A Documentary In The Making
CSN Songs performs a benefit concert on July 14 in Woodstock, NY, thrilling the crowd and raising awareness at the same time!
NEWSLETTER #7 - JULY 28, 2017
Dear Donors and Friends,
Welcome to our seventh newsletter, which is our way of keeping all of you informed of the progress we are making on the road to completing the documentary.
In our sixth newsletter we told you about a few fundraising successes as well as that I was in the semi-finals for the James Holman prize of $25,000. Well, unfortunately, I was not one of those chosen for the finals, so the hope of receiving the $25,000 first place prize went right out the window. I was stunned for a day, and a bit confounded by the fact that they could somehow choose ten other projects over such an important project like the Why Can’t We Serve documentary film. But I didn’t know anything about their selection process, and chose to not obsess about what I think was an oversight. I just decided to move on and continue to focus on completing the film. But it was disappointing!
Some good news! In June, Mike, my cinematographer, went to North Carolina to secure some video clips of Tony Forte, already one of our most influential interviews in the film. Mike needed some action clips of Tony to add to some spots where he is talking. Now we have a blend of a few head shots of Tony as well as some footage of him functioning in his community.
Mike also filmed Ivan Castro, a veteran of 28 years as an Army Special Forces soldier who lost his sight in a mortar attack on his unit in Iraq. It’s a fascinating interview because Ivan was able to remain active in the military for ten years after losing his vision. Obviously this interview proves that soldiers who come back from combat with disabilities, and are still high-functioning, are completely capable of continuing to serve honorably and effectively.
More good news!! On July 14, we joined with Family of Woodstock, a not-for-profit crisis intervention center, to bring CSN Songs, a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young tribute band, to town for a benefit concert. Over 200 folks in attendance had a great time dancing and singing those famous songs that were so influential.
Between sets we showed the last five minutes of the documentary, along with a song I wrote to back up the visuals on the screen. The song is called "A Veteran’s Anthem." The combination of the song along with the visuals is inspiring and very hopeful, and a great way to end the movie.
The concert was a wonderful success in every way except for fundraising. After all expenses, we came out with just a small profit. But the goodwill and the recognition the documentary got was priceless, and we are left with big smiles from the effects of the concert, as well as the reality that we will need to continue to create more fundraising opportunities before we will be able to complete the film.
On July 26, we showed the first 12 minutes of the film along with the last five minutes to a group of 20 interested folks in Woodstock. Along with good, stimulating conversation about the challenge of reducing the number of Veteran suicides, we had a couple of people spontaneously express their disgust for the military, and for big business, which, according to one person, was at the root of the problem in our society. This was, let’s just say, a challenging moment for me. But I handled things pretty well, I think, and now have a better understanding of how to deal with similar situations that may arise in the future. What a good lesson! Every day there is a chance to learn something new.
The near future: Right now we have enough material and enough funding to quietly work on a few more sections of the movie. The team of Mike Nelson, cinematographer; Charlotte Tusch, assistant director; Mark Ward, associate producer; Melissa Eppard, research director; and myself continue to work well together. I am hopeful that we can be completing the film by December, but to do this we will still need more financial support. We are looking at a few grant opportunities, as well as possibly creating a Kickstarter fundraising event. I would greatly appreciate some needed funding to quietly come from a few passionate supporters of the project, because grant writing and Kickstarter events take a lot of time and energy. I’d prefer just working on the documentary with no distractions. However, whatever happens with regard to fund raising, I intend to complete the film before the year’s end.
Thanks for being part of our growing team, whether you have helped us with donations, come to our fundraising events, forwarded our newsletters to others, followed our newsletters and Facebook posts, or have just been wishing us well. Your cheering for us makes a big difference. I greatly appreciate your support.
Wishing you all a fun and enriching second half of summer!
PS---If you or a friend wish to contribute to the completion of the Why Can’t We Serve documentary, please go to the Contributions page.
NEWSLETTER #6 - APRIL 4, 2017
Dear Donors and Friends,
Welcome to our sixth newsletter, which is our way of keeping all of you informed of the progress we are making on the road to completing the documentary. In our last newsletter we told you that our funds were nearly gone, and that we would need to do some fundraising before we could continue our work on the film. Thank you to those of you who responded with personal donations through our website, whycantweserve.com.
Well, when I went to Tallahassee, Florida, I had two wonderful fundraising experiences.
