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PBS Exclusive Outtakes from American Masters: Troubadours

By Michelle Michalos
Monday, February 28th, 2011

THIRTEEN has your backstage pass to the meet the singer-songwriters you love from the 1970s, with the new documentary, American Masters – Troubadours: Carole King / James Taylor & The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter.

The film chronicles the ‘70s music scene that began with the groundbreaking musical collaboration between Carole King and James Taylor at the famed Troubadour nightclub in LA, and features interviews with music legends like Carole King, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Kris Kristofferson, Steve Martin, and others.

See it March 2 at 8 p.m. and March 7 at 10 p.m,, only on THIRTEEN.

Support THIRTEEN and get the film on DVD or the legendary music of Carole King and James Taylor on CD.

Find out more at www.pbs.org/americanmasters, or watch exclusive extras from the film below:

Preview:

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Outtake 1: Life at the Troubadour
Cheech & Chong, Bonnie Raitt, former Troubadour staff and others recall night’s spent at the Troubadour.

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Outtake 2: Linda Ronstadt and Women in Country Rock
Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and others discuss women in country music and recognize Linda Ronstadt as a pioneer in the genre.

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Outtake 3: Kris Kristofferson and Country Music at the Troubadour

Kris Kristofferson reflects on how the Troubadour launched his career.

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Outtakes 4: Steve Martin on the Trains of Santa Monica

Steve Martin discusses the trains that used to run down Santa Monica Boulevard and how he worked them into his act.

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Interview with filmmaker Morgan Neville:

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Update on Preserving Public Broadcasting

By Michelle Michalos
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
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Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who called your representative to voice your support for public broadcasting.  You joined hundreds of thousands of people across the country who phoned or emailed their representatives.

Despite your calls and the valiant efforts of public media supporters on Capitol Hill, led by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Ed Markey (MA-7), and Nita Lowey (NY-18), the House of Representatives voted 235-189 to pass a continuing resolution that among other things eliminates funding for public broadcasting.

The fight now moved to the Senate where a continuing resolution is also expected to come up for a vote before March 4.  Please reach out to your Senators to let them know how you feel about public television and public radio and the elimination of federal funding support. (Their phone numbers are listed below.)

Please also go to www.170millionamericans.org where you can learn more and sign up to be kept informed.

Read PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger’s piece in The Huffington Post about the value of Public Broadcasting, particularly as it  relates to education and childhood learning.

Below are some talking points about public broadcasting.

  • Public broadcasting is America’s largest classroom—closing the achievement gap through innovative, standards-based educational content and resources for parents, teachers and students.
  • Public broadcasting serves as a trusted partner and agent of better citizenship in the world’s greatest democracy.
  • Public broadcasting is not “a luxury we can’t afford” but an essential service regularly depended on and enjoyed by 170 million Americans in all 50 States.
  • Cutting or eliminating federal funding for public broadcasting will have a severe negative impact on local services and economies in all 50 states.

CONNECTICUT:

Senator Richard Blumenthal
Washington, DC Office: 202-224-2823
State Office:  860-258-6940

Senator Joseph Lieberman
Washington, DC Office: 202-224-4041
State Office:  860-549-8463 or 800-225-5605 (in CT)

NEW JERSEY:

Senator Frank Lautenberg
Washington, DC Office: 202-224-3224
State Office:  973-639-8700 or 888-398-1642

Senator Robert Menendez
Washington, DC Office: 202-224-4744
State Office: 973-645-3030

NEW YORK:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Washington, DC Office: 202-224-4451
State Office: 212-688-6262

SenatorCharles Schumer
Washington, DC Office: 202-224-6542
State Office: 212-486-4430

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Explore the new Thirteen.org!

By Michelle Michalos
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Experience THIRTEEN in a whole new way on Thirteen.org!

Featuring original blogs with topics ranging from politics to theater, online original series, and the latest news on THIRTEEN programs, the new Thirteen.org is dedicated to not only engaging our viewers, but also deepening New Yorkers’ connection to the city. Explore the site and let us know what you think!

