Posts tagged Corra Films
Landmark Documentary “Same Sex America” From Renowned Non-Fiction Filmmaker Henry Corra Re-Released on Hulu via SHOWTIME®

The award-winning documentary “Same Sex America” from renowned filmmaker Henry Corra has been re-released this summer and is currently streaming on Hulu via SHOWTIME®. The film, originally aired on Showtime in 2005, captures a watershed moment in LGBTQ civil rights history through the eyes of seven gay couples trying to be among the first in the U.S. to legally marry. The film was nominated for the prestigious GLADD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary. In the midst of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and Pride celebrations around the globe this summer, the re-release of “Same Sex America” is incredibly timely. Massachusetts was the first U.S. state to sanction same sex marriages. “It was about human rights then and it’s about human rights now,” says Corra.

To stream the film “Same Sex America,” go to SHOWTIME®: https://www.sho.com/titles/123469/same-sex-america

The idea for the film originated in late 2003 when Corra read the news that the Massachusetts State Supreme Court mandated that same sex marriage licenses would be issued as of May 17, 2004. “It was a big constitutional moment and a heated political battle had erupted. All eyes were on Massachusetts. I knew that the next six months would be fraught with political and personal drama,” explains the Director. “Events were unfolding so fast when we approached Robert Greenblatt, then head of Showtime. He green-lit the project immediately, and we hit the road for the Boston Statehouse. The rest is history.”

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Corra says he wanted to make an intimate film that took the viewer up close and personal against the looming political backdrop of the struggle. “By the end of the story,” Corra adds, “you are so involved with the couples and their families and this explosion of weddings that you just fall in love with these people who love each other and just want to be married and have families. It’s an ecstatic moment for all.”

Audrey Roth, a former attorney and one of the film’s main subjects, was filmed with her then-partner Robin and their daughter Phoebe, and understands the relevancy of their story today. “We find ourselves once again at a pivotal moment in civil rights in the United States, wondering whether or not our rights will be overturned,” she points out. “Our daughter is 19 now, and she is in the streets marching with her friends.”

For Audrey, collaborating with Director Henry Corra on this film was a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. “Henry came into our home and filmed us, but it was just like talking to a friend,” she recalls. “He was so easy with his questions and what he was filming, that we didn’t even notice the camera was there most of the time.”

In addition to celebrating the re-release of “Same Sex America” this summer, filmmaker Henry Corra – best known for his unique brand of nonfiction “Living Cinema” – is currently working on yet another compelling new documentary project, “Unlocked,” which is somewhat of a follow-up to his HBO film George, made with and about his own autistic son. With “Unlocked,” Corra attempts to reach the supposedly unreachable, a group of severe autistics who are learning to speak their first words and connecting to the world in a way no one around them thought possible. “Unlocked” is a film about the journey of walking out of a prison into the bright sunlight.

“Unlocked” is mid-way through production with plans for a 2020 release. Corra and his production company Corra Films, based in New York, have also recently collaborated with long-term client Mercedes on an MBUSA campaign (“Greatness Lives Here”), and are now working on a Street Smarts PSA campaign with METRO and the DC Department of Transportation.

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World-Renowned Filmmaker Henry Corra, Creator of “Living Cinema,” Reaches the Unreachable with New Documentary Project “Unlocked”

World-renowned Filmmaker Henry Corra of Corra Films, best known for his unique brand of nonfiction “Living Cinema,” is currently working on an incredibly compelling new documentary project entitled Unlocked. In and around St. Augustine, Florida, teenagers and young adults are connecting to the world in a way no one around them thought possible, including their parents and families. A group of severe autistics are speaking their first words. They have lived their entire lives in a kind of exile, unable to translate thoughts into speech. “Unlocked” is a film about the journey of walking out of this prison into the bright sunlight.

Henry Corra

Henry Corra

With Unlocked, Director Henry Corra attempts to reach the supposedly unreachable with his unique brand of nonfiction filmmaking. Somewhat of a follow-up to his HBO film George, made with and about his own autistic son, Corra believes his true ability is “to connect with people – any kind of person – on film.”

For Corra, Unlocked is as much a laboratory as a film. “With our way of working, our methodology and philosophy, we’ve created an aesthetic platform that promotes empathy for our characters, and a way to take them seriously on their own terms,” he explains. “These young people have a lot to say, and we’re helping them to use film language to say it. Hopefully, with the debut of this film next year, they will be heard.”

For years, it was conventional wisdom that the form of autism the film’s subjects suffer from precluded all forms of communication. Doctors and caregivers assumed the idea of communication – of forming complex thoughts and making them known to others – was an impossibility. The families of the people documented in “Unlocked” have discovered that although these young people cannot speak coherently, what they can do is type. Sitting at a keyboard, their thoughts come pouring out, a lifetime of previously unheard utterances forming a deluge. The results are staggering.

As Lanier, one of the major characters in the film, put it in her first typed message: “I am here. I have always been in here. I have been jailed my entire life. Thank you for freeing my voice.”

