3 January, 2013
In the more than forty years since Ananda’s founding there have been many watershed moments, expanding and directing the energy in new, often unexpected ways.
Every watershed moment has come through some creative initiative launched by Swami Kriyananda. The only exception might be the forest fire of 1976, which burned down much of the AnandaVillagecommunity. The fire itself might be considered an act of God. Still, it was not the fire itself, so much as Swamijis response to that fire -- to go on two nation-wide tours -- that redirected the energy of the community.
A few years ago, Swamiji felt inspired to take Master’s message to the world through the medium of movies. Although Master himself never made any movies, he always related creatively to whatever medium was at hand. His teachings were ancient, but his methods were modern.
Even though inIndiaadvertising was not considered seemly for a spiritual work, inAmerica, Master saw no reason not to use it. As he put it, if Wrigley can advertise its chewing gum, he could advertise “good ideas for people to chew on.”
Swamiji has always followed the principle, to ask not only, “What did Master do?” but also, “What would Master do?” if faced with whatever situation we are facing now.
When Master went to Indiain 1935 he took with him an American automobile. In Autobiography of a Yogi, he talks about driving that car into remote areas ofIndia on roads that were little more than bullock cart trails, to places where cars had never been before.
When Swamiji went toIndiain 2003, he quickly understood that the way to reach people in that country was through television. Soon Swamiji had a daily program that ran for several years. The national recognition that came through that television show laid the foundation for much that has happened since.
Movies are an even more universal medium. The musical soundtrack and the visual images are of equal, sometimes even greater importance than the words that are spoken. Subtitles can translate the words; music and visual beauty need no translation. The channels for global distribution of movies are also well established, as is the market. Everywhere people go to the movies.
The movie about Ananda communities, the working title is Cities of Light, is the first, but by no means the last, movie in this most recent creative initiative by Swamiji.
At the 25th Anniversary of Ananda’s founding, back in 1993, Swamiji told us that the changes we have seen in Ananda in the first 25 years would pale in comparison to the changes that would manifest in the 25 years to come.
At the time, sitting in the beautiful outdoor amphitheater byLotusLake, those of us old enough to remember, thought about those early days at the Meditation Retreat. They were glorious days, but at that time Ananda was nothing but an isolated ashram, with a handful of people living mostly in trailers and tipis. The idea of a global movement, the idea even of electricity and indoor plumbing, what to speak of paved roads, was far from our thoughts!
By 1993, branch communities had started, even inEurope, but we were in the throes of the lawsuit with Self-Realization Fellowship, and the future was far from certain. The idea of a work inIndiawasn’t even in our consciousness, nor were the many books Swamiji has written since that time. His writings are distributed now in more than 100 countries and have been translated into 33 languages.
Think about that. All around the world, in their own language, people can receive Master’s teachings on a wide variety of subjects. And, of course, there is the internet and all that Ananda does through that medium. In 1993, we never even imagined such things would be possible. The list goes on and on.
Still, there is one significant shift that Swamiji has often mentioned, that has not yet manifested. That is to shift our entire concept of Ananda from the idea of being a place, or even many places, into a global movement. We affirm that reality by describing ourselves that way, but the actual consciousness is still more etheric than manifested.
This movie, Cities of Light, may well be the catalyzing force that launches Ananda as a movement. The purpose of art is to bring to a clear focus, states of consciousness. At this time, even we who are part of Ananda are a little like fish swimming in water. We don’t know what we have.
And, to a large extent, as Swamiji aptly puts it, Ananda is still one of the best kept secrets on the planet. This movie may change not only the world’s concept of Ananda, but also our concept of our selves.
No surprise that the inspiration to make this movie came to Swamiji at the time when forces are converging to create planetary receptivity, not only, or even primarily to Ananda itself, but to the ideals that are manifested through Ananda.
Some 40 years ago a group of dynamic (mostly) young people turned aside from conventional society, convinced that they could build a better alternative. Guided, of course, by the vision of Swamiji and the power of Master, we have worked together, drawing many brothers and sisters, to make it happen. What was at first a mere hope has now proven to be a practical reality.
