It was Sunday morning and I just got done having a 10am dance party for the last day of The Passion Company’s Start Conference. Feeling a little sweaty and awkward, I wasn’t sure what I was in store for. Kevin Gordon was invited up on stage during the Passion Projects Awards Ceremony and serendipitously spoke about his documentary film project that follows people who work regular day jobs and do some really interesting things at night that make them come alive, joyful, carefree… Now this, this was appealing to me. I was in the middle of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic. Not the woo woo book on quitting your day job to become an artist but a little more grounded. I had just posted this paraphrase of her words the day before the event on my social feeds.
Work hard so creativity can work lightly, take the pressure off yourself by getting a paying job so you can be a patron to your creativity. Holding creativity to such a harsh ultimatum of forcing it to make you a living suffocates it. This is a world artists….not a womb. -Elizabeth Gilbert
Kevin’s documentary, Shine On, is about passion and creativity but not the kind that says you must force it to earn you money. There is such delight when you watch this series because what you watch is pure and unadulterated pleasure. In a time when many are striving to be uber special, strike it rich or turn everything into some form of productivity project, pursuing pleasure is not just refreshing but even a little subversive. So I shyly stalked Kevin as he was getting his pancakes and told him I was a fan and now he is being interviewed here on Psyched Magazine. “Thanks Kevin” she says shyly. I hope you read on but more importantly got 5 bucks or big bucks? Be a little subversive with your money and help this guy fund this series.
Traci Ruble: Kevin first off, educate us all on how you personally landed in film making and what is it about this medium of film and specifically documentary film that moves so many people?
Kevin Gordon: Since age eight when I got my first toy camera, I have been an avid photographer and explorer, trying to find the extraordinary in the everyday. Still my first professional calling was to public interest law and I spent four years working as a human rights and criminal defense investigator before I became disillusioned with the law and returned to my love of the image and specifically documentary filmmaking as another tool for social change. Viewers connect to the authenticity and unexpectedness of documentary film in a way that is different from fiction films. I deeply believe that real stories have a unique power to produce cultural change by building empathy and solidarity across societal divides.
TR: You have had success in your career at Sub64films. What is Shine On, how is it different than your commercial success and what does this project mean for you, personally?
KG: Shine On is an inspirational short film series about the unexpected side passions that people live for. Amateur Race Car Drivers, Roller Derby Athletes, Underground Hip Hop Dancers. By day, they are your co-workers and servers. By night, they are rock stars in their own domain. And we have something to learn from them. The goal of the series is to inspire more people to pursue their passions. We pitched the series around but were told that there wasn’t large enough an audience for inspirational programming about ordinary people and that to make it work we would have to pack it with celebrities which is antithetical to the whole project. For some reason, I couldn’t let the project die. These stories resonate with me personally because I have a long backlog of side passions unfulfilled and waiting to be pursued and I know many others feel the same way. Research has shown that passions like these are major contributors to long lasting happiness and in turn energize every aspect of our lives. This series is now a movement to inspire people to live richer, more engaged lives and I am embracing that mission.
TR: You are trying to raise money to carry on the Shine On series. Right now on Kickstarter you have raised almost half your goal. When you reach your goal how many more episodes can we expect and where will we be able to find them?
KG: We are raising funds for the first three-episode mini-season. We have shot most of the first episode and just a teaser for the second so we still have a lot of work to do. Where it ends up is still too early to say. We are hoping to leverage the success of the first three episodes and the attention they generate into a longer run on a digital platform so that we can get the message out to an ever larger audience.
TR: I can imagine watching Shine On with my husband and two sons and really digging the stories on so many levels. What do you hope the impact will be on viewers and how might Shine On change the world in its own unique way?
KG: I hope the series opens people’s minds to the possible uses of their free time and inspires them to dig their old passions out of their closets or pick up new ones. Research has shown that active leisure, as opposed to passive leisure, recharges our body, mind, and creativity, making us better friends, parents, co-workers, bosses, and citizens and in some cases taking us places we never expected.
TR: What can we do to support Shine On to go bigger?
KG: If you are moved by the project, consider becoming a backer today and join us on this journey. There are cool rewards, behind the scenes access, and the knowledge that your support will help inspire others to pursue their passions. Otherwise help spread the word on social media! Post. Tweet. Emails to friends.
Kevin is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has screened films at festivals across the world and produced projects for PBS, Discovery, and The New York Times. His first feature-length film TRUE SON, about a 21-year old kid from the streets trying to save his home town, premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and was acquired by Fusion TV. Kevin received his MFA in Documentary Film and Video at Stanford University.