Foster Shock is intended to educate the public about how Florida ‘privatized’ child welfare and how this has led to massive amounts of taxpayer dollars being spent with little oversight and no accountability. Through stories told by former foster youth this documentary will reveal some of the worst systematic abuses and failures in Florida’s history by state and federally funded companies that were created to help severely abused children.
Interview with Director/Producer Mari Frankel
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
First let me tell you that I have never made (or really ever considered making) a documentary. About 7 years ago I became a volunteer GAL, (Guardian Ad Litem) which is very similar to CASA, ("Court Appointed Special Advocate"). Both of these agencies assign volunteers to oversee cases of foster children. A GAL or CASA's mission is to "Speak for the Child" and to make sure the child is in a safe stable environment. When I began this endeavor I was aware (through the news) that there were "problems" with the system, but I had no idea how severe these issues were...
My first case was an 11 yr old emotionally handicapped boy who was residing in a "therapeutic" foster home where he was being sexually abused. He told everyone...his case manager, counselor, lawyer and no one believed him. He told me and I got him out of the house that night. DCF still did not believe him or I and put another child in the same home the next week and he was sexually abused that first night. No charges were ever filed, no one was held accountable. I learned quickly that foster children are not heard, are not safe, are not seen. That is why I made this documentary.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Foster care is rarely discussed. The only time you hear about it is when a child gets hurt or dies. It is important to know the $ that are being spent, how foster care affects our communities. The average number of police visits to group homes is 300 a year and in some cases as high as 800 a year. FOSTER SHOCK is also intended to educate the public about "privatization" and how this has lead to massive amounts of taxpayers dollars being spent with little oversight and no accountability. This documentary will reveal some of the worst systematic abuses in Florida's history by state and federally funded companies which were originally created to help severely abused children.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
FOSTER SHOCK is told by child advocates and former foster children who have aged out of the system. The themes represented are the children's stories. It is interesting how each one of their stories is eerily similar and add to universal themes...Children are not heard or believed, no accountability, excessive executive salaries and children are not getting their basic needs met.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
When I started this project I began interviewing former foster youth. I did not pre-screen any of them and did not know their "stories". My editor and camera guy, Brian Bayerl and I decided that whateverthe kids told us we would back up 100%. One of the girls in the movie, Angel, told us about being put in a psychiatric hospital where she was made to eat yogurt mixed with psychotropic meds. She told us that if she didn't finish the yogurt in 2 minutes the hospital staff would restrain her face down and give her a "shot in the butt" and she would wake up hours later in a "secluded room". After hearing her story I was concerned I may not be able to back it up. Brian, (editor extraordinaire) suggested we film her in front of the hospital. When I goggled the name of the hospital for directions...WOW! There was a slew of recent stories that reported the exact scenario Angel had described.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I am really blown away by the incredible response "Foster Shock" has received. The audience is
extremely engaged. The Q&A is non stop sometimes lasting up to an hour or more. I have had to cut it off at every film festival due to time constraints.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I LOVE the feedback. The challenge I am facing is going to be how I move forward to really change foster care in U.S.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
My goal is to use "Foster Shock" to educate the public on foster care so that change can occur
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I think this is an incredible opportunity for any of the people you mentioned to check out Foster Shock. This documentary should be on the top of any investigative reporters list!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I want this film to move people to action. Get involved with children/foster care, call on your public officials. Make sure if you are donating money to a child welfare agency that you really know where that money is going and have clear cut outcomes/goals for the agency.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
So far a key question hasn't been needed. But any question having to do with privatization is good.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Just working on getting this film shown.
Interview: October 2016
We are moving stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Director: Mari Frankel
Producer: Mari Frankel
Writer: Brian Bayerl
Mari Frankel is a first time director and producer. She has served as a community advocate for children for over 15 years. Foster Shock is a Miss Mari Film.
Brian Bayerl is an award winning cinematographer and editor. His work has been seen on PBS, Showtime as well as premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. Bayerl's films have also been screened at the Andy Warhol Museum, the Whitney Museum and the British Museum in London, Portrait of America was screened in 3 countries and won Best Film at London's Raindance Film Festival.
Key Cast: Angel Smith, Ashtavia Maddox, Carlos Givens, Brian Garcia-Bengocheas, Howard Talenfeld, Christine Spudeaus
Looking for: Journalists, film festival directors.
Funder: Mari Frankel
Release date: March 2016