new projects

The Popular Romance Project

 

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Popular romance sells. And it reveals deep truths about people and cultures, fantasies and fears. The statistics are staggering: According to the Romance Writers of America, romance fiction generated $1.37 billion in sales in 2008, and romance was the top-performing category on theNew York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists.

 

The Popular Romance Project will explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective -- while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks.

 

The Popular Romance Project will include four ambitious, high-profile, carefully integrated programs:


  • a feature-length documentary film (working title: Love Between the Covers) for international television broadcast, focusing on the global community of romance readers, writers and publishers. You can see a fun 5 minute video preview of the film at lovebetweenthecovers.com
  • an interactive, content-rich website created by the Center for History and New Media, allowing the website’s users to see romance novels in a broad context across time and place. A prototype of the site is already up at PopularRomanceProject.org, and has gotten hits from more than 130 countries! It includes examples from interviews we've been shooting, glimpses behind the scenes of the romance industry, and fascinating blogs about everything from paranormal's popularity to love in Korean television dramas. Check it out!
  • an academic symposium on the past and future of the romance novel hosted by the Library of Congress Center for the Book, and
  • a nationwide series of library programs dealing with the past, present, and future of the romance novel, plus a traveling exhibit, organized by the American Library Association
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Tupperware! the Broadway Musical

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Jujamcyn Theater Company has acquired the theatrical rights to the BHP film TUPPERWARE! And the film’s producer/writer/director, Laurie Kahn, will be a consultant to the creative team as they craft a Broadway musical based upon her documentary film.

 

Jujamcyn is a well-known, first-class company that owns and manages five Broadway theaters.  They produced Angels in America, The Producers, Into the Woods, and numerous other prize-winning plays and musicals.

 

The story of the early years of Tupperware lends itself to song and dance numbers. The hopes and dreams of Earl Tupper, Brownie Wise, and their Tupperware Ladies are rooted in particular details of the colorful 1950s, but they are also quasi-mythic.  When the staff at Blueberry Hill Productions (Laurie Kahn, Robin Hessman, Julie Golia, and Barbara Dalton-Rotundo) were doing the research for the documentary, they’d sometimes burst into song (Robin and Julie have terrific voices; Laurie can carry a tune).  They’d improvise lyrics based on archival documents and the stories told by interviewees; there were songs about the nervous woman leaving her factory job to be a Tupperware Lady, about Earl Tupper dreaming big with dead-end inventions like the no-drip ice-cream cone and the dagger-shaped comb, about Brownie Wise deciding to bury prizes underground -- in Tupperware containers, of course -- at the first annual Tupperware Jubilee, and the list goes on...

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The Mercury 13

Jerrie Cobb flying a jet
The Mercury 13
will tell the story of Jerrie Cobb (Pilot of the Year in 1959) and the 12 other female pilots who took the “right stuff” astronaut tests in 1960 and 1961, one year after the Mercury 7 were put through the same grueling physical tests. At the time, there were rumors that the USSR was training female cosmonauts, so Dr. Randy Lovelace, the aerospace medical researcher who’d tested the men, decided to find out how well female pilots would do under pressure.  To the surprise of Lovelace and his colleagues, many of the women they tested knocked their socks off.

 

But passing the tests was just the first hurdle these women faced.

 

Even though these successful female pilots had thousands of hours of flying time under their belts, even though they were willing to risk their lives to help the US launch a woman into space before the USSR did, they were up against huge obstacles that were fundamentally cultural, not physical.  In the middle of the 20th century, the idea of a “female astronaut” was almost a contradiction in terms. John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, said, “I think this gets back to the way our social order is organized, really.  It is just a fact.  The men go off and fight the wars and fly the airplanes and come back and help design and build and test them.  The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order.”

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Becoming Helen Keller

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A feature-length film by Straight Ahead Pictures

 

Blueberry Hill Productions’ founder Laurie Kahn is a consulting producer for Becoming Helen Keller, an exploration of Keller’s life and the creation of our culture’s enduring saintly imagery (and bawdy jokes) about Helen Keller.  Almost every schoolchild knows about Keller’s dramatic incident at the water pump which happened she was a little girl; this film takes the public beyond that point, exploring Keller’s long, eventful life, examining her socialist beliefs, her work raising money for organizations devoted to the blind and the deaf, her performances on the vaudeville circuit, her diplomatic trips overseas for the government (including Japan just after WWII), and the cultural context in which her life – and the perception of her life – took shape.  The film will be shown as part of the PBS series American Masters in 2012.

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HIV Prevention for Women over 50

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A collaboration with The Environment and Health Group -- creating an innovative, risk-reduction website funded by the National Institute of Health

 

AIDS cases in older women have tripled in the last decade; American women over 50 have the fastest growing rate of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) including HIV in the US. Data shows that most cases of infection among older women have occurred through hetero-sexual intercourse and that women are biologically more vulnerable than men for contracting HIV infection.  With 25 million women over 50 in America, single older women represent a large population group at high risk for contracting HIV.

 

Blueberry Hill Productions is researching and producing video segments for the NIH funded, risk-reduction website.  In these videos, older women discuss how they handled the decision to become sexually intimate, and the dating/safe sex challenges they’ve faced.

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Young Inventors: Global Dreams

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A documentary series, following three invention teams over five years

 

At hundreds of universities across the US, there are teams of bright young inventors who are collaborating with people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, developing new tools and products to alleviate poverty and build sustainable businesses.  These young inventors are tackling development in a radically new way: from the bottom up, rather than the top down.  They are creating pedal-powered corn grinders, low-cost lights to reduce jaundice in newborns, small-scale wind and water powered generators, and thousands of other inventions.  They believe the traditional models of NGO-style development have failed; instead, they are attempting to work with local leaders to set up businesses that will turn a profit, and therefore be sustainable.

 

Together with people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, they are attempting to create local manufacturing and distribution networks for the products they invent.  These young inventors see themselves as citizens of the world; they want to listen and collaborate.  They are energetic and hopeful, and the tasks that lie ahead are huge.  Young Inventors: Global Dreams will follow three of these teams over five years, capturing the hopes, dreams, frustrations, logistical obstacles, inevitable cultural misunderstandings, exciting breakthroughs, small triumphs, and (hopefully) large victories of these young inventors as they attempt to tackle some of the world’s most difficult problems in new ways.


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