Learn more about our new and improved features:

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Director Yony Leyser on Making William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

By Michelle Michalos
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Yony Leyser’s first feature documentary William S. Burroughs: A Man Within is screening at film festivals all over Europe right now and coming back to the United States for more dates this spring. The film makes its broadcast debut on THIRTEEN this Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 10 p.m.

Independent Lens sat down with Yony, the two-time film school dropout to find out how he managed to make such an intimate film about a man he never met, and who died before Yony was old enough to drive.

Interview courtesy of Independent Lens. For more interviews and other Independent Lens film content, visit their blog.

What impact do you hope this film will have?

I hope this film will introduce Burroughs and his contemporaries to a younger generation. It’s important for people to see the confidence he had in breaking away from society’s written and unwritten laws. I would love to see more people critiquing control systems, defying regulations and format, and approaching the world with a truly open mind.

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What led you to make this film?

My interest in Burroughs and the Beats began when I was in high school and having difficulty with authority. I picked up his book Naked Lunch, and was shocked to learn that a book that broke so far away from anything I had ever read, and was written in the 1950s! Burroughs is a fascinating subject because he contributed so much to society, yet was such a deeply conflicted person. When I was 19, I was kicked out of film school for a controversial art piece that criticized the dean of students. I decided to move to Lawrence, Kansas,where Burroughs lived longer than anywhere else in his adult life and begin the film.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?

I don’t know where the bravado came from. I didn’t have a lot of money or connections in the film world; I didn’t have a film degree and I had been kicked out of every school I had ever been to; and I was 20!

I was lucky enough to have been given a camera from a school friend. Friends helped out with camera operation, editing, etc. I got to my interviews by hopping in band’s tour vans and ride shares. Once I proved myself, support came in. I guess the challenge was in finding creative ways of getting this film made.

How did you gain the trust of the subjects in your film?

I started interviewing Burroughs’s friends and academics that could guide me. I gathered a strong foundation of information, and developed my interviewing technique. His friends and poets Charlie Plymell, Diane DiPrima and Anne Waldman (all active in the Beat Generation) helped me validate my project with interviews, information, and introductions. People like John Waters and Thurston Moore were supremely influenced by Burroughs and were excited to have the opportunity to speak about him, a break from discussing their own work. When it came to the estate of William Burroughs, which is run by James Grauerholz, I had to prove myself. When I approached him the first time, I was 20 and had little documentary experience. He was skeptical that I could handle such a hefty project. Slowly, however, he saw that I was able to get great interviews, and I compile a nice rough cut. He then lent his full support and we quickly became friends.

What would you have liked to include in your film that didn’t make the cut?

Even more archival footage! Luckily, today we have access to cheap and convenient cameras — which wasn’t the case in Burroughs’s generation. The home footage I found is great; I just wish there were even more!

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Tell us about a scene in the film that especially moved or resonated with you.

The chapter on Burroughs’s Queer still moves me. I love watching him and Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg talk about sex.

What has the audience response been so far? Have the people featured in the film seen it, and if so, what did they think?

So far people love it — though I am sure it is going to stir up some controversy; any good film does. Victor Bockris did the Q&A with me in Sarasota and was brought to tears. John Waters and Gus Van Sant both came to a screening and really enjoyed it. James Grauerholz, the executor of the estate, helped organize a special screening and Q&A in Lawrence, Kansas. Lee Ranaldo (from Sonic Youth) enjoyed it and gave his time to help with the soundtrack.

Any updates on what some of the people in the film are up to now?

John Waters just completed his book Role Models. Victor Bockris is finishing a book on Andy Warhol. Patti Smith released a documentary on PBS called Dream of Life, in which she mentions William Burroughs. James Grauerholz and Berry Miles are working on the definitive biography of Burroughs. Jose Ferez, who provided many of the photos unfortunately passed away. Marcus Ewart is writing a memoir. Diane DiPrima became the Poet Laureate of San Francisco. Everyone is staying active.

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The independent film business is tough. What keeps you motivated?

