July 22, 2014
We just returned from another gathering of the families, this time in Texas. Water rides, BBQ, and Mexican food were the orders of the day.
We also journeyed to Colorado to interview Dr. Elizabeth Suter, a family communication scholar at the University of Denver.
May 31, 2014
I have returned from the three-state trek and am pleased to report success! The three families (in Texas, Florida and Maine) were wonderful hosts. I was able to secure additional footage of all three families that will allow me to round out their stories in the film.
April 9, 2014
We filmed today at NASA- Ames Research Center to capture footage of Jack's robotics team. Thank you to Brad Lindeman for approving our filming and to the mentors and students for their help.
April 4, 2014
In LA today to speak at the Fertility Planit fertility conference at UCLA. I am part of a panel on donor siblings. I appear to be the only panel member whose family has actually had contact with our kids' donor siblings.
April 1, 2014
I have been invited to speak at the Fetility PlanIt fertility conference at UCLA on April 4. I am part of a panel on Donor Siblings. For more information go to this link:
The panel is sponsored by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
March 18, 2014
Lots happening in the First Pictures world today, none more important than it is Susan Czark's birthday! Happy birthday to the love of my life, the mother of our children, and the co-producer of An Extended Family.
March 13, 2014
Our Kickstarter campaign is live! Please support us if you can, and share this link with your friends! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/356175738/an-extended-family-a-documentary-about-family-re-i
March 13, 2014
Well, it's official! Kickstarter has approved our campaign. We will launch later today. Please support us if you can.
March 11, 2014
We submitted our Kickstarter appeal to Kickstarter today for their review. Once it clears that review (typically 2-3 days) we will bring the campaign on line!
February 19, 2014
The visitors from the east coast and Texas departed this morning. We had a wonderful visit and several very successful filming days. Thank you to all:
Stacey, Diane and Evan
Christa, Shannan and Liam
Michele, Kelly and Cian
Alison and Matthew
Belinda and AJ
Lori and Anna
Susan, Jack and Sophie
Special thanks to our DP, Rico Corona, and his crew.
February 18, 2014
After a wild day of filming in San Jose we have wrapped principal shooting on An Extended Family! Steve, Susan, Jack and Sophie were interviewed in the morning and early afternoon. Many thanks to my Santa Clara colleague Michael Whalen for interviewing Susan and me, and to Rico Corona for interviewing Jack.
Our afternoon remained busy with interviews with AJ and a quick followup interview with Alison and Matthew. Our last interview was with Belinda. We wrapped around 7:30 PM.
Only pickups and (potentially) footage on the east coast and in Texas remain.
February 17, 2014
Our final day at Hidden Villa wrapped up today after lunch. We filmed some of the family tree boards the different families built and a few other pick ups.
The evening was wild. Steve and Susan interviewed Anna and Lori, then we raced to the San Jose airport for an emotional goodbye.
February 16, 2014
Our second day at Hidden Villa was a successful adventure. The video crew arrived as folks were eating breakfast. After getting the lay of the land the teams deployed with cameras and sound gear to capture the happenings.
Lots of conversations, board projects where the families illustrated their family lineages, games and goofing around erupted here and there throughout the morning. Liam and Christa arrived around lunchtime, as did AJ and Belinda.
It continues to amaze me to watch the easy interactions between the siblings. They seem to enjoy each other a lot.
Diane and Stacey handled dinner (a wonderful Greek meal). At dinner a fabulous conversation emerged. Beginning with a question about whether the title of the film (An Extended Family) correctly described peoples' experiences, all manner of insights, stories, laughs and a few tears were shared. The group did all this while two camera teams and three cameras rolled.
February 15, 2014
And we're off! Our first day at Hidden Villa was a wonderful success. After packing all our stuff--including a car full of video gear--the out-of-towners and the hosts made it to Hidden Villa. People were thrilled with the location.
Around 2 PM Rico Corona, our director of photography, arrived and started working out logistics. By 3 PM our east bay families arrived. Lots pf energy and excitement about meeting our newest family (Lori and Anna).
The kids settled in to games of cornhole while the adults prepared food and chatted. Shannan took charge of a lovely pasta dinner. A wonderful discussion emerged at dinner around the responsibilites we had to each other and to the sperm donor as our children reached the age of 18. A very successful start to the gathering!
February 14, 2014
Our newest family arrived from the east coast to join the gathering at Hidden Villa. Lori and Anna learned of the family contact list just over a month ago. In that brief time they have connected with the other families, decided to join us for our gathering and agreed to appear in the film, An Extended Family. Alison, Matthew, Jack, Sophie, Susan and Steve met the newcomers at the airport, cameras in hand.
A moment of hesitation and then...the family just got bigger.
February 13, 2014
The first of our out-of-town families has arrived for the big get together. Alison and Matthew arrived from Maine one day early, a savvy move to dodge the winter storm that cancelled numerous east coast flights today.
Numerous arriving passengers and SFO employees asked if we were there with our cameras to capture a celebrity's arrival. Indeed, we were!
