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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Greg Jacobs: Reminding Us That Spoken Word Can Be LOUDER THAN A BOMB

by Cyrus Webb 

Before I was on the radio, before I hosted a local television show in Mississippi and before there was a magazine, I wrote poetry. It was my way of expressing myself, sharing commentary on the world around me and even getting to the heart of who I was and the person I was becoming. Because of my own affinity for the written and spoken word I was extremely excited when I heard about the documentary LOUDER THAN A BOMB. Here was a movie that was giving airtime to something that has the ability to literally change the world---and it is doing just that.

Produced by Emmy-winning SISKEL/JACOBS Productions, this is a project that has already swept the film festivals and is now available on dvd for the world to enjoy and learn from. After watching the documentary on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, I knew I wanted to talk with someone associated with the project for the radio show and the magazine. Imagine my surprise when co-founder Greg Jacobs responded to my email and agreed to an interview. 

Greg, first of all thank you for taking out the time to talk with me about Louder Than A Bomb. It's now available on dvd. How does it feel to have reached this point?
Jon (Siskel) and I have been with the film for about two years. Alot of times we would go to film festivals and people would ask about when the film was coming out on dvd. Now it's out. We're thrilled that it's now accessible to everyone.

So tell us how this all came about. Where did the idea come from?
Alot of times with documentaries you come to the subject as an accident. This was no exception. I was driving past a famous club called The Metro" and saw a line of kids of all types lined up around the block. I looked on the marque to see what was playing, and it read LOUDER THAN A BOMB. To see teens on a Saturday night there to listen to poetry for fun was not something I did growing up. I thought to myself there must be something there. The whole thing started from that point.

Jon and you had experienced success prior to LOUDER THAN A BOMB. Did you have any expectations going in? 
I think there were two things that we understood. One was that this is a competition that happens every year, so we knew we would need to start following kids at the beginning of the school year. Through the process we started to see the kids and understood that there poetry was so powerful that you would learn about their lives from their poetry. You would also learn about their poetry from their lives. There would be that back and forth. If we could just let them do their thing and watch it unfold, it would make it a great film.

Well it is definitely a great film, Greg. I have watched it twice myself. When it went on to sweep the film festivals and get the accolades from critics and supporters alike did it seem like a mission accomplished for you? 
You know the funny thing is it almost seemed like a mission beginning. It has been gratifying to get the response. People really connected with the film in an emotional way. We knew that if we didn't do something with this it would be a loss opportunity.  The response to the film sparked the outreach elements, using the film to make a difference in the world.  We have been creating a social networking hub for young poets so that we can take the community that has been created and make it nationwide and even global. I guess that you can say that we ended the first half of the game thrilled with how we were playing. Now we're in the second half.

We hear a lot how projects like this affect those who watch them, Greg. I'm curious how did LOUDER THAN A BOMB affect Jon and you?
We were changed in so many ways. One of the biggest was that we took inspiration from them (the students). They are creatively energetic. They wrote in McDonalds, in their homes...wherever they went they wrote. They loved the community that was created through sharing. Seeing that makes you look at your life in a different way and change the way we approach things. We knew that they were great storytellers, and we didn't want to mess up their story. Our goal was to make a film that did justice to their stories. They forced us to be better filmmakers. What I've seen people take a way is a sense that the arts are actually essential. Spoken word is a way they can express themselves and speak out. Hopefully the film will refocus people's minds on the arts for kids, and come to understand others as people. If you can reach them or listen to them you won't ignore them.

Thank you again, Greg, for sharing with us. Congratulations on the film. Attention readers: LOUDER THAN A BOMB is available for purchasing from online retailers and you can find out more information about the project by visiting<p>

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