Q. What one thing makes your approach to reviewing books unique?

Elaine: I am a professor – this is what I am committed to do –to hopefully help people discover how to read happily, wisely and with the skills and insights that educators tutor others in. I also want to help everyone become better readers, and really able to understand the art of literature because that enriches one’s reading immeasurably. It’s like tennis, the more you play, the better you get at it, the more you enjoy playing.
Q. What has made you continue to do this year after year? Do you have a close connection to your audience/book aficionados?

Elaine: I am always so excited and delighted to bring a fine book to my friends and to classes and to audiences. To share my own insights with others. And I do believe that in these 25 years, we have” grown” a wonderful, engaged cadre of readers in Naples…what Gabrielle Zevin called in her thank-you note to me: “an amazing literary culture.”

Q. What prompted you to begin your film review series? How is reviewing a film different than reviewing a book? What makes a film great in your mind?

Elaine: The film reviews were a natural extension of the literary ones, we all want to discuss the movies we see, in the same way as we talk about the books we are reading. A good movie doesn’t end for us when we leave the theatre. And, the way we see the world, learn about ourselves and others though movies, is very much part of our society now. Film may well be the new literature.

Tickets for the movie series are sold-out very soon after the purchase dates are announced. But



tickets ARE available when returns occur…and can be purchased at the door about an hour or so before the lecture. The Thursday Book series is all sold out …again, last-minute tickets are available at 9.30 a.m. if there has been returns. BUT: Saturday morning is ALWAYS available. We use the large hall, and everyone is welcome. It’s best to buy tickets ahead if you can because the last minute line-ups are often large. But we open the box office a half hour before a performance.
All tickets are available to out-of-towners by calling the box office, or buying on the internet at the Artis Naples site.

Q. What are your favorite genre and your favorite author(s)?
Elaine: I love them all. I am grateful for the gift of their creativity and talents. But everyone will IanMcEwantell you, I am an Ian McEwan groupie  (who wrote Atonement) … I was a Phillip Roth devotee. I treasure so many writers that I could not ever make a list.  The password for my computer is the title of a contemporary novel….



Read popular Elaine Newton book selections on Goodreads.

Check out the selected works for the upcoming Critics Choice 2015-2016 season that begins in November:

The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Euphoria by Lily King
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Children’s Crusade by Ann Packer
by Dave Nichols
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain


In Celebration of Space Storytellers


Every Thursday in October The Writing Well will celebrate the storytelling journey of my clients and partners as part of a month-long observance of my firm’s 14-year anniversary.

Rich PhillipsToday, as the UN and 60 nations mark World Space Week, I caught up with Rich Phillips, president of Austin-based Phillips & Company, one of Texas’s top 10 PR firms that recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary. Rich marked the occasion last week with a leadership discussion with legendary CBS News anchor Dan Rather.

Rich and I collaborated for four years on brand leadership campaigns at EMS Technologies, an Atlanta-based space and asset tracking firm that has since been acquired by Honeywell.

I continued my work in the space industry writing for Via Satellite, covering everything from U.S. space policy to R&D priorities at NASA, while Rich has expanded his client focus to include NASA, where his firm is helping roll out the agency’s vision for Deep Space.

In May 2012, as SpaceX made history becoming the world’s first privately held company to send a cargo payload to the ISS, this blog featured Michael Potter, documentary filmmaker behind “Orphans of Apollo” in the most read blog post of 2012. His film chronicled the first entrepreneurial effort to privatize space by a group of entrepreneurs inspired by the Apollo missions.

It turns out Rich and I were both born in 1969, the year that America went to the moon.

“My first memory was being told, ‘Rich, you were born the year we landed on the moon,'” he recalls. “I carried that with me through grade school. I’d write about it in essays and would discuss it with my teachers — It was part of who I was. I still have commemorative coins given to me as a child from the moon landing.”