Our next family, this one from Florida, arrives late tomorrow.
February 8, 2014
Filming with the families involved in An Extended Family continued throughout the afternoon. Thank you to Shannan for allowing us to invade your home and for your interview. Thank you also to Laurie and Liam. We enjoyed watching you go through some of the actitvities of your Saturday.
February 8, 2014
Interviews with experts on forming families with the use of assisted reproductive technologies filled our morning.
Madeline Feingold, Ph.D. and Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D., both experts on the psychological aspects of using assisted reproductive technology to form families, graciously offered their insights for An Extended Family.
Madeline Feingold, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Oakland, specializes in issues of infertility and third party reproduction. She is the past chair of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine's mental health professional specialization. Dr. Feingold has written extensively about issues of family formation with assisted reproductive technologies, including "Building Healthy Donor Conceived Families" (2011 American Fertility Association) and "Genes Make People, People Make Families" (2012 American Fertility Association). More information about Dr. Feingold can be found at http://madelinefeingoldphd.com.
Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D., a developmental and clinical psychologist, practices in Oakland. She also is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco. Dr. Ehrensaft is widely regarded as an expert in working with children and parents in families that have been built using assisted reproductive technologies. She is an active researcher, including Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children (2011 The Experiment) and Mommies, Daddies, Donors, Surrogates: Answering Tough Questions and Building Strong Families (2005 The Guilford Press). More information about Dr. Ehrensaft can be found at http://www.dianeehrensaft.com.
February 4, 2014
The new family that joined the family contact list a couple of weeks ago (see the January 15, 2014 entry below) has decided to come to our gathering of the families in mid-February. This will allow our new, Florida-based family to meet the family from Maine, the family from Texas and the four Bay Area families. Wow!
February 3, 2014
This will be a busy week at First Pictures. We hope to finalize our Kickstarter appeal this week. Filming for this is planned for tomorrow.
This week we also are filming with one of the families in the film and interviewing two insightful researchers and practitioners: Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D. and Madeline Feingold, Ph.D.
We also continue to prepare for the big gathering of the families February 14-18.
January 30, 2014
Last night we sent out a preview of the Kickstarter campaign to several people whose opinions we value for feedback. Some great comments and helpful suggestions have come in today to help us improve the campaign message.
We hope to film the video to accompany the campaign this weekend.
January 17, 2014
An Austin-based graphic design company, TYPONICA®, and First Pictures have begun exploring possible collaboration on some graphics for the film. TYPONICA's primary designer, Shawn McKinney, also happens to be a childhood friend of Steve's. It has been nice to reconnect.
More information about TYPONICA can be found at http://typonica.com.
January 16, 2014
Susan and I decided today to launch a Kickstarter® campaign to help support the film. As our filming has become more complex we are realizing that our initial budget will not suffice for finalizing the film and promoting it to various film festivals.
We hope to launch the campaign by the end of January. Stay tuned for updates.
January 15, 2014
Alice Ruby from the Sperm Bank of California contacted the families on the family contact list today. She informed us that another family who used this particular donor has agreed to be part of the family contact list.
Alice did not provide any details about the family. At Alice's request the families on the contact list provided Alice with any updates to their contact information.
Now we wait to get the contact information for the new family.
January 6-7, 2014
Filming continues with footage of one of the donor siblings preparing for the opening of the play Cabaret in which she is performing.
Many thanks to Amy Baker Stout, Stephanie Reenee Mayonave and the Starting Arts staff for allowing the crew access to the tech rehearsals. Thank you also to the talented performers for their professionalism and strong performances.
For more information about Starting Arts please visit http://www.startingarts.com.
January 3, 2014
The new year begins with additional filmed interviews. Our most recent addition to the family contact group sat for several hours of interviews. The family also worked on a shared project that will likely serve as the opening vignette for the film.
Many thanks to Stacey, Diane and Evan for spending a busy but fun morning with the production team.
January 3, 2014
Our filming day continued with a return to Berkeley to interview Diane Tober, a medical anthropologist. Dr. Tober currently serves as the Associate Exectutive Direrector of the Berkeley-based Center for Genetics and Society. Dr. Tober also is preparing a large research study on egg donation. More information about the Center for Genetics and Society is available at http://www.geneticsandsociety.org.
December 8, 2013
We are pleased to announce that another family that is part of the family contact group has decided to participate in An Extended Family. This family is based in Texas. While initially hesitant to participate in the documentary, they now welcome their involvement in the film. This is excellent news!
November 25, 2013
A six-episode MTV series, Generation Cryo, debuted tonight. It examines some of the same issues we are exploring in our current project, albeit with a very different style and overall focus. A review of the reality series can be found at: http://www.sfgate.com/tv/article/Generation-Cryo-review-Searching-for-family-5008434.php
November 21, 2013
The Ken Scott film Delivery Man opened in theatres today. The DreamWorks Pictures film is a remake of the Canadian film Starbuck. From IMDB:
An affable underachiever [Vince Vaughn] finds out he's fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. Now he must decide whether or not to come forward when 142 of them file a lawsuit to reveal his identity.
