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The Power of Persistence

It’s difficult to believe that we premiered A Place to Stand four years ago, almost to the day, and this week marks the PBS premiere broadcast of the film – one of hundreds that will reach across the country. Distribution has been difficult for this project. As this was my first feature doc – and my producer’s first feature doc – we didn’t know anything about distributing a project of this size. We didn’t budget for it, we didn’t plan for it, and we had to fumble in the dark, asking for helping hands as we went.

A still of Jimmy Santiago Baca from A Place to Stand, the subject of the film.

We did film festivals, we did community screenings, we showed the film at schools, conferences, prisons, we were lucky enough to find Anna Darrah who helped us secure educational and digital distribution, and then, finally, we got the green light for national PBS distribution.

I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work that it would take to get this film out there into the world – almost as much as making the film itself – but it has been such a rich learning experience. What it has taught me more than anything is the power of persistence. We were rejected, hit brick walls, tripped and fell, but each time we got up and kept going, looking for another road, looking for another option. We just kept moving.

A burning page from A Place to Stand.

The national broadcast run of PBS is the cherry on top of our distribution success, but its significance didn’t really strike me until a few days ago. I was reviewing the hundreds of upcoming broadcasts of the film (on more than 200 stations) and I saw WNET – Channel 13. My body shivered and flooded with awe and disbelief. This was “my” PBS – New York City’s PBS station – the biggest market in the United States and the channel I grew up watching Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. This channel reached millions of people, one of the most difficult PBS stations to get a slot on, and they were going to show my movie. “Thank god I didn’t give up,” I thought. “This made the whole pain in the ass distribution journey worth it.”

I won’t know how many people will see the film in the upcoming months of broadcasts, but I do know that the amount of people will be the biggest audience for anything I’ve ever made. I’m full of gratitude for this opportunity, for my bulldog nature to get this shit done, and for the wealth of people who have helped make this happen – especially Paula Beswick and The Kendeda Fund, who were the final angels of the adventure and the ones who made the PBS opportunity achievable.

Now…on to the next project!

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