Author Archives: vitasekkyle

Captivated by Haiti

As some of you know I recently traveled to Haiti to volunteer with the English In Mind Institute.

It has been a while since I returned and taken me while to ‘take in’ all that I experienced.

You should know that Haiti is an incredible country and it’s people beautiful and strong. Amidst the rubble of the 2010 earthquake, the corruption of their new government, and the myriad messes that NGOs have created since rushing to their aid, the students of EIM are making amazing strides toward being masters of their own fate.

Many of them find strength to soldier on, as my new friend Johnson would say it, from their faith.

Johnson, my fellow soldier from Haiti, chillin’ on the beach.


For those fortunate enough to get a holiday on the beach, it is incredible. And something I hope that all Haitians get to experience some day. If you’re doubting me about the beauty of this country, take a look at this. Can you imagine how much the local economy would be helped if a few committed ex-pats went to Haiti and committed to building a sustainable, eco-friendly, local employing resort town on one of these beaches?

The beach where we took a half-day holiday at the end of our time in Port-Au-Prince.

If you like this idea, better hurry up. Carnival Cruises already purchased an entire island off the coast of Haiti. Chances are they won’t do it in a sustainable fashion. With the world watching, and much of the world wanting to help, now is the time to get involved.

However, if you do want to get involved, first go with Stephanie Price or Meike Jill Schleiff. I’ve found both of these young women to operate by the standard ‘do no harm’, which is important in Haiti. You may or may not know that two UN workers from Turkey introduced cholera to the water table in Haiti, then received treatment. Yet the Haitians cannot afford this treatment, so there is now an outbreak of cholera, and many cholera houses set up in Haiti where these beautiful souls go to wait to die.

To shift gears to the strength of my Haitian friends again…

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out my other friend Caroline’s video she recorded for the EIM Vimeo page:

Rise from English in Mind Institute on Vimeo.

Caroline is a young woman who works at Haiti Communitere, which we affectionately call HC… slang for HQ. She helps with cleaning, cooking, and also seems to have some other sort of work that has her away from HC for part of the day. Between herself and my other good friend Alcide Samuel, they keep the place running with decent water for washing, fresh food every day for lunch, a proper shop for building and maintaining everything from the classroom desks I worked on for EIM to a truck, dirtbike, and ATV that HC uses to get around PAP and help the NGOs that use their property as HQ.

(Am I starting to sound like a Washingtonian w/my abbreviations?)

And there is Bengie, a young mother who is applying at various consulates with her new training in English under her belt.

She and some of the other students care so much about their communities, and want to better themselves in order to help their friends and family, that they can be very political.

Watch some of debate camp at EIM, recorded by my friend whom I met at HC, Kate Edwards:

Jimmy talks about aid in Haiti.
Pierre talks about aid in Haiti.
Dominique talks about aid in Haiti.
Dominique pt 2 🙂

What is captivating is where these folks have come from, and they don’t talk about it much. Yet you can see it all around us in PAP.

They study in a school that still shows signs of debris from the earthquake. They walk miles to school from their professional pursuits in the dead heat of middday. They often arrive dehydrated and try to pull themselves together to study. They do not have proper plumbing. They do not have AC – this is a luxury reserved for the upper class Haitians who live on the hill.

My friends in Haiti experience a class divide that simply will not compute for us, until we experience it first hand. In much the same way that many of us struggle to make sense of the Martin/Zimmerman exchange because we have never been in a situation like that, we also cannot get into our Haitian neighbors’ shoes and walk a mile in them without being right there alongside them and walking the brief 2 miles from HC to EIM, seeing trash in the ‘streets’, which are really dirt roads inbetween rows of cinderblock and rebar walls which serve as security for the modest concrete homes my friends live in.

The slum is much worse. Our tour guide Willio, who is an entrepreneur to boot, had his dog shot by a UN group who were tracking a ‘gangster’ and silenced the dog with a rubber bullet b/c it was barking, alerting the suspect to the UN presence.  Willio himself has also been shot by a UN ‘peacekeeper’.
His mother and siblings live in a three room row house in Cite Soleil, the largest slum in the western hemisphere.

We spent about 5 hours walking the slum, small children running up and chanting, “Blanc, Blanc” and begging simply to be touched by a person of wealth and prestige, which us middle class Americans are to them.  With our camelbacks, fancy cameras, fashionable shorts and Ts, etc. we were a sight to be seen. The children run the waste-filled gutters without clothes. The families that can find work fix fishing nets at the wharf, or burn tires to get the steel belts out of them to sell them.

