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Thelma and Louise Found Alive, April 13, 2017

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Seattle filmmaker’s documentary about Thelma & Louise premieres April 30th

Seattle, WA April 13, 2017 – After years of searching, a Seattle woman claims to have found Thelma and Louise alive and well. The famous best friends were last seen in 1991, sailing across the Grand Canyon in a ‘66 Thunderbird. Jennifer Townsend, first-time filmmaker at the age of 78, tracked down the famous friends in different parts of the United States. She found them hiding in the hearts and minds of filmgoers who saw Thelma & Louise 26 years ago and wrote about what the film meant to them at that time.

Over the past three years, Ms. Townsend produced and directed the feature documentary, Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise. Participants in the film responded to a 1991 questionnaire seeking opinions on characters, scenes and themes in the iconic Thelma & Louise. The responses constitute ‘eye witness’ reactions to the film, which was strikingly controversial in the year of its release.

The filmmaker, who was also the long-ago researcher, decided to find some of the respondents and invite them to relate their impressions on camera. The result is a powerful, provocative, film, which takes viewers on a wild ride as they follow the journey of Thelma & Louise through the American southwest and into cinematic history.

The World Premiere of Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise will be hosted by Cinema At The Edge (CATE) film festival in Santa Monica, California on April 30, 2017. http://www.cinemaattheedge.com/ CATE offers the perfect launching pad for a film about Thelma & Louise — propelling it over the edge and out into the World.

To view the trailer, vignettes, feedback, and backstory visit the film website: https://catchingsightof.com/

About Far Beyond Film

Far Beyond Film, LLC is a Seattle-based company focused on producing films with a relevant social message. Producer/Director, Jennifer Townsend, founded the company in 2014 with her first production goal clearly in mind: making a feature documentary about Thelma & Louise.

World Premiere at CATE in Santa Monica, April 30, 2017

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World Premiere of Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise’ at CATE Film Festival April 30, 2017

Thelma and Louise At the Edge Again

Seattle, WA April 6, 2017—Far Beyond Film is delighted to announce that Cinema At The Edge film festival in Santa Monica, California, will host the World Premiere of Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise on April 30, 2017. CATE offers the perfect launching pad for a film about Thelma & Louise”— propelling it Over the Edge and Out into the World.

Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise is a feature documentary about how women experience the world. It illuminates the classic journey of its namesake through film clips and intimate stories by filmgoers who saw Thelma & Louise in 1991. They guide us through the film, sharing their heartfelt responses, connecting past to present. They pose the question: Has anything changed?

Jennifer Townsend, a Seattle filmmaker, traveled around the country to make the film over a three-year period. Preview audiences praise it’s authenticity, power, and ability to capture the zeitgeist of our era. The trailer, history, shared stories, and blog entries may be found on the film website at www.CatchingSightOf.com

CATE is held at the beautiful Edgemar Center for the Arts, a Frank Gehry designed complex. The festival runs from Thursday, April 27th through Sunday, April 30th, followed by an Awards Ceremony and Closing Reception from 6:30pm to 8:00pm on Sunday evening.

About Far Beyond Film

Far Beyond Film, LLC is a Seattle-based company focused on producing films with a relevant social message. Producer/Director, Jennifer Townsend, founded the company in 2014 with her first production goal clearly in mind: making a feature documentary about Thelma & Louise.

Arts Beat LA Review; August 5, 2017

Review by Kurt Gardner, at the San Antonio Film Festival.
 

This is certainly a unique premise for a documentary.

 
Director/producer Jennifer Townsend was not in the film business at all when she first encountered the now-classic road movie Thelma & Louise in 1991. Profoundly moved by what she’d seen, she wondered if others had been similarly affected by the film. Originally setting her sights on writing a magazine article about its cultural impact, she sent out a series of press releases to newspapers across the country in search of volunteers to fill out a questionnaire regarding their feelings about the cinematic landmark.
 
She intended to compile the data on these surveys to use as the basis for an article about the impact the film had on a cross-section of the general public. But this was before the internet was ubiquitous, so by the time she’d received enough completed questionnaires via mail, many other stories had been written, so she decided to set the project aside.
More than 20 years later, the 75-year-old Townsend realized that if she was going to do something with the information she’d accumulated, now was the time, and Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise began to take shape.
 