After discussing the film project with the minister of Unity Eastside Church, which I attend when I am in the Tallahassee area, Reverend Jean DeBarbieris Owen, the minister, asked me to show the first 11 minutes of the film smack dab in the middle of their Sunday service. I was initially stunned by her request, but went along willingly. When Sunday came, I was introduced, got up and spoke a little about the project, then sat back as all in attendance watched the 11-minute clip. After the film, the minister led the congregation in a beautiful meditation, encouraging all to open their arms and hearts to veterans all over our country. We were literally blessed with this visibility and ended up raising over three thousand dollars that Sunday.
Two weeks later, I spoke at the Tallahassee Council of the Blind monthly meeting, and once again was amazed at the enthusiasm and support for the project. The 20 blind and visually impaired people at the meeting voted to donate another $500 to the documentary. This was very special for me, to have a group of my peers continuing to show that kind of support.
On Saturday, April 1, we showed the 11-minute film clip to 130 people, an overflow crowd for a benefit dinner in Kingston, New York, hosted and organized by the Kingston Veteran’s Association in tandem with the Centerville Boy’ Scout Troop 31. On a personal note, I want to thank Bill Forte, the chairman of the KVA, for his commitment toward making the evening a big success. During the evening I received many appreciations for taking on the issue of attempting to help reduce the number of veteran suicides in our country with the film. I was thanked by veterans as well as parents and spouses of vets and currently active servicemen. The benefit raised a total of $2,500 for the film.
So now we have enough funds to pick up doing interviews again and slowly and methodically putting together more high-quality segments of the documentary.
On another exciting note, I am now in the semifinals of the James Holman Prize competition, and will find out by the end of May if I will make it to the finals. The James Holman award is given to a blind person who is ambitiously creating some meaningful work that shows to all the world the excellent qualities and capabilities of people who happen to be blind. The first prize is $25,000, and if I happen to be so fortunate as to win, then we will be guaranteed enough funds to complete the project. It’s very exciting!
We are still working on securing a band and a venue for a fundraising concert in July. Once contracts are signed, then we will send out a special notice about this upcoming event.
Challenges: We continue to seek a celebrity to support our project as well as a national organization to help us with more visibility and credibility. I am still optimistic, but we could use some help in finding both. Each one of you who reads this newsletter may have a connection that could make the difference in us securing these needed additions. Please pray for our project, but make a few calls as well, if you may know somebody who knows somebody... Any effort you make will be appreciated greatly, whether successful or not. I want to thank you, in advance, for making the attempt.
My frustration with reaching out in vain to senators has taken a creative turn. I have now decided to work toward completing the film first, and then send copies of the documentary to a few senators. Once they see the completed version, they may feel more inclined to be involved in the film. When we send them the final version, we will also let them know that we can fit in one or two minutes of them if they would like to align with the project. Let’s be patient and see how this strategy works.
The immediate future: We have three important interviews lined up in the next couple of months. Once we film the interviews we will be done with the interview process. Between now and then we will continue to clean up specific segments of the documentary and hopefully piece them together in a way that keeps viewers engaged throughout the movie. We will be seeking the best quality for the film, but we will never forget our main focus. This documentary is a Disability Liberation issue that has a chance of shifting our culture’s perception of disability, as well as helping to reduce the number of veteran suicides across the nation. Those are our goals.
Thanks for being part of our growing team, whether you have helped us with donations, come to our fundraising events, forwarded our newsletters to others, followed our newsletters and Facebook posts, or have just been wishing us well. Your positive energy makes a big difference. I greatly appreciate your support.
Wishing you all a peaceful and enriching Spring. Until our Summer newsletter...
NEWSLETTER #5 - JANUARY 19, 2017
Dear Donors and Friends,
Welcome to our 5th newsletter. The world is constantly changing, as we are, and everything is a little different today, then just a few months ago, when we last sent out the latest newsletter about the Why Can't We Serve documentary.
I'm excited to let you know what has transpired during this time, and have lots of new information to share with you.
I'll begin by letting you know that on December 27 we had a private viewing of a rough cut of the documentary. We invited about twenty close friends and supporters to see the first hour-long version of the doc. As expected and desired, we received priceless feedback about what was great, what was good, and what did not work so well. We also received incredible creative suggestions to help us with improving the flow and potency of the documentary. I am eager to implement many of the suggestions.
The documentary has been called by some, not just a film, but a movement, to honor the debt that we owe to our wounded and disabled soldiers who have paid dearly in service to our country.
I believe we, as a nation, need to face this issue honestly and make the necessary changes, before we can speak with integrity, and say that we stand by our troops and veterans. This film, when it comes out, will help bring to light this issue. My commitment to this project is stronger than ever.
