Sunday, June 29, 2008

More Messages about Dads From Hollywood

The obvious perspective on how the media treats dads is that fathers tend to be portrayed as bunglers or incompetent in their roles. However, what I keep coming upon, which is perhaps even more unhelpful are the stories told about absentee dads being redeemed by (typically) their grown sons. It's a message that keeps popping up again and again.

This entry was sparked by my last night viewing of Wanted in which a son must learn to become an assassin in order to avenge the death of his absentee father, who, unbeknownst to him, was one of the world's deadliest assassins. Sounds kind of like Luke and his dad, doesn't it? Or then there the last two Indiana Jones films. Or the last Die Hard film (okay, it was a daughter in that one.) A son must redeem his absentee father by becoming, in a sense, just like him.

I have to admit to you that I'm one of the biggest geeks when it comes to Star Wars and Indiana Jones, by the way. There's nothing wrong with the message that it's never too late to reconnect with one's kids. I do see the value in this storyline. However, the problem is that more often than not, this is approach so many of Hollywood's stories are taking.

The way I see it, the subtle message here is that it's okay to be an absentee father while one's kid is young because later on, when everyone's older, you can get back in touch, so don't worry about how you don't have time for your kids now.

I suppose the other reason I'm annoyed by this is the experience of recently filming a father who had been heavily into the '70's New York scene of sex, drugs and rock and roll and who found salvation in becoming an involved dad. It's incredibly moving to be interviewing this dad and his family. Literally, fatherhood saved this guy's life. I suppose it might not be as sexy as learning that one's absentee dad was an assassin but let me tell you, listening to this dad talking about his experience will bring tears to your eyes - at least that's what it did for me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why We Film

From the start the goal of making this film has been to affect change by educating and inspiring more dads to get involved with their kids. Promoting this idea while the film takes its snail-paced time to get made is something that's always on the back of my mind. Frankly, that's why I put out the teaser trailer (at least) two years before film is completed.

I've received numerous compliments on the trailer but one in particular I felt should be shared:

Yesterday, I was contacted by a teacher in Colorado who runs a course promoting fatherhood for convicts who are about to be released. She asked to be able to share the trailer in the class for this reason:

"The fathers really could benefit from watching the “stay at home Dad” in your film. They are pretty hard core and need to see that men can be nurturing to their children."

It's reassuring to know that, with only a few minutes of cut footage, some difference can be made. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Hidden Crisis of America

Thank God we hold Father's Day once a year because if it wasn't on the calendar I don't think at this point there'd be much of an emphasis on dads on any day of the year. Barack Obama's comments about the African American fatherhood crisis is greatly welcome and needed and my hope is that it's not just a one-off for Father's Day but helps enable a larger conversation about a very serious problem our society faces.

It was good to read Bob Hebert's column this morning from the NYTimes that continues the discussion. Here's some of the depressing stats he noted and they're worth repeating here:

"In 2006, for the first time in U.S. history, a majority of all births to women under 30 — 50.4 percent — were out of wedlock. Nearly 80 percent of births among black women were out of wedlock. By comparison, when John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960, just 6 percent of all births were to unmarried women under 30." (Referenced from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston)

This is a major problem for our country and the world and it needs to become something that's more than just comment for Father's Day but for the rest of the year as well.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Equally Shared Parenting at New York Times

It does the heart good to read Lisa Belkin's well researched NY Times Magazine story about equally shared parenting. Kudos to the Times for putting it out on Father's Day. I know there were a lot of cranky responses to the article - primarily that it somehow took away from Father's Day by diminishing dad's role - but I would say the opposite is true.

In a culture where our mass media more than often focuses on the wrong things, it's good to read something this in depth for a change.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Potential of Father's Day

Is there some value to Father's Day other than the Hallmark greeting card that it is presently? Is there something more to this day than just buying another tie or another golf shirt for dad?

Right now, the manner that we treat this day is emblematic of the extent to which our culture values fatherhood in general. It's all about buying stuff, isn't it? In a society where dads are primarily valued by the size of their wallet, this makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

It doesn't have to be this way.

There's great benefit in having dads be more involved with their families, for the kids, the dads, the moms and everyone else in between.

So, how can Father's Day be better redefined in this way? If I could wave my magic wand, the day would go beyond gift-buying and celebrations (although nothing wrong with these) and be more about introspection. It would be more of a day of reflection where a father would take the time to ask himself how present and involved he was for his kids and family over the past year. Perhaps he'd ask his wife and kids (assuming they were old enough) about his performance. Maybe he'd talk to his own parents about this. Perhaps he'd reflect on whether he was able to create the best possible family/work balance over the year. He could also refect upon his parenting choices as well.