Below, Rich talks candidly about the formative role of space on his life and his journey as a storyteller for NASA, including his agency’s award-winning work on the “Get Curious” campaign that engaged thousands of people about the landing of the NASA Mars Science Laboratory rover on the Red Planet in August 2012.

Rich Phillips (front left) with his Austin team with one of the Get Curious campaign "rocks."

Rich Phillips (front left) with his Austin team with one of the Get Curious campaign “rocks.”

Q. Rich, what is it about the story of space that you find so fascinating?

Number one, I’m an economist. I had an epiphany back in 2007 when I was working with EMS Technologies, which does work in space communications and asset tracking for the military.  I woke up to this realization that space is not just a destination but a platform for applications and services just like the internet.

I was in business in the 90s when the internet boom happened. It was not until the cost of bandwidth – or the cost of transport — came down – that we had this explosion of applications and services from social media to eCommerce. I see space as bigger than that but I see the parallel.  As the cost of transporting satellites and people and other cargo in space comes down, there’s going to be an explosion of applications and services.  I’m excited because I see this opportunity for a whole new ‘other world’ economy.

Number two, I believe that exploration is critical to prosperity and human progress – that human space exploration inspires us to seek knowledge through scientific discovery and to advance the understanding of our world. It’s a catalyst for a better life – and I believe it will advance American leadership and help us to fundamentally create a path to peace, diplomacy and global cooperation. Historically, exploration has been critical to ensuring we prosper and that we progress as human beings. To say we will not explore the heavens is to say we will not progress as people.

Q. What stories of space first inspired you as a young person?

My whole identity has been tied to space.  It really has defined me.  I always believed life is short TheRightStuffand in order to achieve things, you have to take risks.  I think there is a little bit of an explorer in me. There were a couple of Hollywood films that were extraordinary — that touched me – “The Right Stuff” and “Apollo 13.”

Q. What can Hollywood teach the space community?

How to story tell. NASA spends most of its time convincing us of how safe they are – that they’ve ironed out all of the risk and that there is no chance that anything will go wrong. Fundamentally that’s a great engineering strategy but it’s a lousy marketing strategy because human beings actually gravitate toward stories of risk and hope. The truth is what NASA does is extraordinarily dangerous and extraordinarily risky.  To be successful at inspiring the American people, NASA and the entire space community has to be willing to say, “This is hard. This is risky.” They need to tell that dramatic story of what could go wrong — and by telling that honest story, Americans and the world will embrace it.

CuriousityQ. You put those storytelling principles to work last year on the “Get Curious” campaign with NASA JPL.  Can you tell me about it?

NASA JPL was brilliant in that they understood that in order to inspire people about the Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory landing, they needed to tell the story behind the landing. This wasn’t the first time we’ve been to Mars. Spirit and Opportunity had been there before. By creating a dramatic story line about how we were landing, my firm was able to design more than 50 global landing parties and events around the world, and in the process, we were able to reach people who typically didn’t follow space but who were now glued to their televisions as if we were landing a man or woman on Mars.

At the center of NASA JPL’s campaign was creating a video called “The Seven Minutes of Terror.”    The video told the story of this dramatic descent to Mars and how risky it was – how easily we could lose or destroy the rover, or even miss the planet if we didn’t do the right things. That video went viral and we were very proud to be part of the marketing of not only that video but also the landing. By telling a true story of drama and risk, we engaged people. People for the first time shared in the experience. That’s what storytelling does.   


Connect with Rich via Twitter @PhillipsCompany or through his website. Read more about his firm’s “Get Curious” campaign, which just received the Association for Women in Communications’ Clarion Award. The campaign previously won awards from PRDaily and Bulldog Reporter.