My cinematographer, Mike Nelson, and I worked long hours to have a rough cut ready for viewing by the end of December as we had hoped. In this we were successful. Unfortunately though, my optimistic calculations about when we would be ready to submit the film to film festivals will not be met. I had hoped in April or May we'd be ready for public showings, but that is not going to happen.
There is too much work in front of us in order to meet that deadline. Our desire is to put together the best film we can, and I'd rather back up our plans for public viewing than present a film that I am not totally proud of.
In addition, we have exhausted our finances and we will need to do more fund-raising to get what we need in order to complete the film without cutting corners. Many have told me that this is the normal process for making documentaries.
Honestly, it never feels comfortable to ask for financial support, but I will do whatever I must to move this project toward completion and I count on your continued support to do this. I'd like to thank all of you in advance for any support you wish to offer to further this project.
When donating to the project please go to whycantweserve.com where we are set up with PayPal.
I plan to do some fund-raising in Tallahassee, Florida, in early March, and we have a wonderful fund-raiser set for April 1 in Kingston, New York, hosted by the Kingston Boy Scouts. We are also working on a benefit concert in the Woodstock, NY, area sometime in the spring. And if we find it necessary, we will do a public fund-raising campaign.
A number of film experts have pointed out that the documentary needs to have one or two more potent interviews to help the film make a profound statement. The interviews need to be possibly of a disgruntled disable veteran, or of a spouse or parent of a vet who unfortunately committed suicide. Both would be ideal. Please help us find those interviews. We'd like the disabled veteran to be under the age of forty because we need this film to reach the younger generation as well as those vets and families who were affected in prior years. If you have any ideas, please contact me through the website or by phone at (845) 679-7532.
Challenges that Continue
Our attempts to find a celebrity to help us with visibility and fund-raising have not succeeded as yet, either. However, we did find a wonderful narrator with an excellent voice for the film. We remain hopeful that a celebrity will appear as an angel to help us. Please reach out if you know anybody who might enjoy supporting this kind of project, and whose presence will add strength and credibility to this documentary.
Our efforts to interview Senators Schumer and Gilibrand did not prove fruitful. We now are planning to reach out to Senator Bernie Sanders and congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. Both have been supportive to veterans and may be open to helping. These extra interviews are not crucial, but would bring us more credibility with the public. We are doing our best to reach these folks. Perhaps you may be connected politically and can encourage support from political leaders to help further this project.
Fun and Rewarding News
Finally, I would like you to know that I've been going into the recording studio with a few wonderful local musicians. I'm singing the lead on the song, “A Veteran's Anthem,” which I wrote for the documentary, and it's almost completed. It will be heard at the end of the doc when credits are being shown, along with athletes with disabilities doing some very cool extreme sports as background visuals. I've been blessed to have Amy Fradon, Jim Barbaro, Cathie Malach, and Eric Parker supporting me with their musical prowess. This has also been lots of fun and another eye-opening experience for me. Those who have heard the recording seem to think that it will be a very useful motivational song for veterans.
Signing off for now and wishing all of you a blessed year.
It was a packed house at the Woodstock Community Center on July 16 for the benefit concert in support of the Why Can't We Serve documentary project. A silent auction was also held at the event.
NEWSLETTER #4 - AUGUST 26, 2016
Dear Cherished Donors,
Here’s our 4th newsletter with the latest information about the Why Can’t We Serve project. Things are going very well, but instead of relaxing we now must kick it into another gear.
1. We succeeded in getting 150 signatures on our White House Petitions proposal to allow soldiers, wounded and disabled in combat, to have a chance to remain in the military in noncombat jobs, rather than be forced to leave the military and be sent home with a disability and no future. The White House Petition website now has made public our proposal, which is great. But we only have until September 10 to promote our proposal to the whole nation. So please take the two minutes to sign the petition via this link, and take a few more minutes to share this info on FB, Twitter, and with all your friends. We can’t be successful without your help, but with your help we can move mountains. At the end of this newsletter is the blog we sent out a few days ago. Please check it out.
2. We filmed an interview with U.S. Representative Chris Gibson (R, 19th District, NY) last week and he was very supportive. A few of his comments will help make a great argument for the inclusion of disabled soldiers to remain in the military. We are a little closer to getting a chance to interview New York senators Gillibrand and Schumer. It’s still tentative, but I sure hope they will allow us to film an interview with both of them.
3. Mike Nelson, our wonderful filmmaker, will be going out to the San Francisco area to film interviews with a few important people. Once those interviews are done, we then have only a few more interviews before we can begin the task of putting all the pieces together into a powerful and meaningful documentary. At this point we have no idea about when we might actually complete the film, but it’s getting closer.