Watching great documentaries made by inspired people.

Why did you choose to present your film on public television?

Public television reaches out to anyone with access to a TV, who wants to watch, which I think is great. I’m all for public media networks.

What didn’t you get done when you were making your film?

Work on my photo book, tentatively titled Daily Life Sucks, which I am working on now.

What are your three favorite films?

Impossible to answer. Three great films I have watched recenty l that I think people should see are Blood Relation, I Killed My Mother, and The Weather Underground.

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?

Pace yourself.

What do you eat when you need inspiration on location?

Falafel.

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Hey, New York: Let Us in Your Apartment

By Michelle Michalos
Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Greetings New Yorkers,

We’re working on a new project about living spaces in the five boroughs — strange, ingenious, awful, beautiful, or unexpected. If any of those adjectives can be applied to your residence and you would like to be a part of the series, please send us a brief note describing it along with a photo or two. Even if you know of a place but don’t live there, send us a tip and we’ll check it out.

A Cape Cod-style lighthouse on the roof of an East Village tenement

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Searching for Buxton: A Q&A with Filmmaker Marc Rosenwasser

By Michelle Michalos
Thursday, February 17th, 2011

THIRTEEN’s UMOJA! Black History Month programming continues with Searching for Buxton.

The documentary reveals the story of a young African American who searches  for his family history in a small Iowa mining town, which became a center of racial harmony in the 1920s while the rest of the nation was facing segregation.

Inside Thirteen sat down with filmmaker Marc Rosenwasser to discuss this unique, little-known town and its remarkable history.

Watch the full program:

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Inside Thirteen: How did you first hear about Buxton?

Marc Rosenwasser: I actually have a different life in Iowa, where I oversee an experimental TV workshop out there. The guy who funds that project had known the story; he’s a history buff, and let me know about it. I’d never heard one word about it, and almost no one I’ve talked to has heard about it – here or in Iowa.

IT: What was it about this town that created such ideal circumstances for race relations? How big a role did coal mining play?

MR: Coal mining is what brought all the folks to the town. It was a combination of black miners, many of whom were from the Charlottesville, Virginia area and European immigrants. So coal was the reason – the prospect of work, extracting coal was the reason most of them went there. What was remarkable, really, about the town is both how integrated it was, which was thoroughly integrated during a period of segregation in the United States, and separately, how well black people lived there at the time. Which is to say, just as well as white people. Not only did they get paid equal wages, but many of them did well enough to buy cars and have other luxury items from the era.

IT: How aware was the rest of the nation of the situation in Buxton at the time?

MR: I think there was some awareness of it, because we came across writings from some African American newspapers that referred to it as “the Athens of the North.” It’s also often referred to as a black utopian town.

IT: Did Buxton ultimately play a role in changing segregation laws?

MR: I don’t think so, because, in fact, what happened after the coal ran out, as the piece shows, is it was really a singular example, just decades ahead of its time. As soon as the coal ran out, and the people of the town had to flee, they had to endure the segregation and second class citizenship that was customary for black people at the time, everywhere they went.

IT: The story of Buxton is surprising in itself, but was there anything you were surprised to learn while making the film?

MR: Really almost everything about the town surprised me, because, it wasn’t known to me at all, I’d never heard of the place. There’s a young man featured in the piece who’s a colleague in Iowa, who is African American. His great grandmother and aunt are featured in the piece; both of them grew up in Buxton in their very early lives. To get to meet with them – they’re 90 and 95, and in incredibly good health, had very sharp recollections – was a surprise and a joy. It’s important to tell the story now, just because in a couple of years, there won’t be any survivors from the town.

IT: What message do you hope the audience will take from this film, particularly as it is being aired during Black History Month?

MR: One of the people at the end of the piece, an Iowa State professor who first helped excavate part of the town in the late 70s – the town has all but vanished in 60 or 70 years – he talks about asking why, if it happened then, it can’t happen today? I think that’s exactly the right question to ask.