Willio himself showed us a ‘tap-tap’ garden at the edge of the slum, that he is helping folks work to bring to a lot in the middle of his ‘borough’, section 19.
It is plants of all sorts rooted in used tires, so that when they are ready to be transported, and the lot has been cleared in the slum, the Haitians can transplant this garden right into their neighborhood, and immediately begin harvesting the nutritional value that the various plants provide… not to mention the shade 🙂

Willio is decently trained in English, and has access and training on one of the only 3d printers in the country. He is currently making trinkets to educated his fellow Haitians in the production of these, so that they can sell them in the market for NGO workers and tourists.

Willio at the 3d Printer at HC. Proud of his work. I’m proud of him too!

So you can see the indomitable strength of some of the folks I spent a brief 10 days walking alongside of.

There are many more stories of strength in the midst of hardship I could tell. And I will chronicle them someday. Hopefully we will be able to make a full-length documentary including some of these folks and their heroic stories.

For now, simply know that Haiti is a prime example of the great good that men are capable of at their best, and the great evil they are capable of at their worst. The corruption in Haiti is still rampant, yet there are those who believe that virtue will triumph, and they are fighting the good fight every day.

I hope to re-join them soon, and to share more of their captivating stories with you as well.

For now, I hope you enjoyed this post, and I welcome your feedback and comments.





Captivating Music

Some months ago Kyle Vitasek, owner of Captivate Films had the pleasure of joining a team of young men that documented NeedToBreathe’s performance at one of our favorite music venues, the 9:30 club.

Here is a bit of the show shot on my iphone between “real camera” shots 🙂

That is some captivating music! And visuals! It was so much fun to be backstage and see up close and personal how much the music means to Bo and Bear. In fact, afterward I was scrounging for one of the famous 930 cupcakes and thought the guys were already out back doing meet and greet w/fans… so who did I ask for a cupcake? Bo, himself!

It was great to hear some of the heart behind songs like “washed in the water” which you saw above. Bo and the guys desire to write and perform music for everyone, that inspires, relates to, and brings meaning to life.

And they pull it off! Pick up some tickets to their next show anywhere near where you live. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Their songs are captivating, the light show is captivating, and the heart they bring to each performance is, well… captivating! Noticing a theme yet?

The best performers, business people, and friends tell captivating stories. It’s an art we have mostly lost in this age of conspicuous media consumption. How many people do you see in the metro, or at the bus stop, or even in a church glued to a multimedia mobile device? You and your friends (myself included) consume stories non-stop. But how many of them captivate us? If I had to guess, I’d say you are ho-hum about most of the stories you consume. Now, the olympics are an exception! But you get the point. We consume a bunch of junk each day. You know what I’m talking about. The songs that play on your ipod when you put it on shuffle and you’re embarrassed to have anyone know that you actually have that song in your collection. We all have ’em. That movie on our shelf that we really wish we hadn’t bought from Wal-Mart or come to own from Blockbuster because we never returned it 🙂 Or the bazillion Netflix and Redbox flicks we cut off 2/3 of the way through wishing we could get that 100 minutes of our life back. Are you convinced yet?

So we all consume stories at a rate that is unprecedented in the history of man. And we’re gluttons because of it. Yes, you heard it here first. You, my friend, are a story glutton. And it’s made you fat and lazy mentally… such that you have forgotten how to tell your own story. NeedToBreathe hasn’t forgotten. My grandmother in Norfolk hasn’t forgotten, Currituck, NC native that she is… accustomed to front porch sitting and visitin’ – which is a lost art these days. I have been a beneficiary of a grandmother and father who never fail to tell great stories. Sometimes I have little patience to hear the endings, but when I do I get some good ole-fashioned life wisdom!

So my challenge to you this week? Listen to NeedToBreathe for the stories they tell. Ask what they mean? Become a conscious consumer, and become a producer of culture. Start “visitin” and telling stories to your neighbors, and listening to their stories. Your life will be much richer, and you’ll find your friendships deepen, and your life wisdom meter will bust right through the roof. I guarantee it! You can take those promises to the bank. Try it. And report how it went.

As always, if you have a story you’d like told through video, be in touch. We’d love to help you tell your story and make it captivating!

Captivating Business

Today I heard about a great PR move on the part of a business that is in the middle of experiencing a boycott. Guesses anybody? Which business?

You guessed it, I had a great breakfast at Chick-Fil-A as they celebrated Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, a movement started by people who enjoy Chick-Fil-As food and company culture.

And boy are Americans out in droves to show their love and support for this family-owned business success story.

















A double-lane drive through is full, and inside seats were hard to come by. In fact, I gave up my spot working on my laptop to create this post so that the young man in the foreground and his family could enjoy their lunch. 🙂

Are you wondering why this is a great PR move? Well if you haven’t noticed, Chick-Fil-A has come under a lot of scrutiny recently for their views on family values as written here:

‘Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, we believe that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of our profits back to our communities are what make us a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family.

The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our Restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect –regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.

Our mission is simple: to serve great food, provide genuine hospitality and have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.’

