A group of teenagers board a bus for West Virginia, leaving the streets of Washington, DC to participate in an ambitious peace education program. For the first time in their lives Mark, Asha, Martha, and Corey play in mountain streams, sing under the stars, and confront the entrenched abuse, violence and neglect cycles of their past. But as they return to DC, each young person faces an unforgiving series of hurdles and roadblocks that challenge their efforts to build a better life. Through breathtaking visuals from street corners to mountaintops, Fly By Light is an intimate exploration of the chaotic, confusing, and emotional journey to rewrite a young person’s future.
Interview with Director ELLIE WALTON
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
We are at a critical moment in the United States where we need to value and nurture our young people. Amidst all the violence and trauma, we wanted to reveal how love, support and caring attention is enough to transform someone’s life. Too often young people are reduced to statistics and stereotypes, and we wanted to deepen people’s understanding of what our youth are experiencing, struggling with, pissed off about. We wanted to make a film to share deeply personal, honest and whole stories about young people overcoming cycles of violence, to spark conversations across the country about the value of social and emotional education and the capacity for healing and transformation when youth are given a space to realize their full selves.
We wanted these conversations to lead to more resources for these kinds of programs including Fly By Light, so that more youth can benefit. We wanted to inspire young people to realize that they are not alone, that they have the gifts, strengths, and light within them to fully shine.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
You should watch it, first and foremost, because the four young people that are featured are four of the most compelling, funny, complicated, surprising, beautiful people you’ll ever come across. And you will be rooting for them the whole time, because the film pulls you in to care about them. As filmmakers we really believed in them, we completely fell in love with them, and we hope that feeling is transmitted to the audience. I think ultimately it’s inspiring to watch people climb over the walls that have been stacked up against them, in a way that’s not formulaic but rather shows the zigzags, the falling back. It’s an honest story. Life is non-linear, and I think this film really shows how some of the most meaningful expressions of change are in the small moments.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
We all struggle. Good stories are based upon overcoming struggles and challenges. The film at its core unwraps the root of those struggles, the root of that pain, and it does so by diving into deeply personal spaces, and deeply intimate moments. Universal themes of forgiveness, love and hope are combined with unexpected moments of humor, story twists, and vulnerability.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
When we first embarked on the production of the film, we thought that the story would end once the eight-day retreat was over. When we got back, we were full with everything that we’d witnessed, that indescribable feeling of “shit went down” and “that got real,” and we couldn’t imagine that there was more that we’d want to say. But as we started to edit and got space from the retreat itself, we realized that there was a deeper story to tell, one that goes to the heart of the hardest question that the film raises, when Mark asks whether or not eight days can actually change someone, how they’d transfer this space of love and kindness to their lives back home in DC. We realized that we needed to pick the cameras back up and keep following the story as the young people were continuing to express and struggle with what they had learned on the retreat.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback has been very positive. After the film is over there are always rich dialogues that follow, many great questions and lots of curiosity regarding where the youth program is now and what the youth who were featured in the film are doing today.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Not yet. Most of the feedback has been around the important need to replicate and provide this same programming to more youth around the country.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We are looking to share our story with as many people as possible to encourage dialog about the important work we are doing and look for ways to bring these issues to the forefront of our societal consciousness.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Having journalists help to spread the word and amplify the film's message is of the utmost importance. With all of the cultural intensity currently underway, sharing that there are ways to support our youth through peace education, arts programming and social-emotional empowerment is what is needed. We're also looking for film festival directors to pick up this film, and buyers, specifically cable market channels to pick up the film and screen it too.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Our goal is to create a discussion not only around our documentary but around the paths to violence that are becoming so prominent with youth in our communities and what can we as a community do to help inspire and guide those who need support. We hope this film we help to spark and continue to fuel a national dialogue around the future of education and the innovative ways that we need to be engaging youth so that we are meeting them where they are.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
From watching the youth in the film, what challenges do you think they face in DC & America? What is the impact of these challenges on their future? The community? What is the impact of Fly By Light on the youth?
Would you like to add anything else?
The four youth, Mark, Asha, Martha and Corey, who are featured in our film participated in the groundbreaking program offered by the nonprofit organization, One Common Unity. To learn more about OCU and how you can support their important work that inspires personal growth and nurtures sustainable, caring communities through social-emotional learning services and arts empowerment programming, visit OneCommonUnity.org
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
A 30 min. follow up documentary film about where the four youth are today is currently in pre-production.
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
FLY BY LIGHT
A group of teenagers board a bus for West Virginia, leaving the streets of Washington, DC toparticipate in an ambitious peace education program. For the first time in their lives Mark, Asha, Martha, and Corey play in mountain streams, sing under the stars, and confront the entrenched abuse, violence and neglect cycles of their past. But as they return to DC, each young person faces an unforgiving series of hurdles and roadblocks that challenge their efforts to build a better life. Through breathtaking visuals from street corners to mountaintops, Fly By Light is an intimate exploration of the chaotic, confusing, and emotional journey to rewrite a young person’s future.
Length: 60 min. and 83 min.
Director: ELLIE WALTON
Producer: HAWAH KASAT
Writer: ELLIE & HAWAH
About the writer, director and producer:
DIRECTOR: Ellie Walton, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and educator, has committed her life’s work to sharing personal stories of everyday heroes: public housing residents fighting displacement (Chocolate City, 2007), day laborers searching for the American Dream (Igual Que Tú, 2009), theatre artists imagining change in schools and prisons (Walk With Me, 2012).
PRODUCER: Hawah is an artist, author, educator, yoga instructor and community organizer. He has authored 4 books, produced 3 documentary films and released 2 musical CDs. Hawah is co-founder and executive director of One Common Unity, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.
Mark - Recently turned 18 years old and a self-proclaimed thug, Mark says he has never experienced love. Hawah recruited Mark on the street, describing Fly By Light as, “An all expenses paid vacation.” Skeptical of the impact of a short-term x to problems he feels are far deeper, the facilitators push him to blossom, but in his words, he “is just breaking.”
Asha - 15-year old Asha found her poetry re ned and inspired through the Fly By Light program and begins to perform on a more regular basis at local and regional poetry competitions. Though still a breath away from dropping out, her love for the spoken word and creative arts may be her key to succeeding in school.
Corey - One year after the Fly By Light program ends, 17-year old Corey finds himself on the streets and without a change of clothes or a bed to rest his head. He slowly reverts back to his old habits and struggles as he tries to find his way through the web of poverty.
Martha - 16-year old Martha has many siblings and a short temper that is tied to traumatic childhood experiences. She professes that she doesn’t believe she can overcome her past, and that being the first in her family to attend college will be no easy task. Two years after the Fly By Light program ends, will she make it to college?
Funders: DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, The Global Fund for Children, Humanities Council of Washington, DC, DC Office of Motion Pictures & Television Development, Feldsman Tucker Leifer Fidell LLP, The Puffin Foundation, S.H.E. Living, Annie and Paul Mahon, 532 Yoga, Horyou
Made in association with: Meridian Hill Pictures
Release date: 2015