I think it’s an example of how there are so many great untold stories; the question is how you find them, and, if you think about public TV, who can fund them. I would hope it would propel people to think about what the possibilities are in terms of untold stories and producing them for the enrichment of the public.

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Get the Math Premieres February 20 on THIRTEEN

By Michelle Michalos
Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Hip-hop duo DobleFlo, season two Project Runway winner Chloe Dao, and Julia Detar, developer of popular video games played on Facebook, inspire teens to solve real-world problems using algebra in Get the Math, a new multimedia project from THIRTEEN and the team behind the hit PBS series Cyberchase.

Premiering February 20 on THIRTEEN from 11:30 AM-noon and airing nationwide on public television (check local listings), Get the Math combines entertaining reality-style TV and online challenges to help middle and high school students see the relevance of math in exciting careers and develop algebraic thinking skills.  The website features streaming video, interactive challenges, and materials for educators.

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Get the Math is divided into three segments:

FASHION: Chloe Dao, Vietnamese refugee and FIT graduate who became a household name in 2006, and whose designs have been featured at the Smithsonian, has parlayed her Project Runway win into successful high-end and mass-market fashion collections.  Chloe challenges the teams of teens to use both proportional reasoning and their sense of style to modify a design in order to get the retail price below a target of thirty-five dollars.

VIDEO GAMES: Julia Detar, a videogame developer at the New York City-based company Arkadium, uses math when she develops online and Facebook games, such as Mahjongg Dimensions.  Julia presents a challenge around a simplified “Asteroids”-type game that introduces basic concepts behind programming. Students use coordinate graphing and linear equations to plot the path of a spaceship and avoid a collision with an oncoming asteroid.

MUSIC: Manny Dominguez and Luis Lopez, who perform as the hip-hop duo DobleFlo, write and produce music in collaboration with The Brooklyn Label, an independent music label. Independent Media Magazine says of the Brooklyn-based duo, “If you’re looking for some substance, style, and originality you might want to look into DobleFlo. They display a passion and grittiness in their voice and vocals that the rap game is sorely missing.”   Manny and Luis draw on their math skills regularly, particularly when using music production software.  They ask the students to calculate the tempo of an instrumental sample so they can adjust the tempo of an
electronic drum track to match it.

Learn more about the segments and math challenges featured in Get the Math:

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Get the Math, a production of  THIRTEEN in association with WNET,  is funded by the Moody’s Foundation and distributed to public television stations nationwide by American Public Television.   Jill Peters is executive producer, Michelle Chen is producer,  and  Sandra Sheppard is the project executive. Keith Devlin, Ph.D., and Deborah L. Ives, Ed.D., are advisors.

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Downton Abbey: Season One on DVD

By Michelle Michalos
Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Fans flocked to Downton Abbey on THIRTEEN in January to catch the ups and downs of the Crawley family and their sometimes loyal – sometimes scheming, staff. The final episode left us all craving more, and impatient for Downton Abbey’s second season, coming in the winter of 2012.

However, you can keep the drama alive by bringing home the complete first season of Downton Abbey on DVD and Blu-Ray. As a thank-you for your gift to THIRTEEN, we’ll send you the original, unedited UK version, including fascinating bonus features.

And be sure to tune-in April 10th for the three-part sequel to the much-loved MASTERPIECE series Upstairs Downstairs.

Watch a preview:

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When I Rise Filmmakers Talk Civil Rights, Opera, and Tacos

By Michelle Michalos
Monday, February 7th, 2011

Mat Hames

As part of our African American History Month programming, When I Rise premieres on Independent Lens this Tuesday, February 8.

Independent Lens sat down with the filmmakers to ask a few probing questions about making the film and about filmmaking in general. Director Mat Hames (pictured) and Executive Producer Don Carleton weigh in.

When I Rise airs Tuesday, February 8 at 10 p.m. on THIRTEEN.

Interview courtesy of Independent Lens. For more interviews and other Independent Lens film content, visit their blog.

What impact do you hope this film will have?

Mat Hames (MH), director: I hope the film will bring awareness to the early civil rights movement and highlight the people who were willing to do the right thing. I also hope that the message of forgiveness and redemption will resonate with the audience.