At the same time, the condition of society has deteriorated and concern for our future has increased. Economic, social, ecological, and political systems are increasingly unstable. Crisis is looming.
Unstable conditions, plus advancing Dwapara Yuga, have opened many people to the principles upon which Ananda is based -- yoga, meditation, community, cooperation, to name just a few.
Crisis, awakening, and solution -- the solution being the proven ideals of Ananda -- are converging now to create an enormous, receptive, global audience for Cities of Light.
Every creative initiative launched by Swamiji is done to further the overall mission of Master’s work, not only by bringing new potentials into manifestation, but also by giving the ever-increasing number of devotees of this path the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to that mission. Every project has its own karmic group.
Although united in our overall purpose, each one of us is, as Master puts it, “dowered with individuality.” He was referring to each atom in creation, but the concept also applies to each one of us. Over the course of the years we find ourselves in the right place at the right time to make the contribution we were born to make. Whether that contribution is, whether time, talent, prayer, enthusiasm, or money, each of us, inspired by God, gives what we feel called to give to Master’s mission.
The joy of Ananda, for which we must thank Swamiji everyday, is the enormous variety of expression open to us. Which, as we move into the future of Ananda as a global movement, will only increase.
For myself, from the moment I heard about this movie, I had a deep desire to participate. For a long time, though, the opportunity never came. It was always happening in another city or even on another continent from where I live. It was not dharmic for me to abandon one set of responsibilities to embrace another merely because I wanted to. Still, the thought was always there for me.
Then, literally, the movie came to me, in the person of Shivani -- the individual most responsible, after Swamiji himself, for bringing Cities of Light from the ether to the Earth. She brought the script to my living room. The door opened, and from then on I have had the privilege of watching from a front row seat as this one has unfolded.
Much more is needed, not only to finish the movie itself, but then to distribute it, and follow-up in creative ways on the energy and interest the movie will generate.
Cities of Light is close to Earth but it hasn’t yet landed. If you feel you are part of the karmic group responsible for this movie, now is the time to respond.
3 January, 2013
Cities of Light
2012 in review – preview 2013
It was a two-year-long runway, but the Ananda Movie took off this year, and has been flying at very high altitudes, in the rarified skies of grace upon grace, miracle after miracle. Those miracles have been channeled through many of you, and they will soon reach out to touch the hearts and minds of, we hope, millions of souls. Thank you for all that you have and will do to help the film achieve its destiny.
In this year the movie has been completely filmed, is currently being edited, the sound track is being developed, and the “Director’s cut” will be ready in the early days of January. We expect the Final Cut in late March, and the first public screenings to start in spring of 2013.
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Already, at every stage along the way, people’s lives have been transformed, from Anandites who have supported or worked on the film, to the professional film makers who answered the call. Elisabeth Rohm,the film’s Juliet, is now Ishwari, and hopes to someday have a house near Ananda. Joel/Arjuna, the Assistant Director, has read How to Meditate, and keeps the Autobiography by his side. He writes (signing his Ananda Hero Name): “Thank you for allowing me to be part of your project. I do truly believe that I have returned different.” Brian the steady cam man regularly attends classes and Sunday satsangs at Ananda Los Angeles. And our director, Ted Nicolaou, well, his life went into warp speed and no one knows if he will ever get back to “normal.”
CAST AND CREW
- Producer Roberto Bessi’s choice forUSAproducer brought to the team the highly professional and experienced Frank Hildebrand, who was able to engage excellent film makers and equipment, all within our modest filming budget of $2.5 million.
- The addition of Santoshi Kendall to the management team opened up the film’s support structure to investment opportunities, which made it possible for the film to be shot and nearly edited by the end of the year.
- Dedicating over a month of her busy life, Asha came on board as script coordinator, helping the Ananda actors to focus on the essence of their on-screen interviews with Juliet.