She managed to get in touch with a group of the original respondents, even after such a substantial passage of time, and she flew out to each of their homes to conduct interviews. The director showed them the original questionnaires they’d filled out years before, and many of them were amused by what they’d written. Still, more of them stood firmly by the opinions voiced by their younger selves.
 
Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise incorporates key scenes from the 1991 MGM release with these insightful and often passionate interviews, and the results are fascinating. Most all of the interviewees felt liberated by the film, responding to the notion of female empowerment, which was something they hadn’t experienced in the cinema before.
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Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise Screens at DOCUTAH, August 25, 2017

POWERFUL DOCUMENTARY CATCHING SIGHT OF THELMA & LOUISE RE-EXAMINES THE MEANING AND EMOTION BEHIND ITS ICONIC FILM NAMESAKE.
August 25, 2017 – St. George, UT – If you ever wondered what effect the iconic film Thelma and Louise had on society, the documentary Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise screening at the DSU DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival answers that question. Directed by Jennifer Townsend, the idea for Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise had its beginnings in 1991, when viewers from around the country shared their visceral reactions to Thelma & Louise, in a national survey conducted by Townsend. After seeing Thelma and Louise (several times) when it was first released, Townsend felt, “that this film had affected me in a profound way. Even now I find that words do not fully capture this sensation. I had never seen a film where women exuded so much power. They had ‘slain the dragon’. They were forces to be reckoned with. Even in the face of death, they refused to surrender.”
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Brian Passey Review from DOCUTAH, September 11, 2017

Review by Brian Passey, at The Spectrum.
 

Every year when DOCUTAH is over I wish I had seen more of the films.

This year I was on vacation until the end of the festival so I was limited by available time and only saw one feature-length documentary and five short films. That’s too bad because this international documentary film festival, hosted by Dixie State University, is truly a gem in our community and one of the best events to originate in Southern Utah this past decade.

The quality of the films is often impeccable. Many will make you laugh; some will make you cry; others will make you angry. This is what is supposed to happen. After all, documentary filmmaking is about the human experience and those emotions are part of what we all go through in our day-to-day lives.

Among the films I saw this year was the feature-length “Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise” by director Jennifer Townsend. It did make me laugh. It also made me sad. And, yes, it made me quite angry. To view Brian Passey’s article in The Spectrum, Click Here.

The anger, however, wasn’t directed toward the film itself. Townsend did a marvelous job with the documentary, especially considering it was her first foray into filmmaking. This is especially impressive considering she was 75 when she started the project.

Or at least that’s when she started the film. It actually began as a research project a quarter-of-a-century earlier, shortly after the release of the 1991 film “Thelma & Louise.” Townsend had a powerful reaction to the film and wanted to know what others thought about it. So she sent out a press release to solicit reactions. While she collected a number of reactions through letters and audio recordings, nothing ever came of them until she decided to pursue this film.

For the film, she tracked down some of those who sent her reactions 25 years earlier as well as a few people who were actually involved in the making of the film. The result is an in-depth analysis of the film, often from a feminist standpoint.

While all of that is intriguing, the most impactful elements of Townsend’s film occur when her subjects begin making comparisons between events in the film and incidents in their own lives, including numerous stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault

What struck me most about the film is how it got people talking. During a question-and-answer session with Townsend following the film, one audience member tearfully thanked the director for making the film because it addresses an ongoing problem. The same audience member later said it can be difficult getting people to believe their stories of sexual harassment and assault.

I also spoke with two women I know following the film. While I don’t know them well, I was surprised to learn that both of them are also survivors of sexual assault. It made me wonder just how many are out there. And it made me realize how men like me need to make sure we are listening to their stories and believing them.
It’s especially important for a film like this to be shown on college campuses and in today’s political climate, where sexist and misogynistic remarks have become part of campaigns for even the highest office in the land.

We often hear about the stereotype of the “angry feminist.” Yes, that label might very well apply to some of the subjects of this film but I don’t blame them at all for their anger. They shouldn’t have to accept that sexual harassment is just part of being a woman. They shouldn’t have to accept that sexual assault is commonplace. They should be angry. We should all be angry about this.