One Twi-Mom’s Tribute to the ‘Twilight’ Saga

Yesterday I watched the final installment of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire-human-werewolf love saga with my friends. Okay, I’ll admit I sneaked a peek the morning before at my favorite cineplex that was having a “Mother’s Morning Out” matinee showing. I couldn’t help it. I’m what they call a Twi-Mom, a well known segment of the fan base and a group that Taylor Lautner once described laughingly as “very dangerous,” in an interview on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

While teenage girls and moms remain the most loyal fan base of the movies and books, we aren’t alone.  Men, including my dad and husband, enjoy the films, as does Mark Kermode, English film critic with The Observer. His Nov. 10th column, “Move over Luke Skywalker…I’m a Twilight man,” sets the record straight. He noted, “The idea that you have to be a teenage girl to ‘get’ Twilight is equally off the money – and I say that as a stuffy, bespectacled greying man rapidly approaching his 50th birthday who is looking forward to the arrival of Breaking Dawn: Part 2 this week with as much excitement as I await Steven Spielberg’s reportedly awards-worthy Lincoln. Maybe even more…”

So, as I say goodbye to the “Twilight Saga,” I want to share five things I will miss most:

1.The story. There’s nothing quite like first love, forbidden love, conflicted love. And to have all three rolled into one story, with elements of the supernatural and fantasy, how can you not be hooked? Thanks, Stephenie, for envisioning a world where a teenage girl dared to fall in love with a young vampire, while being drawn to a lifelong friend, who happens to be a werewolf.

2. The incredible supporting cast.  Many movies are made more memorable with a strong supporting cast (“When Harry Met Sally” and “Moonstruck” come to mind). “Twilight” is no different, benefiting from an amazing ensemble cast of both the Cullen clan and Quileute tribe of werewolves. Three of my favorite secondary characters include Alice, played by Ashley Greene, Carlisle played by Peter Facinelli, and, of course, Bella’s gruff and tough dad, Charlie, portrayed by Billy Burke. Who can forget the first time Charlie meets Edward while cleaning his rifle at the kitchen table?

Meyer and Rosenberg.

3. The collaboration between Meyer and the screenwriter, Melissa Rosenberg. Both obviously shared the same vision to stay true to the books and I love that we had continuity of writing throughout the film franchise. The fact that Stephenie was credited as a producer in the last film is evidence that Summit knew what it was doing. I adored the final scenes of Breaking Dawn: Part 2  showing excerpts from Twilight the book, interspersed with shots of all the cast members, reminding us that these stories first began as words on a page. Well done!

4. The Volturi. Every good story needs a good villain, and the power-hungry, cultured ruling vampire coven fits the bill. Aro, played brilliantly by Michael Sheen, as well as Caius and Marcus, were a perfect counterpoint to Bella, Edward and Jacob. And who wasn’t rooting for Jane’s demise in the final fighting scene?

My friends celebrate after watching Breaking Dawn, Part I.

5.Finally, experiencing “Twilight” with my girlfriends. Our tradition of movie-watching together was a given after I read the books and watched the first film. I christened the experience on my blog after attending the 2009 premiere of “New Moon.”

While there will be other films to enjoy with my friends, none will likely hold the same anticipation and appeal that our “Twilight” outings inspired. I applaud the cast, the filmmakers at Summit Entertainment and most of all, Stephenie Meyer. Thank you. What a fun, unforgettable ride!

Filmmaker Ann Morrison on the ‘Forgotten Genocide’


