A movement doesn’t start as a movement. It starts with a single individual who has an idea, a passion, and a commitment. When other people join in and take that idea to a new place—conceptually or geographically (or both!)—that’s when it becomes a movement!
Don Hart started with an idea: to bring people in Detroit together…professionally, socially, and in service to each other. An idea to develop joy and success through collaboration—social and artistic collaboration—to enhance community in the personal and professional lives of those who would join in the movement.
The first tangible result of that collaboration is the video, #MOVEahead Detroit . Among the first collaborators in this MOVEMENT project were writer Laura Lynch, producer Craig Mungons, choreographer Gina Thompson and Director Jim Pinard, along with director of photography and editor David Peterson, visual effects artist John Kaley and lead dancer Maurice Archer.
Why did these folks want to help turn this idea for a video about starting a movement into a reality? What did they hope to accomplish? We asked them, and here’s what they had to say:
Laura Lynch: Writer
The script for this video actually started something that was going to be part of a promotional campaign for MOVE Communications. I had seen a TED talk about the idea of a man dancing in a park and others joining him. The idea of finding your “followers” had an interesting double meaning when it was applied to social media. I thought it might make good copy for a 60-second film, something that could work well on Facebook or Twitter.
Don took that idea and ran with it, creating something bigger. Though I could have remained active in the project, I wanted to turn it over and let the film people—Don and Jim and Craig—take it where they were going to take it. This was challenging, because it can be hard to start letting go. One of the things that happens in a collaborative environment…you have to allow other people to inject their own vision into the idea that you have.
In this case, Don has organized some additional ideas around the initial thought, ideas to bring people together in the Detroit community. That’s important. It has a real potential to attract people and pull them around a message that is positive and uplifting, and give momentum, and develop into more people doing positive things.
The original germ idea that I saw in the TED talk was obviously inspirational for me. It is an exciting message. As a metaphor, there are a lot of layers there in terms of how we see ourselves in the world as leaders and as followers. Usually followers aren’t leaders. But when you’re willing to follow someone, you’re actually taking an active role in the project. The act of joining the movement is what makes it powerful. Plus, when there’s something exciting going on, it doesn’t just belong to the leader. When you join in, it’s no longer only about the leader. It becomes your idea, too, that you identify with.
On the flip side, if you’re a leader, the message is about focusing on your audience—again, realizing it’s not actually about you. It’s not about the fact that you had an idea that you liked. It’s that someone else saw your idea and thought it was worth sharing.
Craig Mungons: Producer, Assistant Director
This project was interesting, challenging, and satisfying to me on a number of levels. First, it’s not what I typically do on a project as a producer. My entire career has been spent in advertising—30 years on staff at different ad agencies in metro Detroit, and 10 years freelancing.
As a producer, I usually coordinate a client, ad agency, and production company. But Don was the client, ad agency, and the production company. I got a big kick out of that. It was a very “grass roots” approach to production, one that didn’t involve the bureaucracy of a huge ad agency and a huge client. It was a breath of fresh air for me. Plus, Don started talking to me about producing this from the film production company point of view, in addition to the ad agency point of view. And he asked me to be assistant director as well as producer.
Don brought the concept to me intact, and gave me the opportunity to help shape it. He was full of ideas, and he asked for my input a lot, which I really appreciated. We talked through the concept and the execution, building a structure so that the director, Jim, could breathe life into the idea, give it a visual look, and develop a story. Having the opportunity to mold this with Don, Jim, our choreographer and primary camera/editor was fabulous.
It was challenging too, because besides wanting to do it on a very limited budget, Don really wanted to involve new people. I usually work in an environment where everybody knows their roles and expectations. But only 8 of our 24 crew members had ever done any level of film production before. Don and I had to help numerous people understand what the connection was between their role in the production and the eventual outcome of the production. Even people who had some experience had to do some things differently than they usually do—including me.
We did really strong prep. Strong prep gets you a strong finish. With two dozen crew people, a dozen dancers, a non-professional crowd of 75, plus caterers and musicians…if you don’t have a tight plan and tight reporting structure in place, things can get out of control.
Everybody worked together very well. Plus, Don’s enthusiasm is infectious. I got a real interesting kind of satisfaction from this project that, in some ways, I don’t get from the million-dollar automotive projects I produce.
In fact, I took on this project largely out of my friendship with Don, to support him and his adventure—but also, to try something new and to live up to the trust Don had in me that I would bring something valuable to the outcome, even though it was outside my typical professional experience. In that sense, I was actually a “first follower” myself.
And in that way, everybody involved took this on personally. Everybody involved in the project, those on the payroll and those not, were doing it as a labor of love, for the excitement of the project, and to support Don.
It all has to do with passion. People who see the video will understand the concept of a “first follower,” and understand that it’s tied directly to passion. Don has this passion professionally…for his clients and for the people he engages.
Gina Thompson: Choreographer
I’m a teacher, and I was starting a new phase of my career…re-branding myself as a choreographer. I’d just directed a show I’d written over many years in my heart when Don and I bumped into each other. We’ve known each other for years, and learned that we were having the same conversations with our people—starting a new career phase, re-branding, collaborating. He was looking to make a video about everyone’s capacity to be an initiator. There was a moment of synchronicity, and we decided to collaborate on the project.
I was a rookie doing choreography for film, but Don and the production staff were very generous in communicating with me how they were going to do what they were going to do; and they just let me work. I brought in dancers that I’ve been teaching—all ages, all body types, all ethnicities. I also brought in a colleague, break dancer Maurice Archer, with whom I’ve been working for years. In rehearsal, we tried different things and worked out what would really be needed. I’m extremely happy with the result. It all worked really well together. Everything we were trying to say, we said.
