Message from Generation Excel Founder Gary Marino…
DECADE…How The Million Calorie March led to the 3000 Day Film
It was the spring of 2001 and I was sitting after-hours in my office in Burlington, Mass., watching the small TV in my office. By then I was on my way to losing the first of what would be 150 pounds and I was researching the obesity epidemic everyday in an attempt to better understand it. As I watched the TV, I wondered where all the health campaigns, PSAs, documentary films, reality shows and community programs were. If this was truly the biggest epidemic to threaten our country (as I was learning) then why wasn’t there more being done to help fight obesity? Where was the anti-tobacco type campaign against this disease?
In my heart…I knew that the only good that could ever come from the years I’d battled this disease was to try to do something positive with the experience I’d had. I drew up a blueprint in my office that day of a grassroots Florida to Boston awareness walk which would help raise money for a non-profit we would launch called Generation Excel. The hope was that the campaign would spur corporate America and healthcare companies into backing similar “impact campaigns” in various parts of the country. The blueprint included a book about childhood obesity, an inspirational documentary film and a unique non-profit which would award community grants and donations to programs across the country to help prevent future “little Garys”. I imagined a non-profit organization where concerned parents could call for support, advice or financial assistance to send their kids to exercise classes after school or weight loss camps during the summer. I wanted to create a non-profit group my mother Lorraine “Rainbow” Marino would have called on back in the late 1970’s when her son began to show the signs of the food addiction and emotional eating to come.
That was April 2001. The amazing thing is that over the next 7- 8 years the entire blueprint that I drew up in my office that day actually happened! 4 national campaigns, over 200 events, an award winning film, a book, community grants and thousands of inspired people later – the plan has been realized. No matter where it goes from here…that will always bring a smile to my face.
But the lesson here…and this has nothing to do with obesity or weight loss…is that none of this happened the way we thought it would. None of it. There were more challenges, obstacles, money issues and learning curves for this aggressive plan than we ever anticipated. Nothing was easy and none of these opportunities exactly fell into our laps. We MADE them happen. In the end we learned to expect obstacles, deal with them and just “keep on marching”. I think there’s a lesson there about life in general, don’t you think? Expect obstacles. If it’s worth it you’ll get around them.
So between 2001 and 2009 the blue print became reality and America itself changed right along with us. Today there are obesity campaigns, reality TV shows, PSAs, community challenges, corporate weight loss contests and millions of people working to help turn the epidemic around. In 2010 President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announced a national initiative to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity. No matter where your politics lie…it is simply amazing to see the White House take this issue on.
Million Calorie March: The Movie was conceived long before “Super Size Me” and “The Biggest Loser” and all the other great programs we have today. My intention was to create a film on this subject unlike anything I’d seen to date. With the full length, 95 minute version I tried to make was a film focusing on one man’s story verse the public at large. I filtered everything through the eyes of someone who struggled with obesity: what would have held my attention years ago in my worst stages of this? I didn’t want to make another syrupy obesity film or a dry educational film…those were out there. I tried to make it entertaining and humorous story about a road trip and fuse the education into that story arc. If you look at how much we breakaway from the story of the walk to explore the back-story of obesity (though my own experiences) there is actually a lot of information and education there.
I knew the film would connect with people who struggled with Obesity…the challenge was to make it a good stand alone film whether the viewer cared about the issue or not. We knew if we could accomplish that they would come away with a new understanding of obesity and in fact…CARE. And thanks to the financial support from Executive Producer Todd G. Patkin, and the creative talents of my co-producers Jimmy Jay Frieden and Jeff Schmidt, screen writer Sandy Jaffrey, consultant David Kleiler and countless others including actor/director Matty Blake (who directed the original sponsorship videos in 2001…portions of which were eventually used in the film) the goal was accomplished!
