The film “For Once In My Life,” is about breaking preconceived notions. It is an opportunity to witness a balancing act between what people believe they can and cannot accomplish.
Two years ago when we were first invited to the back room of the local Goodwill facility to hear the band play, we admittedly had a slight hesitation. Confronting a large group of people with disabilities can be awkward and the fact that they were based in a huge manufacturing plant didn’t seem like an ideal setting for technical and aesthetic issues.
In a tour through the plant it all appeared to be very well run, yet all business, and as expected, a very institutional place. The fact that it's immaculate is somehow overshadowed by the fact that it's a beehive of activity that at closer inspection is made up of people with fairly apparent disabilities. Eventually, we were led to the small room in the back of the plant, where 27+ humble individuals were waiting to give us our own private concert. When they were half way through their first song, I was completely sucked in. I wanted to be part of this band. No hesitation.
We knew from the beginning that this is a somewhat unwelcoming subject, from most people we would get a polite response, but no real interest, thus we had to make the film truly entertaining. We did not want to be a sympathy film, or to take a particular slant like a public service message. We just wanted the audiences to witness and appreciate for themselves, what can be accomplished when individuals are given the chance. We've been honored, humbled and blown away by the band.
The intention of the film is really a portrait of the band and its members, and to reveal them in the most honest light possible. We knew it would take time and we'd have to be patient in order to be allowed to become part of their family and not just passing visitors. The process has been a wonderful experience. Getting to really know each of the various band members and getting to perceive them beyond their obvious struggles. In time we came to learn that their love of music and their need for friendship and independence are the common denominators that they all share just like all of us, but above all they exert a never ending great attitude.
From a technical perspective we tried to keep things as simply and unobtrusive as possible. Shooting mostly with a hand held camera and a very small crew. I think one of our few dolly shoots was from a laundry bin we found in the manufacturing plant. We did spend a lot of effort in getting good sound and well recorded musical tracks. Our editor Amy Foote worked in NYC, while we monitored the progress mostly via a FTP site back in Miami. With a few trips back and forth we developed a very good workflow. She was amazingly devoted to the project and became as obsessed in the project as we were. There was particular attention paid to the final mix of the music tracks and I have lots of accolades for that team guided by the band’s musical director, Javier Peña.
Finally I would like to thank Lourdes Little the Executive Producer of the film and Dennis Pastrana, CEO of the South Florida Goodwill, for letting us in enter the Goodwill Organization and giving us a free reign and unlimited access to witness and capture on film this amazing organization. None of this would be possible without their unyielding devotion and vision.