Sixty-eight years ago this month Joseph Stalin began the expulsion and murder of East German people in what has now become known as the Ethnic German Genocide. In fact, five times as many Germans died in the first year after the end of World War II as died during five years of the war itself.
Independent filmmaker and St. Louis native Ann Morrison has traveled extensively over the last four years interviewing more than 200 survivors of this forgotten genocide for her documentary film series, “Millions Cried…No One Listened.” 
Ann is now petitioning PBS to get her series shown in U.S. households so that citizens can learn about this little-known chapter in post-WWII history.
Ann Morrison
Q. I know that the genesis of your film series came from an idea for a Service Learning Project you had while taking a college English composition class. What is it about this story that touched you and made you want to tell these stories?
Ann:The pain in the people’s voices when they told their stories was the main reason. Following that was the unknown and wanting to learn more. Loving history doesn’t mean just the parts you want to know. History has many sides and this was like the white elephant in the middle of the room. Once I started, I never wanted to stop.
Q. What has been most eye-opening about this journey for you?
Ann: The fight to open people’s eyes to what happened. The word, German, leaves a sour taste in most people’s mouth yet they don’t know what I’m talking about. I almost have to force people to really hear what I’m saying. After almost four years of talking, people still say I’m talking about the Holocaust — they’re just not listening. Another eye-opening, aha moment is that so many people remain unaware of how many genocides have taken place. I always say that the word, “genocide,” is like the word, “football.” People hear it, but never stop to listen because they hear it so much. That’s sad.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish with your film?
Ann: I want to make this part of every school’s syllabus. Human rights, Genocide, the way people treat each other — all need to be taught much more thoroughly if we as a society want horrific eliminations of whole peoples to stop.
“It’s Never Too Late” quilt.   T
Q. Is there one story in the series that really sticks with you?
Ann: Karl, a man who talked to me for the first movie, told a story about losing his whole family by the time he was 9 years old, but what really stuck with me was the story about his neighbors. That upset him, but no where near as much as the story about the five brothers. They lived down the street from him and they lost their parents as well. These boys were 2 to 8 years old. One by one the youngest to the oldest boy died. As each boy died the other brothers would build a coffin for the boy to be buried in. by the time the last of the brothers died, the oldest, Karl, said through a shocked voice with tears falling from his eyes, “No one was left to build a box for the last boy; he died alone.” That was heard to hear.
Q.  What has been the most challenging aspect of working on such a historically significant documentary?
Ann: Finding the facts.  This is a hard subject to make a documentary about because no one wants to hear it. The professors swear it didn’t happen because it was not learned in the college courses. The older people swear it didn’t happen because they lived through that time in history. How could it have happened if they never read about it in the newspaper or hear it on the news? Then there are people who don’t want to give an ear to anyone of German heritage because they assume they did something negative during the war.
For me, that also means not making mistakes, ever. I have to make sure what I put in the films can be backed up ten fold. That makes it very hard to create something that you know will be torn apart from the moment someone reads the title.
Q. What advice or lessons learned can you offer to people interested in documentary filmmaking?
Ann: You must love it to do it right. Research, research, and more research. Documentaries are fact.
Q. How important is social media to building an audience and support for your film project?
Ann: It’s very important. We are taught from a very young age what to think and not what to think from what we hear on the radio and watch on TV. Introducing something no one has heard about before makes one uncomfortable. In order to get past that you have to talk, write and email; you have to tweet, post on Facebook and pray that someone will be open enough to hear what you’re talking about and add it to the media. I’m proving slowly that it can be done with a lot of patience.
Q. What’s next for you?
Ann: The Silesian region (now part of Poland) was the largest group who suffered from this atrocity. That is why I’m traveling to Europe this week to continue interviewing and researching. I will continue speaking on this subject and marketing the film series.
Visit Ann’s website to learn more about her documentary work, and to sign the PBS petition.

Hunger Games from Book to Screen – Did it Deliver?


Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES. Photo credit: Murray Close
Watching “The Hunger Games” on DVD this weekend made me think where I was one week ago — attending DragonCon, the world’s largest fantasy/SF convention held every Labor Day in Atlanta.
One of the more interesting panels I attended was a spirited debate among Young Adult (YA) authors, including C.J. Redwine, M.B. Wilson, Leah Wilson, Diana Peterfreund and Mel Pichetto, who explored how well Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy translated from book to screen. 
The movie was helped by Collins’ close collaboration with director Gary Ross on the screenplay. However, filmmakers always must make tough choices when condensing multi-layered stories rich with characters and back story into a two-hour movie. It’s a process that often brings angst to fans of well-loved books, and “The Hunger Games” was no exception.  
“Hunger Games” fans in costume at DragonCon YA panel.
The book and film open on the morning of the “Reaping” – when the story’s heroine, 16-year-old Katniss of District 12, prepares for the lottery that every teenager living in the 12 districts of Panem must enter.  The oppressive government, embodied as the “Capitol,” requires an adolescent boy and girl from each of the districts to serve as tributes for their districts in a televised gladiator battle where only one can emerge victor. The Capitol requires this sacrifice as a reminder of the districts’ rebellion 74 years earlier (the districts are actually remnants of the U.S.).
The story’s heroine comes from the poorest of the districts known for coal mining. After losing her father in a mine explosion, Katniss masters hunting with a bow and arrow to help keep her little sister Prim and her emotionally damaged mother from starving. Her hunting companion is her childhood friend Gale, who also lost his dad and must hunt to keep his family alive. Katniss becomes the first tribute to volunteer when she steps up to take her younger sister’s place at the games.
Most of the panelists agreed that the world building — from the impoverished districts to the glittery Capitol — was well done. The movie was filmed entirely in North Carolina, with settings that included both a dense forest and a town that stood in for District 12.
Collins said that she first imagined the book while channel-surfing one evening between a reality TV show and footage of the invasion of Iraq. The two “began to blur in this very unsettling way” and the idea for the book was formed, she recalled in a 2010 interview in Publisher’s Weekly.  
YA authors discuss “Hunger Games” during DragonCon.
“The Hunger Games” tackles a number of themes, from severe poverty and starvation, to oppression and the effects of war. The characters in the story face difficult moral questions in their quest for self-preservation.

“This was an oppressive society at the beginning of a revolution,” noted Redwine, who was particularly impressed with the 80s influence in the Capitol, from the clothing to the lavish furnishings inside the apartments that housed the tributes. “I thought it was a nice gesture to the excess of the 80s,” she said.

A few panelists indicated that they would have liked to seen more focus on food, given the undercurrent of hunger, especially in the poorer outlier districts.  During the Q and A, an audience member said her bakery (Amélie’s based in Charlotte) actually catered the food for the crew, and that they didn’t realize until the film was released that their pastries and other delicacies were used as “food shots” on both the train and in the Capitol.
I agreed with many of the points made by YA writers, including the cinematography and the behind-the-scenes shots of the technology-savvy gamekeepers. They at times showed an appalling lack of humanity toward the tributes as they introduced new obstacles for the teens to overcome in their fight for survival. Case in point: the gamekeepers’ introduction of a pack of vicious mutated dogs called muttations into the arena for the final battle. In the book, Collins describes how the eyes of the dead tributes are superimposed on the mutts’ eyes — a ghastly detail that adds to the psychological warfare of the story. This detail didn’t make it into the film, to the disappointment of the panelists.
“‘The Hunger Games’ offers a lot of lessons,” said Pichetto, assistant YA programming director for DragonCon. “The portrayal of post-traumatic stress disorder is incredibly accurate.”
Cato, male tribute from District 2.
That damage was evident in the last battle scene, when both Katniss and her District 12 counterpart, Peeta, find themselves facing the “alpha tribute” Cato. Born on the more prosperous District 2 and trained as a career tribute, Cato had spent his entire life training for this moment. During the games, he delivered as expected, killing other tributes without remorse. But, the audience gets a glimpse into his damaged psyche and his disillusionment in his final moments, when Katniss is pointing an arrow at him and he’s got Peeta in a death grip. Cato states that he only wanted to bring pride to his district, and that all he knew how to do was kill. Interestingly, his speech was not in the book, but was added to the screenplay.
The movie also didn’t explain to viewers the real meaning of the Mockingjay, a critical symbol of rebellion that plays out throughout the trilogy. (If you want to read why this mimicking bird is so symbolic, check out this explanation on Wiki Answers.)
As a work of literature, The Hunger Games offers a refreshing alternative to stories about dystopian societies that could be great fodder for English schoolteachers. Given the popularity of the book by both adult and teenage readers (it’s stayed on the NY Times bestseller list for more than three years since debuting in 2008), I am hopeful that it will find a place in my children’s literature class one day.
“I hope it takes the place of George Orwell’s1984. I’d love to see it become a classic because it is more relevant,” said panelist M.B. Weston.