Lanier

Lanier

Lanier’s mother Leslie Weed, a focus of the film and one of the Executive Producers currently raising finishing funds, says: “For 16 years, I talked to my daughter like she was a four-year-old.” Lanier had been diagnosed with autism when she was 18 months old. Soon after, doctors concluded that Lanier was severely mentally impaired. Leslie admits that when she first learned about this technique, she was highly skeptical. But the results literally spoke for themselves. “My God, I realized, she’s been trapped in there her entire life,” recollects Leslie.

Meeting Corra through mutual friends was another unbelievable moment, notes Weed. “I had heard of Henry for years, but when I met him and he listened to our story, he said this needed to be a film. At first, I didn’t really know what that meant or entailed. But we all trusted that Henry, because of his own experience with his son George, really understood what we were experiencing. We all trusted him to tell our children’s stories.” Unlocked chronicles the experiences of the Weeds and several other families, interweaving their stories.

Corra’s energy proved to be a perfect match for the young subjects of the film, who are just beginning to forge their way into adulthood. No matter who he’s filming, from CEOs to teenagers, he says he gives the same effort and passion to finding true, honest moments, which leads subjects to let their guards down even further. “There are no mistakes when we’re filming,” notes Corra. “Everyone can truly be themselves.”

Unlocked is more than a film, it is a meditation on the nature of belief and the primal desire of all of us to connect and communicate with others. As a Director, Corra is always embedding underlying messages about what he’s doing. There are times when he almost pushes it to the limit, a kind of pressure-cooker creativity in its pace and timbre. It has its own particular sense of humor, as well. 

Henry Corra (left), behind the scenes on  Unlocked.

Henry Corra (left), behind the scenes on Unlocked.

As part of his Living Cinema approach, Corra eschews the “verité” approach favored by traditional documentaries, instead collaborating with his subjects so everyone plays an active role in deciding how the film will unfold. One way that this unique improvisational approach worked out on Unlocked was that the filmmakers faced an unusual challenge – the subjects couldn’t travel more than a mile or so from their usual schedule without risking a meltdown, and there were no traditional places to film in that radius. What to do?

Corra and his team embraced a striking visual vocabulary, building a fully functional studio right in the bonus room of the group home that the subjects lived in. This black-box approach eliminates sensory overload for the film’s subjects – “a connection space,” as Corra calls it – in which the characters type their thoughts. As they do, the words scroll in large type across screens suspended in front of them, a subtle amplification of their voices. “What it boils down to is a desire to try and find a deep connection with another human being, the difficulties of that, sometimes the impossibilities of it. And yet, it can happen,” says Corra.

Unlocked is currently in its final production phase, and will be entering postproduction this spring 2019, with plans for a debut of the film in 2020.

In addition to working on Unlocked, 2018 was a particularly busy year for Corra and his production company Corra Films, based in New York. The Corra Films team completed two PSA campaigns for NYC Department of Health, entitled “Smoking = Suffering” and “Living Proof,” as well as an Enbrel commercial featuring Phil Mickelson. Corra collaborated closely with long-term client Mercedes on an MBUSA campaign “Tech Squad,” and shot and posted the “Every Ounce Counts” breastfeeding awareness campaign for Texas WIC. 2019 has proven no less busy with a reboot of their fundraising film for the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund (in post-production now).

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Director Henry Corra & the Corra Films Team Continue Inspirational Collaboration with Mercedes-Benz USA with New Campaign “We Play To Win”
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World-renowned filmmaker Henry Corra, best known for his unique brand of non-fiction known as “living cinema,” has led his creative team at Corra Films to orchestrate an incredibly motivational, branded content campaign for Mercedes-Benz USA, entitled “We Play to Win.” For the global automaker, Corra and his production team traveled the country to interview some of the greatest visionaries and leaders of our time about the key to their success. Featuring interviews with a diversity of experts including MBUSA’s new President & CEO Dietmar Exler, University of Alabama Football’s Nick Saban, Emory University Dean Erika James, and Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian, the extensive series of 13 short films are being unveiled online monthly, designed to motivate the Mercedes-Benz USA team to be the best they can be.

To view the new Mercedes “We Play to Win” campaign: http://tinyurl.com/y8w2kdqu

“The campaign exhibits a great openness and curiosity on the part of the world’s greatest carmaker,” says Corra. “It’s been a dream collaboration between brand, agency and filmmaker with a trust and fluidity like no other I’ve experienced and it shows in the work I think.”

Corra and the Corra Films team have been collaborating with Mercedes and ad agency Merkley + Partners for almost a decade on a wide range of projects, including 2009’s iconic campaign “Impact” (https://vimeo.com/26974503). At the completion of the latest “We Play To Win” project, then Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon said: “Corra’s work is the emotional crescendo of our brand.”

“We were so thrilled to hear that from our client at Mercedes, since we really hold them up as one of the highest achieving brands in the world, always reaching for the best in terms of quality and results,” notes Corra. “This relationship and collaboration with Mercedes is so exciting. They pretty much invite us into a myriad of projects and it’s like an ongoing journey that tells different aspects of the big Mercedes story – just like our non-fiction feature films.”

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