4. We have reached out to Gary Sinise, a well known actor (he played Lieutenant Dan in Forrest gump), to be the narrator of the documentary, but at this point we have not heard back from him. We think he’d be a great narrator, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
5. We still need a celebrity on the team to bring more attention to our project, nor do we have a national organization that has stepped up to support us financially or endorse us. This is confusing and obviously frustrating, but we are moving full speed ahead with the making of the documentary regardless. However, it would sure be a big boost to find that celebrity as well as that organization. I personally believe that their lives will go better if and when they find us and are willing to stand tall and proud in support of our efforts. Got any ideas?
Wishing you all a joyful and memorable end of summer.
Marty and the Why Can’t We Serve team
- BLOG ENTRY -
The team at Why Can’t We Serve want to extend warm wishes to all who helped us reach our goal of 150 signatures at the White House Petition website. We did it, and now we are on the national White House Petition proposals list. This is great visibility for our project, and for bringing to the light a desperate need for change in the military. We believe this policy change would help sustain meaning and purpose in many wounded soldiers' lives, as well as helping to decrease the number of veteran suicides, an ongoing tragedy that cannot be ignored.
So today we celebrate the good news, and tomorrow we roll our sleeves up and take the next step on this important path. Please celebrate with us today, and please keep doing your part in helping us make a difference. Here are some things you can do:
1. You can keep talking about the Why Can’t We Serve documentary project.
2. You can share, and forward any and all of our FB and Twitter updates to help us get the word out.
3. You can contact us via our Contact Us page if you want to help with the daily work.
4. You can donate to our project via our Contributions page.
5. You can continue to help us get signatures for the White House Petition proposal. Here’s the link.
6. Or you can reach out and make friends with a veteran.
With Deep Gratitude,
NEWSLETTER #3 - JULY 25, 2016
This is our third newsletter to keep you informed about the latest progress in the making of the Why Can’t We Serve documentary. As of July 25, 2016, we are moving to another level as we've begun public showings of our new six-minute trailer. The trailer consists of clips of interviews we did with three inspiring veterans. Please click on the link and watch the trailer if you haven’t already seen it. Watch the trailer.
The Why Can’t We Serve team organized a very successful benefit concert which took place on Saturday, July 16, in Woodstock NY. The good vibes from the evening were over the top! The music was great and the community came through, helping with setup and breaking things down at the end of the concert. Our fund raising efforts, however, fell short of our wishes for the event, but the ripple effect of the positive energy generated has been wonderful and continues to bring in contributions.
Next Steps. We have tentative plans to interview Congressman Chris Gibson in August and we are planning to secure a few interviews with other congressmen and senators, possibly with a trip to Washington, D.C.
When taking on a creative endeavor we must be flexible enough to flow with where the creative energy takes us. This is somewhat challenging to me because it means that my initial vision must change, and hopefully for the better. The change we are making now has to do with the understanding that we cannot cover, in depth, all of what I had hoped for in this documentary. So, instead of focusing on all people with disabilities, we are now going to focus specifically on soldiers who are wounded in combat and other disabled veterans. If our film helps the military shift its policy toward inclusion of disabled soldiers, then all people with disabilities will eventually reap the rewards from this positive change. However, I still plan to make it clear in the documentary that all people with disabilities have the ability and enthusiasm to participate responsibly in the military in noncombat jobs.
Needs. We are still seeking one or two celebrities to visibly support the project as well as one or two national organizations to endorse us. I have no doubt they will appear, but sooner would be better than later. The celebrities will help us raise the funds we need to complete the documentary. The organizations will give us national visibility and credibility. Any help toward securing these would be greatly appreciated. Please forward this newsletter to anybody whom you think would be interested. Donations are being accepted through Pay Pal on our website, www.whycantweserve.com.
In closing this newsletter, I’d like to let all of you know how grateful I feel as I work toward the completion of this documentary. The work has moved my life forward in many wonderful ways. I am happy and focused on the task at hand. I have meaningful work that I strongly believe can and will make a difference in the lives of Veterans and all people with disabilities. It doesn’t get much better than that!
And lastly, if you click the link below you will go to a song that I sang with two amazing singers, Amy Fradon and Leslie Ritter, as the encore song at the concert. Watch and listen to Marty, Amy, and Leslie.
Blessings, Love and Light,
NEWSLETTER #2 - APRIL 27, 2016
Dear Donors and Friends,
First of all, I want you to know that I have a wonderful and hard working person to be the associate producer of the documentary. Her name is Rosary Solimento, and she brings to the team a knowledge of film, an artistic eye, and an enthusiasm for the project. She’s a great addition and I’m very happy to have her support and expertise.