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What led you to make When I Rise?

Don Carleton (DC), executive producer: It began with an oral history project in 2006 to record Barbara’s story for archival purposes. Hearing Barbara’s story in her own words inspired us to produce the film; the oral history interviews became the foundation of the film’s storyline.

What were some of the challenges you faced in making your film?

MH: Initially there was so much required reading – books, essays, letters, 1950s newspaper and magazine articles (all fascinating) – that I sort of felt at the time that it would be impossible to tell the story in less than four hours. I made a document that laid out the narrative that kept growing as I amassed more material, thinking that I had to tell the story as a movie, rather than a thesis. I knew I needed to include a range of emotions, a visual style using tons of archival material, and a dramatic story. Ultimately the best thing the film has going for it is Barbara, so we decided to cut in favor of seeing more of her on-camera. It works better as a personal story rather than a historical four-part series. Then there were bigger challenges, but that was the first one.

How did you gain the trust of the subjects in your film?

MH: Barbara is a very trusting person, and I think she always has been which is amazing considering her background. Even so, having the Dolph Briscoe Center pave the way was important because Barbara already had a relationship with the Center. I introduced Barbara to everyone at Alpheus Media and to my family, and I think she really appreciated that personal connection. As we rolled along, I talked a lot on the phone with Barbara and with the eye-witnesses we were planning to interview so they would know my motivations.

What would you have liked to include in the film that didn’t make the cut?

MH: There was a lot that didn’t make the cut. Like weaving in Autherine Lucy and the impact that incident might have had on Logan Wilson’s decision. Also I wish we could have explored the University Baptist Church, near the UT campus, which in ’56 was a safe haven for Barbara and other African-American students. Other groups supported her as well, and they deserved screen time. Also, I would liked to have explored Barbara’s relationship with her parents and her siblings, especially Dinard. They were just one of many incredible families who lived in Center Point, a community centered around church, music, and a highly respected black boarding school.

DC: Compressing Barbara’s life story into a one-hour film was a challenge. We had to leave out details I wish we’d had time for, such as her first two years of college life as an undergraduate at the historically black Prairie View A&M University and more about her career accomplishments.

Tell us about a scene in the film that especially moved or resonated with you.

MH: I’m moved by everything we see in the film about Center Point. Knowing that this once thriving community infused so many lives with hope, but is now almost forgotten by the rest of the world, affected me.

What has the audience response been so far? Has Barbara seen it?

MH: Don and I showed a rough cut to Barbara in New York, and she squeezed both our hands and cried (happy tears) when it was over. Since our SXSW world premiere last March, the film has shown at festivals all over North America, and the response has been very affirming. It’s fun to watch people respond to Barbara. My best memories are of seeing audiences connecting with her during Q&As after screenings. One specific memory is walking with Barbara into the historic Paramount Theater in Austin during SXSW, seeing how happy she looked on the red carpet, and then sitting by her while we watched the film with 1,000 people. She was very vocal, and it made it all worth it.

The independent film business is tough. What keeps you motivated?

MH: What keeps me going is the realization that the films could have an impact on the way the subjects in the film evaluate their own lives. I imagine how I would feel if someone tried to show the positive or negative influence of my life on the people around me. When people see their stories in a film context, there is the potential for them to see a greater significance to their actions.

Why did you choose to present your film on public television?

DC: We want When I Rise to be seen by the broadest audience possible, but we also want the film to inspire discussion groups in communities and classrooms across the country. The PBS commitment to community outreach and engagement, we feel, is the best way to make that happen.

What commonly asked questions have you gotten fromaudiences?

DC: We’ve had more than one audience member ask how we “got permission” from The University of Texas at Austin leadership to produce this film. The University administration did not ask for or receive prior approval of the script or of the final version of the video. In fact, Bill Powers, president of the University, and Steve Leslie, executive vice president and provost, have been supportive of this project from day one. Barbara’s story is a part of the University’s history and of the history of the civil rights movement. Telling that story is both a duty and a privilege.