- The search for the ideal lead actress was especially blessed, requiring only three telephone calls: one to the casting director, his call to Elisabeth Rohm, and her call to Swamiji. It was clear that this role was her destiny.
- The Ananda lead acting role went to David Eby, who not only served as guide to the film’s journalist, but also directed the live music. David is now serving as the Music Supervisor and has selected from Swamiji’s compositions the musical themes for each scene.
- Three other professional actors are in the film, including John M. Jackson, who played one of the leading roles in the TV series, JAG.
- Playing the part of Yogananda in the Garden Party scene is Sujon Datta, the great-grandnephew of Master, through his sister, Roma.
- The dance sequence to Life is a Dream was choreographed by Lakshmi Van Atta and performed by Mirabai Deranja and Christopher Selbie.
- 26 days of principle photography, of which 22 were atAnandaVillage, 3 inSacramento and at theYubaRiver, and 1 at the Empire Mine inGrassValley. The crew was on set for 12 hours each day.
- Swami Kriyananda appears in two of the movie’s major scenes. Another 24 Ananda people are interviewed in the film.
- 30 film makers participated, and they were assisted by a support team of well over 100 people, including our self-sacrificing nurses.
- Ananda Assisi is featured in a couple of minutes of background filming and the singing of Brothers in Italian in the plain belowAssisi.
- Ananda India is shown in a couple of minutes of background, and the singing of Brothers at a temple nearDelhi.
- Ananda Palo Alto was the location for a full day of background filming on Ananda’s urban communities, and footage from Ananda Portland, Laurelwood,Seattle,Sacramento and we hopeLos Angeles will be included.
- A choir of 20 voices recorded the live music; 24 singers appear on screen.
- 400 extras appear on screen, of which 65 appear in the Beverly Hills Garden Party in period costumes from 1949, and 40 children in the school and market scenes.
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
- Ted, himself a professional editor, is working with the film’s technical editor to cut down over 100 hours of film to a 90-minute movie. His first draft, the “director’s cut,” will be ready in early January.
- Revisions will be made during January and early February, and we hope the film will be “locked” by mid-February.
- Sound track creation is a three-step process. David Eby has selected melodies from Swamiji’s music. He and Ted will decide which ones will be used in each scene. They will then be arranged to fit the action of each scene. And finally they will be recorded by professional musicians in a sound studio, and then cut into the film by the Music Editor.
- Marketing and distribution. We are working with aLos Angeles company, The Penny Karlin Connection, to establish a comprehensive marketing and distribution plan. The website and social media portion of the plan is being handled by the Ananda Web Services.
2013: SCREENINGS, DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN
The following events are being developed and details will soon be available. Swami Kriyananda plans to be at these events.
Spring in Europe
The first screenings will appropriately be inItaly, where the film magnetism first began. They will coincide with Kriyananda’s visit. The film will be shown in English, with Italian subtitles.
Summer in USA
The cast and crew will reunite for a community screening atAnandaVillage. Other screenings are being planned and the dates will soon be announced.
Since we hope that people will not only see the film, but talk about it and do something about it, we are planning to field teams, eventually across theUS, in Europe andIndia, who will take the film to various events, universities and other locations. The film screening will be combined with a discussion forum and a seminar on community living skills. We especially want to bring this film to the attention of young people, who we hope will “go North, South, East and West to cover the earth with little colonies, demonstrating that simplicity of living plus high thinking lead to the greatest happiness!”
- 14 October, 2012
6 October, 2012
Friday, September 28, 2012
The second session of filming Cities of Light has begun! We're here at the Meditation Retreat to film a concert scene - 25 in the choir and 80 in the audience on a gorgeous fall day.
Most of the same film crew is back, so the chemistry and work flow is picking up where we left off, instead of starting again from scratch. Intuition plays a huge part in how the crew create their shots and wordlessly communicate with each other, so the dynamic within the workings is crucial. Read more
6 October, 2012
In this scene Elizabeth arrives at the Expanding Light for breakfast.