Why this is so offensive is beyond me. The LA Times has a piece on the details of the boycott and how they are trying to win the news cycle today by congregating in Chick-Fil-A parking lots to try and keep happy chicken lovers from getting the sandwiches they love, or at least speaking their mind loudly to them as they walk past to exchange dollars for a few minutes of chicken zen. Here is the article: Fans, protesters, PETA converge on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

Chick-Fil-A has done a masterful job staying on top of this. And the great thing is they haven’t once broken from their message shown above. That has been how they have done business from day one, how they will continue to do business despite public outcry, and the possibility of being banned from certain cities w/liberal mayors who do not support their views on what constitutes a solid family unit.

Kudos to Chick-Fil-A for having a captivating “why” story that drives how they do business. The “what” and “how” of serving up chicken are very much secondary to the “why”. This is how they have managed to produce exceptional revenue amongst a market flooded with competition – ie – KFC, Bojangles, etc.

If your organization needs help identifying or telling your why story, get in touch with us here. We’d love to help you tell your “why” story and captivate your market, getting more feet in the door, and growing your business with integrity.

Captivating Rescue

What are some of the most captivating stories from your life?

One of mine involves a dirt bike, a young girl in trouble, and a chase that ended with the young girl flying over her handlebars into the woods with a small cut over her eye. I quickly dismounted my bike, pulled her away from hers, dressed her wound, and hurried her to the ER.

In this week’s post, we profile the work of Ryan Berry, one of our favorite Directors of Photography. He let Captivate Films assist him with a tracking shot on his late night filming for this Spotsylvania Volunteer Fire and Rescue training video which proves that the most captivating stories are ones that connect us to human tragedy, and human triumph. Enjoy!

Spotsylvania Volunteer FIre + Rescue from Ryan Berry on Vimeo.

What beautiful footage! And what beautiful stories of men and women working to support their community and rescue those in harm’s way!

We look forward to working with Ryan on many more Captivating stories in the near future. Keep an eye on your FB, Twitter, and LinkedIN feeds for our newest projects with Ryan.

Stay Safe Captivaters 🙂 and stay classy while you’re at it too!

Avenge this?

Is there any wrong worth avenging these days? The new take on The Avengers wowed me the other night an intricate plot, excellent acting, powerful directing, and surprisingly sharp philosophical underpinnings.

Can a feel good summer flick actually teach us something about ourselves and what in life is worth avenging? In a word… yes!

So what, if anything, is worth avenging these days? And what does it mean to avenge?

The writers of Avengers seem to put forward a new patriotism. And how apropo it is at a time when ‘American Pride’ is at an all-time low. Many believe our country has lost it’s way, and in many ways I agree with them. However, all is not lost! Enter Captain America – a hero from a time gone by whose powers came to him via a super soldier experiment engineered by the US – as the plot goes – to counteract the Germans super soldier program. Captain America was cryogenically frozen – think Han Solo – to be kept for a time when America would need him again. See the philosophy of American Exceptionalism sneaking in?

And it doesn’t stop w/Captain America. Tony Stark, Dr. David Banner, Nick Fury and many others in SHIELD round out a cast of heroes – the film purports – that American NEEDS. Take Fury’s motto for example – “they’ll be here when we need them.” Until then, heroes fade to the background. They go back to lives of ignonimity serving the people around them in the place they call home. Which ought to be a comfort and a call to us. We’re asked nothing more in this life than to serve those whom we “bump into” every day. When the occasion calls for it we may be asked to take on something greater. And thank goodness those moments are few and far between.

So there we have the cast of everyday people who do extraordinary things when America needs them. They will be there when our liberty is at stake. And that is the great arc to this story, the raison d’etre as the french phrase it that causes our anger to rise in response to great evil, and draws us to avenge a wrong levied against those we love.

A brief definition from Webster’s – ‘v – to take vengeance for or on behalf of.’ An avenger is one who takes action to bring justice to a wrong that has been perpetrated against another. ‘Vengance is mine.’ Thus saith the Lord. Great reminder to not take on something that is not ours to carry. And yet, we are asked from time to time to carry a heavy burden. Maybe your burden is parents who are in a rest home and being taken advantage of by “the system.” Maybe your burden is the sex slave trade across the world. Maybe your burden is parents whose nest egg was crushed by the recent financial crisis.

Whatever your burden, it is worth avenging. The Avengers teach us this eternal truth. Let’s take this film for what it is – a clarion call to refresh the liberties this country once thrived upon. Let’s you and I engage in the political process, but let’s start our care for the ‘polis’ or city where God asks us to, in our own homes, with our own communities, in our own places of worship. The effects will trickle out… and will serve as the nutrients for the tree of liberty that Jefferson mentioned in his writings – “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Our country has been in fewer periods of history that require such precise attention to the political winds. If this ship of state is to be righted, we must start pouring out the blood, sweat, and tears of sacrifice and service now that will lead to fruit for generations to come. If we don’t I don’t care to muse on what might happen. I’ve seen too much injustice already.

Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, through prayer and petition, make your requests known to God. For he cares for you.



Starting Over

An appropriate name for a ‘Re-Create’ post, huh?

How many chances do we get in life to start over? In the movies you’d think only one… maybe two in the entire course of our lives.

I submit to you that every day is a chance to start over fresh. I had the pleasure of exploring this theme with a wonderful cast and crew this past weekend as we labored to complete a 48 hour film project. Here is the trailer for our film, which premiered at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theater last night, and will be posted online when we complete our full edit in the near future.

Executive Producer Cortney Matz, Director Arel Joseph Avellino and actors Alex Witherow, Sheila Spann, Betsy Gupta, and Geoffrey Baskir did amazing work! And who can forget our faithful PA Chris Miranda. I could not have asked for a better team! God truly brought together a unique group with their own very particular talents that flowed well into a whole. I learned so much about my directorial process, and how to let go of certain production details and delegate to talented people.


Every day is an opportunity to start over. You may not have gathered it from the trailer, but lead male actor Alex plays a ‘Sawyer-esque’ con-man who is dragged into a larger story where he is challenged to use his talents to help someone, rather than himself.  He reaches his moment of decision, and finds that along the way a transformation has occurred in him, and he reaches out, to cut Sheila loose, pick her up, and charge forward with her toward impending danger to help her accomplish her mission.

Speaking as one who has been given many opportunities to start over I can tell you that every day is a battle to continue choosing to live a different way than the path you chose in the past. The things we root ourselves in bear fruit, and it’s hard to dig up those roots and get grafted back into a new vine, if you will.  But it can be done. Change can be made. The good in us can win out over the bad, but it requires a decision!

A good friend and mentor of mine likes to point us to the root of the word decision. As a writer, I love this! He points us to another word w/the same root – incision – which is a cutting into; then he takes us to decision – a cutting off from. In order to choose one source of strength and raison d’etre we must cut off the other possibility. My generation is notorious for our inability to do this. We love to “keep our options open,” only deciding – even if you can call it that – at the last possible moment, when the repercussions or benefits of our decision are finally directly upon us.  I could spend some time telling you of the myriad ways in which this dissolves our societal ties and keeps us from the joy of community, but that may be a topic for another post. 🙂

We had an excellent time this weekend, and it is an honor to get to work in this profession. I ask you to join with me in making our professions labors of love and of rootedness in community. We, like Alex, can be re-rooted… and it can happen in a moment! Life can be re-created – in a flash!

All that is required of us is that we stop, be still, and make a decision.

The Fighter

Do you have someone who will fight to the death for you?

No, I’m not speaking in the sense fathers-in-law use to question their sons-in-law-to-be.  Nor, quite literally, am I writing of the way William Wallace fought to the death for his country and his right as a man to be free…

Instead, I’m asking you if you are down for the second time in the 12th round, and you’re ready to throw in the towel, does your friend hop into the ring and finish the match for you?

Enter The Fightera beautiful film by director David O. Russell, known for Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees.

For those of you who have seen the film, you will know that Dickie Ward was the one who really needed someone to fight for him. He thought he was fighting for his brother, portrayed by Marky-Mark – Mark Wahlberg. But when someone stepped into the ring to battle for the Ward family for the final time, it was thirty year old Mickey Ward.

The film is beautiful. I highly recommend it. Now most of you are probably thinking, “Really, another boxing film? What about the one w/Russell Crowe? Haven’t we seen this story a thousand times since Rocky?”

The answer is a resounding “NO!” As I began to relay to you earlier, The Fighter paints a picture of what it means to be a true brother, a good man, a great fighter who will step into the ring for family, not for foolish pride, or money but for the people in his life that truly matter.

So, if you want a film that will make you re-think your commitments to those you love and might cause you to recognize some things in them that are worth fighting for, I highly recommend this one. You WILL NOT be disappointed. In fact, it might get added to your top ten list!

For director David O. Russel this is a tour-de-force. Having seen two other films he directed, I can say he shows his stripes in all three. He is no flake as a director. However, I think this film rises to a new level of excellence. The way he seamlessly intertwines complicated plot lines, and keeps us guessing as to who is fighting for whom, who the good brother is, who the good guy is, who is the hero we want to root for, is pitch-perfect. He has truly RE-CREATED the philosophy of the fighter, the heart undergirding and filling up all of his punches.  I can’t say enough good things about this director. I hope to get the pleasure of working w/him some day in the future.

I hope you have enjoyed this review. I trust you will find as much pleasure in viewing the film as I have.

Happy viewing,