Inciting the revolution
Local couple spread message of positive, respectful action through web series set to hit TV
Gerard Ungerman and Stacey Wear exude positivity, especially when discussing their latest project, dubbed Respectful Revolution.
“When you start looking for the positive, that’s what you find,” Wear said.
But everything hasn’t always been rosy for the couple. Ungerman, a French citizen, had been living in the United States for 20 years when, unexpectedly in 2009, he was denied his U.S. visa. After 15 months of fighting—him from France, Wear from the U.S.—he ultimately was allowed to return. But the turmoil had been tough on the couple.
“It brought home the plight of people who are shown no respect for the reality of their lives by the system,” Ungerman said.
“There was no humanity,” Wear added. “We had to make a conscious effort to cultivate joy and hope. We were no longer interested in exposing horror stories.”
That was the foundation for Respectful Revolution, which builds on Ungerman’s background in film—he has a long history of exposing wrongdoing related to the environment—and Wear’s skills in communication. For the past three summers, Ungerman has set out on the road on his trusty motorcycle to record stories of people around the United States who are acting respectfully. Themes range from charitable efforts to ethical businesses to sustainability.
The short videos are posted online at respectfulrevolution.org and the couple also have traveled around the country offering screenings in regions where they filmed the previous summer. In each “story,” they ask their subject three questions: What do you do? Why do you do it? And, who are you?
“Our last question is always ‘Who are you?’” Ungerman explained. “Because, now that I know what you do, and I know your motivation for doing it, I want to be your friend—I want to know who you are. It helps people realize that it doesn’t take a superhero to do something cool.”
One of the people they interviewed, while in Denver two summers ago, was Jon Stout, general manager of Free Speech TV. The network, which airs nationally as well as online, offers independent, progressive news meant to inspire social change.
“He could have gone to work for any network,” Wear said of why they chose to feature Stout. “But he made the risky choice to tell the news stories that weren’t being told.”
When Ungerman and Wear returned to Denver last year to screen that video and others, Stout approached the pair and offered them a deal. They ended up signing with Free Speech TV for a 12-episode run of Respectful Revolution. The only catch is what they currently have are short vignettes—they need to now package them together into 30-minute episodes, create introductions and transitions.
“We want to create the best thing possible, because the contract is nonexclusive. So after it airs on Free Speech TV, we can take it wherever we want,” Wear said. “We want it to be part solution-based ideas and part adventure travelogue.”
To help move their project along, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to keep them afloat while they work away—the network is a nonprofit and only offered $200 per episode—as well as to allow them to hire someone to boost their Web presence and make their content compatible with tablets and cellphones.
“The show’s going to happen whether Kickstarter does or not,” Wear said. “It’s just the difference between doing the job we want to do and making the job that much harder.”
In the end, it all comes back to their message of positivity. In finding the people they’ve featured in their videos thus far, Wear said they often approach people and ask them if they know anyone who’s doing something positive in their community.
“At first they might not have an answer,” she said. “Then, give them 10 minutes and they’ve thought of someone. And give them a day and they’ve come up with a whole list. It’s been such a great experience.”
For Ungerman, being stranded in France and fighting to return to the United States made him re-examine his American dream and what it means to live in this country.
“The people who come to this country, some of them come here to exploit everything. But others come to build it up. When you see people who push others to the point of weakness—I think that’s shortsighted; it’s creating a weak nation,” Ungerman said. “We believe in empowering people rather than cutting them down.”