Last week, I had an important meeting with U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, congressman for the 19th district in New York. I initially contacted his office in November and, after being put off a number of times, finally met with him. Perseverance is important in the pursuit of any dream. The meeting started off slowly, but ended on a very positive note. Congressman Gibson, a veteran of 29 years, agreed to be interviewed for the documentary. He also agreed to pass on information about the planned Why Can’t We Serve documentary to U.S. senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer from New York. I’d love the opportunity to interview them. In addition, Congressman Gibson gave me a few leads to wounded soldiers still serving in the military. They could turn out to be very important interviews.
Every soldier who has been wounded in combat, and who is still in the military and serving responsibly, is clear proof that there should be a broad policy to allow wounded soldiers with disabilities to have the chance at careers in noncombat roles. At this time, there is no policy. Permission is only given to a few select wounded soldiers to remain in the military on a case-by-case basis.
Not all has gone as planned. We had a couple of temporary setbacks. Setbacks give us the opportunity to reset and move forward and continue our pursuit. I initially thought I would get the chance to speak at the National Federation of the Blind’s annual convention in Orlando, Florida, this coming July. But, at this point, that is very much in doubt. It’s still possible, but a few things have to fall into place to bring that to fruition.
Also our search to interview loved ones of a veteran who committed suicide has not happened at the time of this writing. This, if secured, will be an important interview for the doc, but clearly is a very sensitive subject. However, I have been informed that there are people who would like the chance to share their story, especially if it helps prevent suicides of vets in the future. So, please contact me if you know of anybody who might want to help with such a moving story.
The Why Can’t We Serve team just hired another filmmaker to work with us in the New York area. I am excited to work with Michael Nelson because he understands the issue of disability liberation as well as being a very creative and excellent filmmaker.
We are working on the plans for two benefit concerts, one in July and one in October, to help with the growing expenses and offer some wonderful entertainment and a silent auction loaded with items for every taste. The plan is to have a three-minute trailer for the documentary to show at one or both of the concerts. I will send out more information about the concerts in our next newsletter.
This project is alive because of your support through donations and encouragement. Your donations and enthusiasm make this project possible. Your best wishes mean so much for our continued success. Please pass this on to others who may be interested in following our progress, or donating to this project. Check out www.whycantweserve.com to donate, as well as to stay informed of the latest.
Former Leon County (FL) commissioner Cliff Thael, left, chats with Marty Klein, right, and videographer Kenneth Jones of Jvision Pictures during the documentary's first interview taping in Tallahassee, FL, on Feb. 20, 2016.
NEWSLETTER #1 - FEB. 23, 2016
Dear cherished donors,
First of all, I want to thank all of you for understanding the importance of this project, and being willing to contribute financially to the making of the documentary. Our fund raising efforts will continue, through the www.whycantweserve.com web site, since the costs involved with filming and editing are bound to mount up as we move forward. However, thanks to all of you, I am delighted to tell you that I have been making good connections here in Tallahassee, and that we have successfully completed our first day of filming. Here are some of the details.
During my stay in Tallahassee I had two meaningful conversations, one with a retired Marine Corps general and one with the director of the Student Veterans Center at Florida State University. After hearing my intentions for the project, they both were supportive, and offered me valuable information for me to pursue. I also had a phone conversation with a retired Air Force lawyer in the Orlando area, who I plan to interview for the documentary in the near future. Each time I talk about my plans to someone, it appears that another door opens. It’s very rewarding to me personally, and affirming to the project.
I presented at the Tallahassee Council of the Blind two weeks ago, and was delighted and humbled when they voted to support the project with a very nice donation. In addition, they were interested and encouraging, offering me a number of good ideas to pursue. I am working toward getting a chance to speak about the documentary project at the Florida council's annual state convention.
This past Saturday we filmed interviews with five unique individuals, who all are wishing success for the project. They are a retired, but still very active, Leon County commissioner, a well respected nutritionist, a physical therapist, and two visually impaired men who work at the Florida Division of Blind Services. The interviews came out beautifully, although there now will be much scrutinizing and editing to find the most crucial points to share in the documentary from each interview.
I will be sending out, from time to time, updates about the project, to keep all of you informed about the latest. These newsletters will subsequently be added to a special page on our web site for all to read.
I will be back in Woodstock, New York, in early April and plan to set up more interviews for the doc, along with a number of speaking engagements. Please keep me and this project in mind, if you come across an organization or group that could help in any way.
With delight and enthusiasm,