Radical Woman takes it to the big screen

By Trillia Newbell

Best known as a writer, blogger, and published author, Carolyn McCulley, has spent the past three years developing and establishing a career in the film industry. This move is a natural progression of her life work in the media. But for those who know her as the author of Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World and Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred , it may have come as a shock.

McCulley founded Citygate Films in 2009, a documentary film company that exists to create cinematic documentaries about spiritual, humanitarian, and social justice topics. The documentaries are meant to inspire a response from the viewers like a philanthropy known as filmanthropy. Their goal is to tell real stories well and to invite viewers to respond to the issues within each story.

Citygate is currently working on three feature films, plus several shorter films for clients such as the Desiring God ministry and other nonprofit organizations. Learn more about Citygate Films and what’s next for McCulley in this Q&A:

Q:  How many documentaries do you do per year?

McCulley: Documentaries are often filmed over long periods of time, to show changes in the characters who are part of them. As a result, I am often working on several projects at the same time. Citygate currently has three feature-length documentaries in various stages of distribution and production, and one in development. THE ROAD WE KNOW is completed and in the early distribution stage. A NOTE OF HOPE is in the editing stage. And MACH ONE MAC is still in production.


The Road We KnowQ: Tell us about THE ROAD WE KNOW. Where was it filmed and what is it about?

McCulley: THE ROAD WE KNOW is a film about HIV prevention in Botswana. It asks the question, “How far would you go to save your country?” The film captures what UNAIDS is calling “the youth revolution in HIV prevention.” Director Suzanne Taylor, my colleague, followed a group of Christian college students for six weeks as they trained and traveled around their nation to promote abstinence to their younger peers in high school as a way of curbing the high rate of infection in their nation. Currently, 1 in 4 adults (ages 15-49) has HIV in Botswana. That’s the second highest infection rate in the world. Botswana is a stable, prosperous country with a profitable diamond trade. It makes HIV testing free, offers free anti-retroviral drugs to infected citizens, and promotes condom usage extensively … and yet those methodologies have not changed the infection rate. What seems to be working is behavior change. That’s what UNAIDS reported in their 2010 Outlook Report, citing a 25 percent drop in new infections among young adults (ages 15-24) in the top 15 most infected nations, and this primarily due to behavior change. (Behavior change includes delaying sexual debut, limiting the number of sexual partners, and abstinence.) The young adults featured in this film boldly spoke out about topics that are considered taboo to discuss in public in order to save their generation. Through this film, viewers learn a lot about Botswana, the cultural hindrances to change, and the personal histories that motivate each of the characters in the film.


Q: Do you have a crew?

McCulley: I have one fulltime employee, Suzanne Taylor. She is the director of THE ROAD WE KNOW and a talented colleague who wears many hats on all of our other projects. She is the technical one in our office! Everyone else I hire is an independent contractor who joins us for a specific time and task, such as filming, sound design, composing, or creating special effects. However, I’ve been working with some of the same people for years and I consider them part of the Citygate family, even if they aren’t fulltime.


Q: Where is the furthest you’ve travelled?

McCulley:  I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. I’m most fortunate to have visited places such as South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Bolivia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, South Africa, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, the U.K., and numerous European countries. However, there’s so much more to see! I’d like to travel more through Central Asia, the Middle East, and other Asian nations.


Q: What do you hope to accomplish with these films?

McCulley: I hope to tell other people’s stories faithfully and in a compelling way so that viewers are inspired to be part of the change these characters are working toward, be it social, political, or spiritual change.


Q: How are the films distributed? Can the general public purchase or rent them?

McCulley:The entire film industry is in a huge state of flux. The traditional distribution model no longer works for most films, and

Suzanne and Carolyn

Suzanne Taylor (left) directed THE ROAD WE KNOW and works as the techinical guru for Carolyn McCulley (right) and Citygate Films

definitely not for documentaries. But that also means it’s a great opportunity for independent filmmakers. We now have the ability to work both within and without of the established system. Therefore, we are working with broadcasters and distributors to get our films on both U.S. and international programs, and we are also creating community screening campaigns and digital distribution programs to bring our films directly to interested audiences via the internet or an interest group. At present, we promote the community screening campaign and a special digital viewing platform for THE ROAD WE KNOW. Details for hosting a screening are on theroadweknow.com and the special online campaign is at theroadweknow.com/savealife.


Q: How might others get involved or donate?

McCulley: Periodically we offer crowdfunding opportunities, where people can contribute to a particular aspect of the film and get their names in the credits, among other goodies. We anticipate doing at least two crowdfunding campaigns in 2012, so keep an eye on our Facebook pages and websites for details!


Q:  What inspired you to move from author/conference speaker to film-maker or is this something you’ve always been interested in?

McCulley: I’ve always been involved in multimedia work. My earliest memory is of writing a play and producing it for my neighbors when I was about five or six years old! I guess I never outgrew show-and-tell! My college degree is in broadcast journalism and I’ve been involved in some form of editorial or video work ever since. I’ve produced a political television show, national and regional commercials, a short film for MTV, several short films for ministries and nonprofits, and now these documentary features. I’ve also written for numerous magazines and newspapers, as well as publishing two books and speaking at conferences. It all blends together at times because the art of telling a good true story is the same, whether or not you are working in print or film/video. Narrative arcs and personal details are necessary for both.


Q:  Do you have a book upcoming?

McCulley: I have been working on a new book, but I’m in the midst of working out those details now with a publisher and don’t have official news to share yet. But I believe I can mention the topic: it’s about women and productivity, a look at the importance of women’s work, talents, and gifts in the marketplace, the home, and the church in both developed and developing nations. It looks at this topic in the full cycle of a woman’s life, including productivity in the home and outside of it. That’s a rather broad statement, I know! I need to work on my “elevator pitch”!

For more information about Citygate Films visit their website at http://citygatefilms.com/.

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