Sustainability Storytelling: Faith Morgan Honors Grandfather’s Legacy with Documentary Work

In talking with Faith Morgan, granddaughter of Dayton engineering visionary Arthur Morgan, for my historical novel, I was impressed with how she is keeping her grandfather’s legacy alive.

Arthur Morgan is the innovative engineer who established the Miami Valley Conservancy District and designed Dayton’s permanent flood control solution following the devastating 1913 flood.

What few people know is Morgan’s work as an apostle of small community. During the years of dam building throughout Dayton’s MiamiValley, Morgan created communities with schools and other institutions for his dam workers and their families.

Faith serves as executive director of the Arthur Morgan Institute for CommunitySolutions, a Yellow Springs,Ohio, non-profit organization founded by Arthur Morgan in 1940, after he retired. It advocates for small communities and develops solutions to our climate crisis. She also is an award-winning filmmaker who has delved into documentary filmmaking to shed light on the issues of peak oil and climate change. 

Cuba, which experienced a sudden economic collapse in 1990 with the end of the Soviet Union, was the subject of her 2006 documentary film, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil. The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever.

Faith Morgan and Pat Murphy in Havanna in 2004, while filming the documentary.

Cubafaced an enormous crisis with the collapse of the USSR, which led to the loss of most food and oil imports to the tiny country.

In the film, we see how Cuba adapted, survived, and thrived because they mobilized their entire culture. Cubans made changes requiring cooperation, adaptability, and openness to alternatives. As one Cuban in the film remarks, “When told they needed to reduce energy use, everybody did it.”

In discussing the documentary, Faith told me that she has now begun work on a second film set in Cuba – this one she hopes to be feature length and to be completed in the next three years.

The new project was sparked after going back to Cuba’s alternative renewal energy conference that is held every two years.  She plans to tell a deeper story about Cuba on what the country is doing around renewable energy and sustainable development told from the vantage point of average Cubans.

“It’s really remarkable what they’ve done,” she says. “Out of necessity, they are paving a way and showing how a culture can have decent medical care and have amenities through renewable energy. Their whole goal is to move away from fossil fuels as fast as possible.”

The idea that there are alternative ways to live was emphasized to Faith throughout her growing up years, by her mother, by her father, and by her grandfather. 
Sustainability Filmmaking – A Family Affair
She also credits her interest in this type of filmmaking to her husband, Eugene (Pat) Murphy, research director of the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions. An engineer and a computer scientist, Murphy developed home-building software that reduced house construction waste from 19 percent to 3 percent.

Faith says after 9/11, she and her husband were interested in understanding the undercurrent of hostility that led to the terrorist attacks. They wrote an eye-opening paper called “Burning Times,” covering the history of European colonialism in Muslim countries.  In December 2001, they heard a presentation by Richard Heinberg, author of The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies.

“I was shocked. I came from an agricultural background,” recalls Faith, who immediately thought about food-supply implications for societies that continue to depend on petro-chemicals. The couple attended numerous Association for the Study of Peak Oil conferences in Europeand decided to write about the issue through their non-profit.  

To date, they’ve written three books, the latest Plan C: Community SurvivalStrategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change.

I asked Faith how her grandfather would view her current work given that energy was not in the forefront when Arthur Morgan was alive.

Noting that he was an avid outdoorsman deeply in tune with the natural world, Faith says, “I think he would be moved by the destruction and depletion of resources that is occurring. He would be happy [about my work].”

As for her own passionate commitment to climate issues, renewable energy and sustainability, Faith concludes, “It goes with the family tradition to care about the world.”


Check out this LinkTV interview with Faith Morgan and Pat Murphy about the making of the documentary.