What didn’t you get done when you were making the film?

MH: One of the advantages of spreading out the production on a film over three years is that you’re able to get things done while working on the film – including other projects and personal stuff. I’ve been busy.

What are your three favorite films?

MH: Currently, Ikiru, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Crimes and Misdemeanors.

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?

MH: Constantly question your own motivations for wanting to tell stories. If your goal is to influence the world, good – but also consider the lasting effects the film will have on your film’s subjects, long after moved on to your next project.

What do you think is the most inspirational food for making independent film?

MH: I live in Austin, so sadly (for my health), late-night tacos, chips, and salsa.

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The Unforgettable Hampton Family: A Q&A with Filmmaker Julie Cohen

By Michelle Michalos
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Tonight, as part of our annual UMOJA! Black History Month programming, THIRTEEN will be premiering The Unforgettable Hampton Family, a documentary exploring how Deacon Clark Hampton, a son of slaves, lifted his twelve children out of poverty by making them into successful musicians.

Julie Cohen

Inside Thirteen recently spoke with The Unforgettable Hampton Family‘s producer, writer, and director Julie Cohen to discuss the film and the impact the Hampton family had on jazz music.

The Unforgettable Hampton Family airs tonight at 10:30 on THIRTEEN.

Ms. Cohen answered our questions via email.

Inside Thirteen: What first interested you in making a film about the Hampton family?

Julie Cohen: I met Dawn Hampton while I was making another documentary, about the swing dancer Frankie Manning. I saw her dance down the church aisles at Frankie’s memorial service, I went to one of her popular dance seminars, and I heard her jazz whistling. Dawn had so much talent, zest, and joie de vivre that I wanted to learn more about her. When I found out she was from a huge, talented family, the sister of the jazz trombone virtuoso Locksley “Slide” Hampton, I was even more intrigued. Then, when I saw some footage of her older sisters performing their swinging bass and piano duet of “Get Your Kicks on Route 66″ in their 80s and 90s, I was sold.

IT: How big of an impact did the Hamptons have on American music, particularly jazz?

JC: The Hampton siblings – and their kids and even grandkids – have made their mark in many different areas of the jazz world, from traditional big band swing, to more experimental jazz to cabaret singing. Between them, they’ve worked alongside many of the jazz greats spanning eight decades. Not a lot of families can say that!

IT: Are any parallels ever drawn between the Hampton family and more recent groups of family performers (such as the Jacksons)?

JC: Some people have made that comparison. Obviously, both are very large and very musically talented families, but I don’t think there are too many other similarities. The Hamptons grew up in a whole different era, and as talented as they are, most of the brothers and sisters didn’t become particularly rich or famous. And the Hampton kids managed to avoid the pitfalls many musicians fall into.

IT: Did Clark Hampton receive criticism for starting his children in the music business at such an early age?

JC: Yes, the Hampton parents did get some criticism, not so much for having their children perform from a young age, but for taking them out of school to go on the road. But as you’ll see in the film, Clark was very serious about educating his kids. He himself was self-educated, and he taught his kids not only music, but also English, history and math. From what I’ve seen, his book lessons and life lessons stood them in good stead.

IT: What message do you hope viewers will take from the film?

Julie Cohen and Dawn Hampton

JC: As with any documentary, there are different messages viewers could take from this film. I hope it shows the unexpected bonds a love of music can forge. Interviewing Dawn Hampton alongside Freeman Gunter, one of her biggest fans from the gay nightclub scene in Greenwich Village in the 60′s and 70′s was a great reminder of this. Here are two people from completely different worlds: an African American woman who spent her childhood in poverty traveling the carnival circuit in rural America, and a white urban gay man. But somehow, through Dawn’s music, and mutual respect and acceptance, they found a deep connection.

But this film isn’t primarily meant to impart messages. I just hope viewers enjoy the opportunity to spend a little time with an extraordinary family, learn their story, and hear some “burnin’ music,” as Dawn’s grand nephew Darius Hampton puts it.

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