Here we go again.
People ask us frequently why we are producing our documentary film. One of our main reasons we are making An Extended Family is to challenge the ongoing media presentation that families created through assisted reproductive technologies somehow are part of an irresponsible social experiment. It is an odd experience when your efforts to thoughtfully and intentionally form your family become the fodder of comedies or reality programs. At best such treatment is uneven; at its worst it is a prurient voyeurism that reduces families to carnival sideshows.
In our film we aspire to shift the discourse back to the pertinent issues at hand: Many people face challenges to creating families, either by circumstance (they are in a same sex union, or single) or due to fertility issues. Today, those of us who seek to create families that involve some genetic link to a parent are able to use assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to make those dreams a reality. It sounds simple but it is a difficult and at times painful process. It is a situation that is fraught with psychosocial issues.
But when the process of assisted conception proves successful, our experiences as parents and families are quite similar to families whose children were conceived without ART. We prepare for our new lives as parents with children and we build our families a day at a time. Our struggles, successes and challenges are remarkably unremarkable because, like everyone else, we are raising our kids as best we can.
And, just like traditional families, in those cases in which our efforts to conceive a child prove unsuccessful, we grieve our losses and decide on our next steps.
A fascinating aspect of several families using the same donor is that different social and familial networks can emerge. There are many half-siblings and lots of parents (in our case, many moms and only one dad). Nuanced relationships have emerged between some of the families, but not all. The interactions between the parents and children who constitute these groups present opportunities to reimagine our relationships to our immediate families and the new "extended family."
November 10, 2013
The First Pictures crew returns to the east bay for additional filming at the Sperm Bank of California and the homes of two families participating in the film.
Many thanks to Alice Ruby at TSBC, Christa and Liam and, for our third visit, Kelly, Michele and Cian.
November 2, 2013
Location filming for An Extended Family continues. The First Pictures team spent another weekend in the east bay.
Christa and Liam generously gave us their time as did Kelly, Michele and Cian.
We also want to thank Ann Keen and Lydia Wong at the Allegro Ballroom in Emeryville. Ann and Lydia graciously granted our crew access to the Allegro Ballroom to film a lesson in which Cian and Sophie participated. Learn more about the Allegro Ballroom at http://www.allegroballroom.net.
October 25, 2013
Interviews for An Extended Family continue in Berkeley and Albany.
Many thanks to The Sperm Bank of California (Executive Director Alice Ruby, Research Director Joanna Scheib and the entire TSBC staff) for their help. More information about TSBC can be found at http://www.thespermbankofca.org.
Michele, Kelly and Cian welcomed us to their home for a long series of interviews. Liam joined us later in the evening for some additional filming opportunities.
July 22, 2013
Interviews for An Extended Family began today. Many thanks to Alison and Matthew for for giving up a day of their vacations to be interviewed and for their thoughtful reflections.
July 21, 2013
Filming moves to Santa Cruz.
July 19, 2013
Filming continues at Family Camp at Yosemite.
Approximately a month after the group's visit much of the camp was destroyed in the Rim Fire, the massive forest fire that burned over 400 square miles of wilderness.
July 18, 2013
Location shooting of An Extended Family begins near Yosemite National Park. Several of the families gather for a few days of fun and socializing in the Sierras, much of it with cameras rolling.
Thanks to Athena Trede and Joe Garvin at the City of San Jose for their help securing filming permits. More information about San Jose's Family Camp at Yosemite at http://www.sanjoseca.gov/prns/familycamp.
February 19, 2013
Serendipity strikes again to further reimagine this "extended family."
One of the bay area families reported they recently met another family that worked with the same donor. This new family also lives in the bay area. One of the moms in this new family turns out to be a work acquaintance of one of the moms in the group.
A flurry of emails and pictures raced through the ether.
Another meeting of the donor siblings takes place in the bay area. One of the families journeys from Texas to join the four Northern California families for two days of socializing.
October 22, 2012
Steve attended the annual conference of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in San Diego. He sat in on several sessions that focused on issues of gamete donation and family formation. He also met with several researchers and practitioners to explore their participation in An Extended Family. A fruitful, valuable junket.
Thank you to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine press office for their help.
October 4-7, 2012
Steve and his daughter ventured to Boston to meet another of the donor siblings and his mom. They interacted for two days and started to get to know each other.
July 9, 2012
Several of the families who shared the same sperm donor met for three days of socializing and fun. Ziplining, exploring San Francisco and a day in Santa Cruz provided the opportunity for the donor sibs to get to know each other a bit better while their parents shared stories and pondered connections.
March 21, 2012
First Pictures secured a generous grant from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Communication at Santa Clara University to assist in production costs associated with An Extended Family. Special thanks to Atom Yee, (Dean of the College), Kathleen Schneider (Senior Assistant Dean of the College) and Chad Raphael (Chair, Department of Communication) for their support!
An Extended Family offically moves into preproduction.