San Antonio Living Television Broadcast, August 8, 2017

 

Steve Palopoli Interview in Good Times Santa Cruz October 3, 2017

Santa Cruz Film Festival Spotlight
By Steve Palopoli

The documentary Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise had its origins back in 1991, when director Jennifer Townsend saw the then-newly-released Thelma & Louise, directed by Ridley Scott and written by Callie Khouri, a complete badass who wrote the script in longhand while working a production assistant job, won an Oscar for it, and reportedly responded to critics of the film’s feminist messages by telling them to “kiss my ass.”

Townsend was deeply affected by the film. “It blew me away,” she told me in a phone interview last week. “The very next morning after I saw Thelma & Louise, I woke up and decided to change my name.”
Up until then, Townsend had been holding on to her married name, Pierce, despite the fact that she had been divorced for many years. Inspired by the film, “I just picked a name out of the air,” she says.

She also started to wonder if other people were being inspired by Thelma & Louise in such a profound way. So she planned a research project, though she had absolutely no background in doing so.
“I wanted to find out ‘Are other people having this kind of reaction?’” remembers Townsend. “So I made up the name of a company and I put out a press release.”

She sent the release to a number of newspapers and film-themed magazines. It explained that she was seeking respondents for a research project about Thelma & Louise, and that interested readers could write her to receive a questionnaire, which contained five simple questions about their reactions to it, like “Who did you identify with in the film?” Some of the publications she sent the press release to did run something about her project, and printed her address.

“I got all these postcards saying, ‘Please send me a questionnaire,’” she says. “Some people just answered the questions, but some people sent me two, three, five page letters.’”
All of this took a while, however, in the pre-internet era, and by the time she had received all of these submissions, Thelma and Louise’s moment in the spotlight had come and gone. She boxed up the responses, with the intent of writing an article about the whole thing one day.

But years later, when she finally took the submissions out of their boxes, she felt like only a film could really convey the feelings so many had expressed.

“I realized, ‘I have to find these people,’” she says. Of course, that was easier said than done, but when she tracked down 20 of the people who had responded back then, and had interesting reflections on how the movie had affected them, she knew she had enough material to make a film that could coincide with Thelma & Louise’s 25th anniversary in 2016. She didn’t realize that she would end up being a central voice in her own movie, as well.

“I had no intention of being in the movie,” she says. “But then I realized it’s my story, it grew out of something I did, I would have to explain where the original letters had come from.”
Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise takes a unique approach to filmmaking about filmmaking, with the subjects in the film reflecting 25 years later on their reactions to the film when it came out. It also features a couple of the male actors from the film talking about the misguided masculinity of the roles they played. Townsend, who will be at the festival screening to talk about her documentary, hopes it answers that question of “why are films worth making?” in a way that captures a cultural moment.

“I think [the audience] will discover why there was such a phenomenal reaction to Thelma & Louise when it came out,” she says. “Why it created such a stir.”

One of the purposes of film festivals in general and the SCFF in particular is to take a closer look at our love of cinema in this way, says the festival’s director Catherine Segurson. These questions about the nature of movies and why we watch them are questions she is always asking herself when she’s considering films for the festival.

“So maybe I’m a little more biased toward those types of films that are exploring that,” she admits. “But I think other people will find it fascinating also, because sometimes we don’t even realize why we’re watching movies or attracted to watching movies. I like the films that are kind of meta in a way, exploring the whole purpose behind creating films—it’s the art, but it’s also what it does to the people watching films. That’s what the Catching Sight film explores, and that’s what Cinema Travellers explore.”

Townsend wins Best Director Award Santa Cruz Film Festival October 14, 2017

Jennifer Townsend wins Best Director Award at the Santa Cruz Film Festival last week for ‘Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise.’ “I couldn’t be happier with the response to the film,” said Townsend. “It’s definitely making an impact. At Q&A, audiences speak to its timeliness. They reference the #METOO compaign and the Weinstein scandal.”

‘Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise’ screens at LA Femme International Film Festival, which features content created by women producers, writers, and directors from around the world. The 13th Annual Festival is held at Regal Cinemas at LA LIVE and runs from October 19 – 22, 2017. ‘Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise’ screens Thursday, October 19th at 2:00 pm. Tickets may be purchased at http://www.lafemme.org/tickets/

Earlier this week Townsend was interviewed on KUCI radio program ‘Get the Funk Out’ by host Janeane Bernstein. Townsend discussed her both her film and passion for starting conversations that can change the world.

