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Directors' Statement
Composer's Statement
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Full Movie

Directors’ Statement

This short documentary is a compelling story of hope and courage. Following the archetypal “hero’s journey,” this film takes the audience down the universal path of the fight to stay alive and to rise above challenges through the eyes of a survivor of a brutal rape that resulted in her testing positive for HIV-AIDS. When we began pitching ideas for our short film we discovered, quite by accident, something called “HIV fatigue.” Although HIV fatigue is not part of our story, it was an important social factor that helped shape and guide our documentary. People hear “HIV” and immediately turn away. As one industry professional said, “Stories about HIV-AIDS” are not interesting anymore. I did one back in 1988. It’s passé.”

There is nothing passé about the HIV-AIDS epidemic. People live with it and die from it every day. We decided we needed to do a story about HIV-AIDS that took a different approach; one that overcame the stereotypes of the disease. We wanted to tell a story that would cause people to open their hearts and understand the interpersonal story of hope rather than a statistical projection of doom and gloom. We used some of hope’s “audacity” to break the gridlock of HIV fatigue. In doing so, we believe we have tapped into something much greater than the collective cynicism of HIV fatigue. Instead, we tapped into the collective subconscious desire to know real-life heroes, heroes that make us feel good about our neighbors, our world, and ourselves.

We promote this movie as a story of hope, not simply an HIV-AIDS story. Focusing on an individual’s hope and joy in life brings a new perspective to an otherwise “dead” issue because the protagonist of our movie, HIV-AIDS, is, tragically, alive and well. Consider just this one statistic: 5% of our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., is HIV-positive. That is a staggering number and it is growing. The vast majority of new cases are straight men and women with the highest risk groups being heterosexual boys and girls between the ages of 18 and 23 and heterosexual women over age 40. HIV-AIDS is more than a disease, it is also a stigma. Rise n’ Shine - A Hero’s Journey helps dispel the unwarranted myths about HIV-AIDS by conveying a message of hope and compassion. This new perspective will overcome HIV fatigue and bring the topic back to the forefront.

The filmmakers, Timothy B. McCormack and Rohit Agarwal, both have full-time careers outside the movie industry: one is a lawyer and the other is a software engineer. The two met while taking film classes at the University of Washington. Mr. McCormack is from Seattle, Washington and Mr. Agarwal is from India. Mr. Agrawal from India brings an interesting international view to the topic. Rise n’ Shine - A Hero’s Journey was born out of a mutual desire to make movies that bring the hidden perspective to light, to tell stories that might not otherwise be told.

Composer’s Statement

The musical score A Song of Hope, was composed and performed by Graig Markel, an accomplished musician and composer located in Seattle, Washington, for the short documentary film, Rise n’ Shine – A Hero’s Journey. “When I heard about this project, I knew right away that I had to do the music!” exclaimed Mr. Markel. Mr. Markel faced a big challenge in composing the score because the film is about hope and inspiration but is also rooted in sad and disturbing events. Mr. Markel wanted the music to complement both the inspirational message of hope and the truth of the difficult journey that made it possible.

Mr. Markel rose to the challenge by creating a score that not only understands the hero’s early sadness, but develops that same melody into an uplifting song of hope. Using high note melodies and simple rhythms, Mr. Markel brings the underlying emotions to the hearts and minds of the audience. Mr. Markel’s original composition mirrors the heroes’ lasting strength and eventual triumph over their struggles. As Mr. Markel explains, “I was inspired by the heroes of this movie. More than anything they helped me to write music for the more difficult and emotional passages.” Mr. Markel also used instruments with various tonalities, such as the piano, the flute, the oboe, and the guitar, to represent different characters and situations throughout the film. These instruments combine to create a "call and response" with the ambient textured sounds in the piece. Mr. Markel’s layered and emotional original score is in harmony with the story itself.

Rise n’ Shine - A Hero’s Journey, an inspiring short documentary with an original musical score, is a rare level of documentary storytelling that touches the deeper parts of the human psyche. A rare find, indeed.

Production Notes

"Truancy-Officer-Filmmaker joins end-of-day food fight with kids."

A true work of passion, Rise n’ Shine - A Hero’s Journey was filmed on evenings and weekends and was completely self-funded. The filmmakers had complete creative control, well as much control as you can have over a gang of underage real life talent.

Since the main hero of the story, Ralina Miller, was often physically ill, shooting schedules had to be quite flexible. One day of filming is remembered as a perfect example of the difficulties faced by cast and crew.

One day early in filming, the faithful filmmakers, Tim and Rohit, had planned everything perfectly, from child and teen supervision to talent management of a toddler, pre-teen, and teen. Aside from being the directors, producers, cinematographers, lighting experts, and grips, Tim and Rohit were also the child-psychologists, teachers, surrogate-parents, and truancy officers for their mixed bunch. Although they did not get paid for this self- financed project, they earned their money that day chasing the children on set, coaching them on their lines, and making sure their homework still got done.

Exhausted and hungry, now chefs Tim and Rohit ordered pizza, without realizing what would happen next. Before dinner was over a pizza food-fight ensued! No one was sure who started it, but it was a fitting end to a hard day of filming. Covered in sauce and pepperoni, no anchovies please, Tim and Rohit loaded the equipment back into the van to the echoing sounds of laughter from the children, cast, and crew inside. As you can imagine, some of the better footage of the film was shot that day. In a word, it was unforgettable.