Fast Lane of Hope
Two filmmakers help A Better Chance––an organization dedicated to helping children in the USA––get the attention it deserves.
Joe and Barbara Lane returned from world travels to focus their energy on spreading the word about A Better Chance, here and across the country.
Joe and Barbara Lane, a Ridgefield couple, are active in writing and film—seeking to give a voice and sometimes a new viewpoint on important causes. After living in China for a few years and witnessing the 2008 American economic collapse from afar, the couple returned to Ridgefield and began work on a film called Depraved Indifference, about how the economic crisis changed the lives of regular Americans. They also attended a presentation by Holly Dunn, a local board member of the A Better Chance (ABC), on Ridgefield’s involvement with the organization. ABC’s mission is to defend the right of every kid to a nurturing childhood by creating programs in response to the needs of New York City’s most vulnerable children and families.
After the presentation, the Lanes approached Dunn and expressed interest in producing a documentary on ABC. After some persuasion, Dunn and others on the board agreed. After speaking with ABC National, the Lanes expanded the focus of the film, forming a relationship with two other community chapters. The three locations featured in the film—due to be finished next year—include Ridgefield, Radnor, Pennsylvania, and Clinton, New York.
Since 1986, ABC has been developing cost-effective and sustainable programs that include early-childhood education, youth programs, mental-health assistance, and supportive housing, among other initiatives. ABC programming now extends far beyond New York City’s borders.
“It’s not just about the high school and it’s not just about the ABC chapter. It’s about the partnership that has been forged over all these years between public education and kids getting a better chance,” Joe Lane explains.
In order for the Lanes to capture the environment and the work that goes into ABC, they need footage of the school atmosphere. Both Clinton High School and Ridgefield High School are permitting the couple to capture the magic of public education in real time during school hours. At Ridgefield High School, school superintendent Karen Baldwin has expressed enthusiasm about the Lanes telling the public education side of the story.
Another very important aspect of ABC is enabling high schools, like Ridgefield, to experience diversity. While it is a highly rated public school system, it lacks diversity. As Barbara Lane points out, “Having ABC students in these high schools helps both sides learn to communicate with each other and that’s going to matter a lot in the future.” The chairman of the board of the ABC national board of directors feels it is essential for people to understand and experience diversity, especially children who will become the next wave of leaders, in a country where the majority is not white.
Joe Lane was inspired in some part by the life of Nelson Mandela. “Mandela’s father died when he was young, and his uncle was a chief with power who insisted that Mandela get a good education, so he sent him off to school with whites.”
In their interviews with ABC alumni, the Lanes noticed that most had the ability to communicate easily with people of different races—that their world was much wider. This realization led to the main concept of the documentary, that those participating in ABC benefit greatly from the opportunity to engage with a variety of people. One ABC alumni in particular, Fulvia Vargas, came from Washington Heights, graduated from Ridgefield High School, attended Lehigh University, then attended Syracuse Law School, and is now living in Binghamton, where she practices public-interest law. Her story demonstrates the level of success anyone participating in the organization can achieve.
The Lanes hope their audience will walk away from the film saying, “Wow, I wonder if we could have one of those here?” Furthermore, Joe Lane feels that “The ABC–public school partnership is unique in our nation. I believe that if enough people know about it and really grasp the implications of what it can do for them and their community immediately it will make great strides in the coming years.”
The couple’s film has a working title—Minds That Matter—and are currently raising more funds to make this a commercial success. They are hoping to get Oprah Winfrey involved, since she is a big supporter of ABC. Additionally, if the film makes money, half of the money will go to the three ABC chapters who are helping to make this story known.
There was a private screening at The Prospector Theatre in Ridgefield on September 28, 2016 meant to jumpstart the kickstarter campaign that will help fund the project. “So far we have been funding it ourselves,” says Joe. “This campaign should help.”
EXPANDING THE HOUSE
The Lanes project was well-received at a private screening in September 2016 and garnered greater exposure, when correspondent Willie Geist ended the “NBC Nightly News” with a piece on ABC house and the documentary.