It’s nice to work for people who elevate you. Everything Don was trying to communicate with the video, he was doing in real life with me. And not just with me—with everybody that was involved in the process! Maurice is expanding his business. All of my students walk and talk with different energy because they feel they’re being successful and creative—not just as a company, but as individuals. It was about everyone involved in the process…each of us starting our own movements! It’s literal now!
Jim Pinard: Director
A lot of times in the marketing/advertising business, we have to do productions in a more mechanical way. I was interested in this project because of the opportunity to do something creative. This was pure art.
And it was a piece that required people to look at life differently. I wanted to play off our tendency to resist change…to resist something new. People recognize themselves in this resistance. I wanted something purely authentic that asked, “What does it take to get someone to change his mind and participate in something out of the ordinary—to participate in the unknown?” That meant capturing authentic responses on camera so that everybody in the audience could identify with at least one person on screen and say, “That’s me!”
I love to release artists to do what they do that I can’t (which, in this case, is dance!). One of my jobs was to make sure Maurice was released to give 100%, not just to mark it through because of what he was taught. Another responsibility was to get authentic responses from everybody. This was challenging because a lot of people were volunteers. When they’re not professionally trained, they can often feel self-conscious on camera and it can show. I have to try to surprise them into being themselves, having authentic reactions and not acting. I think we were able to achieve that honesty.
There’s a universal message here for everyone. I look at this piece as something to tell people that it’s really alright to step out. It doesn’t cost all that much to try. Other people enjoy it with you, and now you have a connection! I would hope that this would trigger, in some people, the value of trying something new.
David Peterson: Director of Photography, Editor
Don Hart and I have worked together for years. When he asked me to film and edit this project, I loved the idea of community coming together to create something positive.
I was hoping to capture Jim Pinard’s directorial vision, which included interesting angles, lots of motion and energy, and capturing the story of following a leader into a creative and fun, if disruptive, reality.
There were challenges! Our first shoot date was cancelled due to severe weather. Our make-up shoot date was threatening the same. We ended up having no rain at all, but it was quite hot, and we had to provide break-dancer Maurice with multiple changes of shirts through the afternoon.
We also had the challenge of changing light all the way through the shoot, starting at noon and ending at sunset. We were rolling four different cameras with three different specifications, so matching footage was tough. Plus, our drone “went south” right before the final shots. Fortunately for us all, one of our production assistants had another one with him that he made available for the last few shots.
The challenge with the edit was to have multiple groups joining in to the dance, reluctantly at first. This takes real time to play out, but we were trying to keep the whole story under three or four minutes.
The dancers were fabulous—especially Maurice. He made the project and energy bigger than any other factor. (The food and band were also fantastic!) Most of all, it was great to see the local community come together to make this story come to life, both during the original shoot date and later at the premiere of the show.
John Kaley: Visual Effects Artist
Working on this project was like getting the band back together! I’ve worked with Don, Dave and Jim for over 20 years. I’ve worked with Craig a little over this time as well. It’s always fun to work these guys.
My role was to add the three visual effects. First was the animated graphics—the ribbons—at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end, to mark transitions and to tie things together.
The second was adding people to the final drone shot. The actual shot had only a few people in the middle of the field. I did a CG (computer graphics) track of the scene—the position of the trees, the position of the crowd. Then I put in more people—stock footage of folks shot on green screen. I color corrected and made other variations. It was really five people regenerated over and over. It looked more like a growing movement than a hundred people at a picnic!
The third was to use CG to add a little bit of movement to the still shot of the guy on the end frame.
The project went great and the message of the video is important: If we all take personal responsibility for ourselves to make change or a difference, then things can happen!
Maurice Archer: Lead Dancer
Gina Thompson told me that she had caught word about a project that was looking for someone that seemed to fit who I was at my core—someone who would bring people together.
The concept captured me. The name captured me…“Movement” by itself captured me. The whole concept was bringing people together. In today’s world, where information and data is so important, it’s often not really about “people” connection. Instead, it’s about things that are so superficial. This was an organic presentation of things that the world needs right now.
It didn’t take long for me to see Don’s vision on it, and Craig “painted” some visuals for me. I realized, oh yeah, these are some fresh, creative guys. It was almost eerie how much of the vision they had was aligned with who I am and what I’ve been doing.
I’ve been teaching break dance to youth and adults in Ann Arbor for almost 10 years. This was a combination of everything I teach the kids: Confidence. Belief in themselves. Represent. Do the right thing. Energy. I had to do what I’ve been teaching them!
It was a big step for me, as a family man, to awaken within myself in this process. I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing with children in my family and in the community for so long that my mind state is to not think of me. But there’s a song—Sunshine, by Louie Vega—that I was playing during the shoot as I danced and as I looked around. That’s when the awakening happened. I realized, I’m the sunshine. It was my time to shine. I was representing what I’ve been trying to represent for so long: togetherness, progress, human connections. And I saw my family and my children’s eyes light up.
And really, the narration says it. Everything we see started somewhere with a thought. Even the greatest people in the world are looked at as crazy for trying something that hasn’t been tried before or doing something that hasn’t been done before. Individuality is good for this world. You shouldn’t hold it back. It’s important to truly express your individuality, regardless of what other people think. Courage, self identity, standing up: Be who you are.
Togetherness is so important, too. I showed one of the first versions of the video to an older woman at work who’s retiring, and she started crying. “This is so important,” she told me, “especially right here, and right now.” That touched me and made me feel happy—made me feel great.
The deeper meaning that comes across in the video is—Be you, because you are beautiful, you’re the only you in the whole world, and there’ll never be another one like you. Shine. Smile. Share. Connect.