We Are Moving Stories: Interview with Abigail Hepner Gross, Writer/Director/Producer of "Jacob's Footprints"

Erie International Film Festival - Jacob’s Footprints

 

A boy with cerebral palsy proves to his friends and family that if you refuse to give up, anything is possible.

Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Abigail Hepner Gross

 

Congratulations! Why did you make your film?

We are not actually professional filmmakers, though we work with a production company that does the technical work.  We operate inclusive schools for children with disabilities, and the films we make are intended to inspire.  We made Jacob’s Footprints in an effort to shatter people’s preconceptions of what an individual with disabilities such as cerebral palsy can accomplish, to inspire inclusion and friendship, and to give hope to parents of children with special needs.

Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?

To be inspired.  Often in our lives we are faced with a challenge that seems insurmountable.  Jacob teaches us never to give up on trying your hardest.

Jacob’s Footprints

Jacob’s Footprints

How do personal and universal themes work in your film?

It is immediately apparent when you see Jacob that he is different.  And yet, the friendships he has developed are very real, and very deep.  We wanted to show that just because someone looks different or speaks differently, inside we are all basically the same.

How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?

We create our documentaries without voice over, so the entire narrative comes from what the people we interview tell us.  It is always an enormous challenge for us to craft hours of interviews into a short, powerful story.  So many great elements end up on the cutting floor.

What type of feedback have you received so far?

The feedback has been phenomenal.  The film has been watched by 150,000 people on social media, and the comments we get back show we have really moved people to think.  And, we have had parents of children with special needs call us and thank us for showing the world what a child like Jacob can accomplish.

Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?

Not really.  Our only surprise was just how many people watch and continue to share it.

Jacob’s Footprints

Jacob’s Footprints

What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?

The more people who hear stories like Jacob’s, the more minds can be opened and hearts can be changed.  Jacob’s story of achievement is universal and everyone can learn from him.

Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?

We would love to keep getting our message out there, but it’s not our goal to create a film with sales potential.  We want as many people to see it as possible, to spread the message.  That’s why it’s available on social media for free.

What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?

We would like to keep building the wonderful, positive comments that we have gotten so far from far and wide.

What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?

If a friendship begins out of pity, does that detract from its value when it develops into something true and lasting?

Jacob’s Footprints

Jacob’s Footprints

Would you like to add anything else?

We hope that anyone who watches this film stops the next time they see someone with a disability, and asks themselves whether they are treating them any differently than they would otherwise.

What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?

We just finished a music video, called Prayers From My Heart.  Through music, it tells the story of a parent’s journey when they realize their child has special needs.  Our next short documentary is currently in production.  It is called Walking Through Fire, and it tells the story of one of our alumni, who came to us as a young boy with significant learning challenges and who had just lost his father, and was filled with anger and low self esteem.  Today he is an adult who went through the Israeli army, and now is a firefighter in Israel.  His story shows us that you should never give up on a child, because you never know what he or she can accomplish.

 

Interview: January 2018

Originally published at http://www.wearemovingstories.com/we-are-moving-stories-videos/