Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Foster Care System for Maine Film

Victoria Rowell was born in May of 1959 as a ward of the State of Maine. Her unmarried, aristocratic and mentally ill mother was incapable of taking care of her and her unknown black father was simply not around. This beginning, in and of itself, has been the demise of many children born into the system of state appointed care.

For Vickie it was actually the first of a series of events that on the surface seemed tragic and in the end proved to be lucky turning points that would ultimately converge to enrich her life in a way that very few of us are fortunate to experience.

Today at 48, Victoria Rowell is an award winning actress and author who credits the deep love and commitment of the foster women who raised her for building her self-esteem, so that she could not only tolerate her foster care life, but revel in it and excel because of it.

As I spoke with Victoria in November of 2007 it was clear that, even over the phone, I was talking to a passionate, intelligent woman with great focus that has a deep drive to tell her life story so that other children in the same situation can dream and believe in themselves.

The promotional tour for her award winning book “The Women Who Raised Me” has kept her on the road for almost 200 days since the book’s release in April of 2007. The results have been amazing as over 100,000 copies have been sold. “The Women Who Raised Me” is also published in Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Austria and a paperback version set for release in the spring of 2008 guarantee that her inspirational story will be told again and again around the globe.

Home Box Office is currently considering the book to option the movie rights.

Sounds like this would be a great movie to shoot in Maine, hire Maine people and tell a wonderful Maine story. Unfortunately, as much as Victoria would love to see that happen, she will have little control over where the film is shot. If HBO chooses to option the story they will have complete control over where the film is shot and the construction of the story.

Because Maine can be replicated through movie magic in states that have passed deeper incentives, even Victoria’s drive and passion to have the potential film shot in Maine will have a limited impact.

When Victoria was born a group of concerned citizens came together over the course of her life to advocate for her. Today there is a group of Maine citizens advocating for the film industry in Maine and ultimately for Victoria and her story. They are negotiating for additional film incentives so that we can ensure that beautiful, empowering stories like “The Women Who Raised Me” can be filmed over and over again in Maine, employing Maine citizens in well paying jobs and branding Maine as the wonderful place that it is to live and raise a family.

I would challenge you to purchase of copy of “The Women Who Raised Me”, read it and ask yourself if this story embodies the independent and supportive spirit of Maine people. Then think about what a tragedy it would be if the film version is shot in another state. Hopefully, this process will prompt you to call or write your state senator and legislator encouraging them to vote for additional film incentives.

If we all chip in we can accomplish the same thing that Victoria Rowell’s foster parents accomplished with their love and devotion to Victoria.

We can all become the foster parents of film in Maine and help to build the self- esteem and economic stability of every citizen in Maine.

1 comment:

Karen True said...

What an amazingly well written, well constructed piece. It certainly emphasizes some of the many difficulties which plague Maine. I have a passion for film in Maine as well as a passion for children in the foster care system. Having a spouse who works for a non profit agency, who has spent many years trying to salvage the lives of children placed in foster care, I have become aware of the losses these children experience and their need for change within the system. Not only do they lack the comfort of a biological family, they lack introduction to the arts, to cultural opportunities which are open to them if they only knew how to access them and had the encouragement and support to find the road to success as Victoria Rowell has. No matter how hard an agency or foster family tries, foster children are most often the underdog. Not everyone succeeds as Victoria Rowell has. She is aware of this and is sensitive to it; thus, her continued efforts to bring the arts to foster children everywhere, especially Maine . It is encouraging that a child of the foster care system has had the success of Victoria Rowell. The timing of this post, also coincides with Maine as an underdog in the film industry. The leaders, of the State of Maine, appear unaware of the many opportunities which lie ahead. They should see filmmaking as a viable option to promote the states tourism industry, to offer jobs for everyone from blue collar to white collar professions. The jobs are endless, as shooting a film requires every type of person to make a successful movie, not to leave out the job openings for Maine's already well represented professional film crew. If we open the doors for filmmakers, by offering incentives and tax credits, making Maine a serious contender for productions to shoot here, we will, at the same time, open doors for children in our foster care system. The open doors may provide us with the next great actor, producer or director. Tax credits and incentives can be the foster parents of Maine's Film Industry. The guiding force for success, the same kind of success Victoria Rowell has enjoyed as a working actor and child of Maine's foster system. The people of Maine deserve this chance to drive down taxes, bring new, exciting jobs to the communities of Maine and offer Maine's children a chance to find career opportunities right in their own backyard. Keep our children in Maine, find a way to bring tax credits and incentives to life for the sake of Maine's future.