To ScheduleProducer Jefferson Moore, contact Jackie@TruthPr.com or 662-259-0988
Who would have ever thought that a 2019 National Anthem documentary that fails to mention Kaepernick, Trump, kneeling, flag shoes or MAGA hats would resonate with audiences across the board? The people at Kelly’s Filmworks, that’s who.
A new documentary film that follows the 2-year journey of a Long Island singer who promoted patriotism by becoming the first person to perform The Star Spangled Banner in all 50 states hit the multi-platform universe on July 4th. News of the release was featured nationally on Fox News Channel as well a bevy of both local and national radio and television outlets.
‘National Anthem Girl‘ is the first documentary released by Kentucky-based Kelly’s Filmworks Studios, a self-proclaimed ‘mom ‘n pop movie studio’ known primarily for its dozen or so inspirational narratives that have been gracing theatrical, cable, streaming, and international screens since 2006.
Byron Brooksrecently sat down via email with KFW co-founder, Kelly Worthington, and her director/writer husband, Jefferson Moore, to discuss what brought them to doing a film on the patriotic messaging of a woman known to stadium crowds as, simply, ‘The Anthem Girl’.
Byron Brooks: Did the two of you have any prior connection to Janine Stange (The Anthem Girl) before taking on the National Anthem Girl movieproject?
Kelly Worthington: Well, yes and no. In 2014, we met her, like most people do, as average fans. My husband had seen her on a national news morning show talking about her 50-state mission (at the time she was up to State #27). He later contacted her through email to make a small donation to her cause
Jefferson Moore: Through the course of exchanging emails, we discussed singing at a venue in our hometown (she had not yet performed in Kentucky) and I also volunteered to gather footage of her Kentucky visit that could be used to help promote her cause down the road. Little did I know that that footage would two years later become the bedrock of our first documentary.
BB: What first drew the two of you to this total stranger back in 2014?
JM: Right off the bat, we were impressed that a single individual was selflessly doingsomething. So much of our news cycle focus these days is directed at society’s negative aspects and the unwavering sentiment of ‘dig me’, or ‘dig the selfie of what I’m eating’. But here was this gifted young lady that said, in the simplest of terms, ‘I’m gonna give back, using only what I have.’ She seemed to have an endless supply of energy and determination. Even at that point, we were inspired by her.
BB: In what ways did she ‘give back’ on her journey to promote The Anthem?
KW: Without giving too much of the film away, Janine was focused on just two things: 1) the song that unites us all as Americans and 2) the brave men and women who give the song its meaning.
BB: Was telling the story of this woman’s mission as much a labor of love as the original concept was to her?
KW: That would be difficult, as I don’t see anyone duplicating the passion she had. But for us, yes, watching her accomplish her goal and wanting to inspire others with what she accomplished did become a labor of love.
JM: Our documentary was sort of ‘the mission after the mission’. Once Janine completed (spoiler alert) State #50 back in 2014, she moved on to other things, motivational speaking, new patriotic causes, etc. – the three of us had become immediate friends back in 2014 and so, naturally, as friends do, we stayed in touch; it was around Christmas 2016 that I asked her, “What’s being done with your 50 state story?… has someone optioned it? A book maybe?”. When I got her reply that nothing had been or was being done with the story, that’s when I inquired about her letting our studio turn what she did into a documentary.
BB: So she (Stange) was receptive to the idea of a documentary from the very start?
JM: That’s a little hard to read. Janine is a very humble person and never considers what she did (the 50 state journey) as anything to promote herself personally. To her, it was a duty, an honor. One of the most refreshing things about Janine is that she refuses to take herself too seriously. I think it was only after I convinced her that the stories she had from traveling from state-to-state, arena-to-arena, venue-to-venue for two very intense years could springboard into an uplifting piece that could potentially inspire hundreds, maybe thousands of Americans for years to come…I think that’s when she was totally on board.
KW: If nothing else, we convinced her that her story needed to be ‘knitted together’ in a single concise narrative; at the time, it was fragmented into a thousand pieces made up of short smartphone vids, online blurbs, newspaper and magazine articles, radio and tv interviews, etc., etc., etc…it would have been impossible for someone to get the whole picture of what happened, in chronological order, just by looking at these resources.
BB: Your studio had only produced narrative movies up to this point; how difficult was the switch to a documentary format?
JM: At the end of the day, it’s all about being storytellers to us, regardless of the genre.
BB: In shaping the way The National Anthem Girl’s story was told, how hard was it to resist including stances on the kneeling or not kneeling controversies in today’s present conversation?
KW: It wasn’t hard at all. To us, that would have been click-bait…low-hanging fruit. In being true to the heart of our documentary’s subject, Janine Stange, we wanted to pass on her message that, quote,
‘we’re all Americans, regardless of which politician we voted for.’ I believe that’s why her 2014 mission was embraced by so many different stadium crowds from so many different walks of life
JM: In the beginning, someone even suggested to us to play up the fact that she was the great granddaughter of Italian immigrants, just to tie her into the daily news conversation. Again, we didn’t feel like that’s where the story was. We didn’t want to clamp it into a few convenient labels, just to make it more provocative.
BB: What’s the feedback been like so far on National Anthem Girl?
JM: Every kind of great. As a filmmaker, you’re never 100% sure of what you’ve got until you start hearing from total strangers. We’ve heard from veterans who loved it and thanked us for getting it out there; we’ve heard from liberals as well as conservatives, both of whom sent us several stories about watching the film with tears in their eyes. These haveto be interpreted as tears of pride and tears of gratitude for the heroes.
KW: People have said they loved watching Janine narrate her adventures. She’s a born storyteller and her gentle, funny manner puts people at ease, and makes them not help but pull for her. It’s starting to be clear that most people are exhausted from all the so-called controversies and would rather be lifted up and shown something that makes them actually feel good about things.
BB: To wrap up, what do you want people to take away from National Anthem Girl?
KW: We hope Janine’s message stays with them long after the credits roll; that we’re all Americans and we’re all in this together. And to be grateful to those who serve because freedom is not free.
JM: We hope The National Anthem won’t be something that causes the average person to bristle, or feel like they have to choose a side; those are artificial sentiments created by a small group of people who don’t have our best interests at heart. Instead, we hope people, just like Janine, are inspired to do what they can with what they have to make America a better place.
National Anthem Girlis currently available across multiple platforms, including Amazon Prime, live theater events, VOD, and home media. Find more information at: www.anthemgirldoc.com, www.kellysfilmworks.net, Amazon.com and TUGG.com.
Media Inquiries contact: Jackie@TruthPR.com
Byron Brooks is an independent freelance writer based in Huntsville, Alabama.