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Cinema and the Circus Gene

by Jim O'Kelley, Director
Elks National Foundation

My wife likes to say that my family has “the circus gene.” Maybe she’s right. My mom always wanted to be an actress, and my younger sister is one. (Perhaps you’ve seen her in such shows as The New Adventures of Old Christine and Devious Maids.)

My sister, the actress.
As for me, I’ve been known to dazzle karaoke crowds with my powerful rendition of “Wonderwall.” However, mostly I prefer to watch other people perform. Especially in the summer.

One of my favorite ways to beat the heat is to take in a movie. Of course, with two small children, I don’t get to the movies as often as I’d like, nor can I always find two hours to watch one at home.

Sound familiar? Well, guess what? You’re going to love our YouTube channel.

The ENF has been cranking out short films this year—we’ve produced 21 since the Hoop Shoot in April. There are a couple of long-form interviews among them, but most are pretty short—between 2 and 4 minutes. Even the busiest among us can squeeze in a few minutes.

Fair warning, though: You get out of bed to get a drink of water, sit down at the laptop to check your email, decide to watch a short film. One becomes two, soon you’ve watched five, and you’re  wondering why you’re still up.

Me, rocking live band karaoke.
(That's an iced tea in my hand.)
Seriously, that’s happened to me multiple times recently. And I’ve already seen all these films numerous times.

You can lose track of time on our YouTube channel, but you know what? It’s time well spent. We’re delivering good, short stories that are going to make you feel proud that you support our work.

Several feature scholarship recipients. There’s an interview with an Emergency Educational Grant recipient that will break your heart and then fill it with pride. A couple of others feature Legacy Award winners and their sponsors, and you can just see how our scholarship has strengthened the bond between them.

I’m even in a few. The circus gene surfaces in Can Larry Dunk? where I play the straight man. My sister Tricia got most of the acting talent but not all of it.

Jane, future Grand Exalted Ruler.
The Larry video is a fun look at what it means to be a part of a team that works on one of our programs. Our volunteers get more serious treatment, too. Our Hoop Shoot film this year follows four of them through the finals and tells the story of the weekend through their eyes. And the tribute to Jeff Mitchell, the Community Investments Program’s Volunteer of the Year, is fantastic.

My favorite is probably Girls Allowed, and not just because it stars my wife and features a non-speaking cameo by my daughter, Jane.  I like it because it’s important. It will inspire parents to get their daughters involved in the Hoop Shoot. It will encourage female members to volunteer with the program. And it will change the attitudes of people whose opinions of us are as outdated as they think we are.

Just writing about these films makes me want to watch them again. I think I will. You should, too. There are 21 in the queue and more on the way. You don’t want to fall too far behind. There’s only so much time in the day.
 

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