‘Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise’ is an award-winning documentary about how women experience the world. Clips from ‘Thelma & Louise’ serve as a catalyst for intimate stories by viewers who saw the film in 1991 and shared their feelings in personal letters at that time. The same women and men were located 25 years later to revisit their reactions to the iconic film.

KUCI Radio, Los Angeles October 16, 2017


KUCI radio host, Janeane Bernstein interviewed Director Jennifer Townsend on ‘Get the Funk Out’. Townsend discussed both her film and passion for starting conversations that can change the world.

Synopsis & Letter from Filmmaker

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Short Synopsis

Long Synopsis

Letter from Filmmaker

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A powerful, intimate, and timely film, Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise dives off the edge, into the truth of women’s experience in the world.

A powerful, intimate, documentary, Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise dives off the edge, into the truth of women’s experience in the world. Clips from Thelma & Louise serve as a catalyst for personal stories by viewers who were impacted by the film in 1991 and wrote letters about it. Today the same women and men connect past and present, asking what, if anything, has changed in the way women are treated by the world.

Two of the male actors and the editor of Thelma & Louise offer perspectives from a different vantage point. Christopher McDonald and Marco St. John step out of the film to share vignettes, becoming participants in Thelma & Louise’s continuing journey into the 21st century.

Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise had it’s beginnings in 1991 when Thelma & Louise blazed across theater screens throughout the country and around the world, creating a firestorm of controversy. Thelma & Louise was praised as an exhilarating prototype of female empowerment and freedom. It was condemned as an alarming specimen of toxic feminism and male-bashing.

At that time, viewers responded to a national survey, sharing their visceral reactions to the film in letters and on audiotape. Twenty-five years later, the former researcher, now the filmmaker, tracked down some of the same viewers from around the country and invited them to share the meanings Thelma & Louise holds for them.

They revisit the protagonists’ journey, beginning with Thelma and Louise taking off for the weekend and continuing until they fly off the cliff at the end. Clips from the original film serve as a catalyst for intimate, personal stories of women’s experience in the real world.

The filmmaker invited a few other people she met along the way to add perspectives from a different vantage point. These include the editor of Thelma & Louise (Thom Noble) and actors who played Thelma’s husband (Christopher McDonald) and the truck driver (Marco St.John).

The collective force of these women and men breathed life into the documentary through their refreshing candidness and honesty. They pose the question: Has anything changed in the past quarter-century in the way women are treated by the world?

Our participants provide depth and definition to what it is like to be female in a world where most of the power and institutions are controlled by men. Sometimes they disagree with their former selves and sometimes they disagree with one another. Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise enriches the viewer’s appreciation of the reasons behind Thelma & Louise’s hold on popular culture. And while it is a film made by, for, and about women, it is a film which deeply resonates with all genders.

One thing that really stands out to me in conversations with men after they have viewed Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise is how deeply they are moved by it. And while men, in general, have expressed a desire for other men to see this film, it is fathers who are particularly sensitive to the messages in the film.

Prior to having preview screenings, I thought of the film as a film ‘for women.’ And it is that. First, and foremost, it is a film about how women experience the world. That is what Thelma & Louise was about. At its essence, it was about how being female shapes and constricts and controls what women can and cannot do. But I came to realize that ‘Catching Sight’ is a film that brings home to men how unsafe the world is for women and how this lack of security affects the day-to-day choices women are forced to make in wending their way through the world.

When I was successful in locating women and men who had written to me in 1991 about Thelma & Louise , I was pleasantly surprised at how open they were to being in the documentary and appearing on camera. This was in total contrast to myself. I was comfortable in back of the camera and had no thought, whatsoever, of being in front of the camera. It was only when I realized there was no other way to convey the backstory that I consented to being in the film.

Not everyone I located as potential ‘voices’ wanted to be included in the project – not because they were shy or uncomfortable, but because they rejected who they were in the past, or didn’t want to voice criticisms of Thelma & Louise, or had been raped and didn’t want to revisit that experience, even in the silence of their own mind.

It is not possible to fully express my gratitude to the wonderful participants in Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise . Their openness, authenticity, and generous spirits give the film its power and poignancy. It’s tempting to say ‘the times we live in give it relevancy,’ but, truth be told, since its very beginning, Thelma & Louise has been, and remains, relevant to the times we live in.

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