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by Sara Flatow
My name is Sara Flatow and I grew up in Orlando, FL. I went to public schools in both Orange and Seminole Counties from K-12. I was always involved in music but I became a “band kid” during my time in Seminole County Schools (Teague and Rock Lake Middle Schools and Lake Brantley and Lake Mary High Schools) and at the University of Florida during the 1980s.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. I have had the good fortunate to work with on high profile talent on high quality projects for all of the major studios. I am a producer and have worked in many different genres. I currently create the DVD special features for Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. I most recently did the same for Desperate Housewives, Private Practice and Devious Maids.
About 5 years ago, I was looking to direct and produce a film; something that would really soothe my soul! I was looking at various topics, but nothing really clicked for me until I came back to Orlando unexpectedly in January of 2011. I went out to dinner one night and ran into my high school band director Terry Pattishall and Cindy Berry. After a nice discussion with them, I went home and looked up the Lake Brantley band on YouTube. Wow! I was completely blown away. I had been in the Lake Brantley band, pre-Cindy Berry, in 1980-81. We were a small, tight-nit group full of Patriot pride but we were nowhere even close to what I was seeing on my computer screen. I was blown away (though not surprised) with what Cindy had done with the program. Right then and there, I had the idea of making a film that would feature this incredible band.
I started to think about the story I wanted to tell. I went through a long creative process and one factor that kept coming up for me was that every time I have ever seen a band in a film or on television, they were terrible. Granted there are “terrible” bands out there but there are also some pretty amazing ones. I want to honor the incredible and hardworking bands that I see and show something that more closely resembles my own band experience.
I came back to Orlando during the summer of 2011 and started meeting the other band directors in the area and seeing their bands. As I started speaking to them, two things really impressed me. Their top priorities were to 1. the students and 2. the music. Making sure the kids have a good high school experience (the opportunity to be in band but not to the exclusion of other activities) and honoring the music were what mattered most. The other thing I noticed was how tight all of the band directors were with each other. The camaraderie among them was like nothing I had ever seen before, certainly not in my industry. I thought this was so cool but then when I got to see all of these bands perform in the following months, I really got how the directors working so closely together was key to all of their bands’ success.
The course of the project changed dramatically and came to a grinding halt, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2012. As I went through it, I became clearer and clearer about what band had done for me personally and how it had impacted my life as well as many other of my band friends’ lives. I always knew that my music education background enabled me to have great success in my career. But, to understand that the basic fundamentals of my music education is really what got me through this life challenge was a profound revelation to me. All the skills and advantages I attained through band – breathing, a loving community, the interconnection of left brain and right brain function, leadership – these are really what got me through this crisis. As I started to heal enough to think about the film again, these were the ideas that really excited me.
In Marching Beyond Halftime, we want to show how, whatever course your life takes, these fundamental skills that are learned in band (and music education) will impact students for the rest of their lives and that there really is no other academic subject that has that big of an impact.
Marching Beyond Halftime is a grassroots effort. We have a small team of band alumni, parents and educators who are working together to spread the word and get things done. Last summer, one of my colleagues in Hollywood lent me a camera and Executive Producer McGuire Brannon (Lake Mary High School Class of 2006) and I spent band camp shooting footage of the Lake Brantley High School band. We also interviewed music educators, students, parents and even a neurologist, who spoke about the profound benefits of music education to brain development.
We did our first successful fundraising campaign through the crowdsourcing website Indiegogo which enabled us to go back and do several multi-camera shoots with the Lake Brantley band, the Bear Lake Elementary School music programs with their director Dr. Artie Almeida as well as more interviews with other band directors, alumni, students, parents, administrators and school board members.
We are now in the midst of raising more money through individuals as well as attaining corporate sponsors so we can continue with our production plan. Our hope is to showcase other bands in addition to Lake Brantley at the middle school, high school and college levels. We would also like to feature prominent alumni and show how band impacted their lives and informed their careers.
Our plan is to continue filming throughout 2015 and then edit and aim for a release date in early 2017. Our goal is that we make a film will be enjoyable, inspiring and eye-opening for people in the band world as well as the general public. We plan to send copies of the film to members of congress and want to make it available for policymakers who directly affect the budgets and curriculums in music education. It’s time they see what band and music education really is and how important it is to students’ development.
Sara Flatow and Marching Beyond Halftime were our guests during the August 2015 Webinar. Please watch and share this video in your networks.
For more information and/or to contribute to the film, please visit our website at www.marchingbeyondhalftime.com