These are things I'll be thinking about this Father's Day. I think if Father's Day (and Mother's Day, too, for that matter) were treated as more of a day of reflection than just of gift-guying it would give more clarity to our priorities for the rest of the year.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Just in time for Father's Day, here's the teaser trailer. You can watch it here via YouTube or go here for a higher res version. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dad - A Bittersweet Tale

It's amazing the perspective one gets talking to countless people about their relationships with their dads. What's been made abundantly clear throughout the ongoing process of making this film is how much of an impact the presence or absence of a dad has on people's lives. The unfortunate picture that keeps getting played out over and over is how many people suffer from either a neglectful or non-existent relationship with their dads. Prior to this project, I really had no clue the extent of this.

Just yesterday my family and I were in attendance at a friend's son's birthday party. We were sitting across from a six-year-old boy eating birthday cake and, without any prompting he looked at me and shared with saddened eyes how his 'dad never comes to these things.'I asked where his father was.

"Working. He's always working."

Seated across the way was just another reason-in-the-flesh about why it's so important to the fate of our society for fathers to be as involved with their kids as they can be. Maybe this kid will grow up okay. Who know? But having a dad (and mom for that matter)around would certainly improve the odds.

Finally, below is a poem that was recently submitted to us that was written by a daughter who never knew her dad at all. In the next few days leading up to Father's Day I will be emphasizing heroic dads who go above and beyond to care for their families, but sometimes the bitter needs to come before the sweet. Anyway, here is the poem....

A Gift for Dear Old Dad

Happy Father’s Day Dad, I know we’ve never met, but I’ll bet the gift I give will be the best one that you’ll get. My gift to you is SILENCE. I know it’s what you want. It’s the one thing that you need to keep your life calm and serene.

It’s a little bit expensive, but don’t worry about the cost. I’ll pay for it a little every day, when I think of you or what you had to say.

Do you remember the day that I called you on the phone? You said to me in a very nasty tone,” I am not your father, and “leave me the hell alone”. There were a few remarks about my mother that I dare not repeat. They were so hurtful; I was left unable to speak.

It took me 34 years to summon the courage to make that call, but in all of 30 seconds I felt like I’d been thrown through a wall. I went to bed, curled up in a ball.

While your wife was home pregnant with twins on the way, you were out with my mother for a night of selfish and sinful play.

I went to school with your children; you know we’re the same age. I was not allowed to tell them, and cause you any shame.

I have lived as your dirty little secret for 45 years. It has warped my self esteem; I’ve cried rivers of tears.

My mother has been dead for 41 years. She went looking for love after too many beers. Her car left the road and flipped in the air. Three children were left to the town’s peoples stares.

You will never acknowledge me. Of this I am sure. And the damage it has caused…there’s really no cure.

I saw your face for the first time today! It was in a newspaper article from far away. The paper reported that you died today. The obituary listed almost all of your kids, the name of your wife, and brief description of your life. The account said you had lived for 76 years. You would be so proud Dad, I never shed a single tear.

This closes the door to a lifelong ache. It felt like the finishing touches of the icing of your cake! Happy Father’s Day…… Your unnamed child.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

NC Dad Summit This Saturday

Just got a note about Greg Barbara, a SAHD/punk rocker, who is putting up a 'Dad Summit' at his home in Durham, NC. Here's what they'll be doing:

3pm-5pm: meet, greet and eat
5pm-7p: discuss topics such as
a.) dealing with isolation and depression
b.) blogging for money
c.) financial management and the need to spend
d.) life with a special needs child
e.) dads and daughters
7pm to whenever - solve the world's problems

Personally, I'm looking forward to hearing what comes of the 7pm agenda. The world could certainly use it. Check out Greg's website here. And if you want more info about the summit, you can contact Greg directly at

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Goodbye To May

It's funny. Usually May is what I would consider the best month of the year. The weather is terrific and people are outside more. Love is in the air. School is either ending or at least giving way to a summer break. I usually look back at May near the end of the summer and think to myself, "Was May a blur or what?"

Not so with this year.

This year, for many reasons, May felt more like February or March. Weather-wise it seemed like instead of March, April, May, we had March, March, March. There was also some sort of nasty virus floating around the NYC area that my family and I all caught. The end of the month concluded with the death of the mother of one of my dearest friends. She was only 65 years young - a woman who was so vibrant, such a life force, that the notion she is no longer around is deeply troubling. It's made me reflect on how fleeting life truly is and how quickly things can go wrong.

And then there was this morning. I got the boys out of the house to the new playground that's across the street. The sunlight was bursting through the overhanging leaves. The air was that perfect temperature that's neither hot nor cold. My boys were in high spirits as they climbed the jungle gym. Jamie, my eighteen-month-old, flew down the steep slide without a bit of fear. Later on today, an old friend who I've lost contact with, sent me an email. Things are on the up.

I know this doesn't all directly relate to the film but it's where things are at for me. Thanks for reading.