Million Calorie March: the Movie went on to screen at film festivals across the country including Jacksonville (where the walk was launched) West Palm Beach, New York, North Hampton, and Boston among others. Simultaneously it screened (and continues to screen) at health conferences and wellness events such as Galveston Islands Health Fair, the annual SOPHIE conference in Boston and Inspiring Wellness in Hilton Head S.Carolina (where over 600 people showed up to the film’s premiere). In 2008 the film screened at more than 40 stops during our “Million Step March” Tour across North Carolina in a custom made inflatable “Shoe Box Theater” created by Blue Cross Blue Shield. By the end of 2008 the film had won an International Freddie Health Award (a medical Oscar) and by spring 2009 we had strong interest from The Oprah Winfrey Network and a broadcast offer from TLC. Today the film is distributed by a variety of educational distributors at schools and universities and is available at most libraries across the country. Our non-profit continues to distribute it and online and download options as I write this are on the way via Amazon and others.
“Million Calorie March: The Movie” remains one of our proudest accomplishments at Generation Excel. I hope you’ll watch it, enjoy it and learn from it. And finally when it comes to your health goals…head straight for them and “Keep on Marching!”
About The Soundtrack
Message from the Producer:
In the Spring of 2005, as executive producer Todd Patkin and I were putting all of the elements in place to begin work on “Million Calorie March: The Movie”, I sat in my office thinking about the music soundtrack. Music had been an important part of my life. In the 80’s it had been as a drummer for a variety of bands and recording projects. From 1987 until 1992 I’d worked in radio (KISS 108FM and WWEA-AM), and from 1993 until 2003 I had run my own production company, (Harmon-Marino Entertainment) working with some of Boston’s greatest undiscovered musical talents. I wanted the soundtrack for the documentary / docudrama we were working on to be like the movie itself – eye opening, inspiring, motivating and entertaining.
I made a wish list that day in my office of Boston area artists I would love to provide songs and scores for the movie. It was important to me that the film showcases our amazing, homegrown talents who by all rights – in my opinion – should be major stars in the music world.
One person on my list had even gone on to make quite a name for himself, first as a recording artist and eventually scoring TV and films. Jon Butcher, who I’d been a fan of growing up and who had gone on to be a Grammy Nominated recording artist was the first to sign on for “Million Calorie March”. Within 2 months I found myself with Jon Butcher at Barefoot Sound Studios in Los Angeles like a kid in a candy store picking songs and scores for the film. Next up were Mark Morris and Catunes and the Swinging Steaks (featuring Tim Giovanniello) who I’d had the pleasure working with during my Harmon-Marino days. Eventually other artists, including Michael Hill, Greg Lutrell and Tony Hall contributed songs to scenes as well.
Of course, the pressure to make the actual film as good as the soundtrack was immense! By the time the music was in place at the end of 2006 it was so darn good I was convinced that our low budget, independent film would have a big, “Hollywood” quality sound. And you know what? I was right!
When the film premiered in late 2007 and early 2008 – it was the thing everybody gravitated to and wanted a copy of. People of all ages, backgrounds, even non-musical types with “ears of stone” mentioned how inspiring they found the film’s music. I truly enjoyed putting the soundtrack together and remain very proud of the all the music for “Million Calorie March”. I hope that as TV and home DVD distribution falls into place the world will be inspired once again by these talented and gifted musicians. What’s more – I’m proud to call all of the artists, songwriters and musicians who appear my friends. Please check out their individual websites and support their music!
All the best – Gary Marino
Mark Morris & Catunes
Songs from the Film
|“Takes My Breath Away”
“Baby Loves Me”
“Tie The Devil Down”
|Performed by the Barefoot Servants
Written by Jon Butcher and Ben Schultz
|“Long Way Home”
“Takes A New Man”
|Performed by Jon Butcher|
|All Music Scores by Jon Butcher
courtesy of Electric Factory Studios, Los Angeles
“Stains Like Water”
|Performed by The Swinging Steaks|
|“Time Stands Still”||Written by Jim Gambino|
|“Get Dirty” “Untrue”||Performed by Tim Giovanniello|
“Looking For Myself”
“She Tears Down The Walls”
“In My Daze”
|Performed by Mark Morris and Morris Band|