On the Road With Preemptive Love
Travel with us for a behind-the-scenes look into Preemptive Love. We’re sharing never-before-heard clips from the Love Anyway short film (You’ll even hear a bit from our film narrator, Kristen Bell!), live music from the Love Anyway fall tour, and sharing how YOU can be part of the virtual spring Love Anyway tour with Preemptive Love founders Jeremy and Jessica Courtney — and surprise guests from around the world.
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Can’t leave your house? Virtually travel behind the scenes with us!
In this episode, listen to never-before-heard clips from the Love Anyway short documentary (You’ll even hear a bit from our film narrator, Kristen Bell!), hear live music from the Love Anyway fall tour, and learn how YOU can be part of the virtual spring Love Anyway tour with Preemptive Love founders Jeremy and Jessica Courtney — and surprise guests from around the world.
This first episode of season four takes you behind the scenes of the Love Anyway tour that took place last fall. Peek behind the curtain into the making of the Love Anyway film, a short documentary we created to explore the ideas around how we can heal what’s tearing us apart. We let you in on some of the conversations that happened before and during the making of the film.
We were planning to share this immersive episode with you later this year to go along with a new Love Anyway tour across the US. But because of COVID-19, our spring tour is going online. So we bumped up our production schedule to share this with you now!
(Starting April 9, we’re hosting five online, interactive events with Preemptive Love founders Jeremy and Jessica Courtney. Free tickets are available now, but space is limited.)
In this episode of our Love Anyway podcast:
- Ben Irwin, director of communications, shares what it was like to sit in the room in Los Angeles where Chris and Nicole, Marwa and Menachem (all voices you’ll hear in this episode!) had a chance to interact and have difficult but hopeful conversations. We also hear from Chad, who helped produce the film.
- We travel to New York City, where more than 170 people gathered for an intimate film screening and conversation with Jeremy Courtney in Midtown Manhattan. We also hear some live music from The Brilliance, who wrote the Love Anyway film score, and performed at some fall tour stops.
- Dane Barnett, one of our team out on the film tour, shares feedback from Oliver, a young film viewer in Maryland. Producer Kayla Craig records reactions to the film after attending a local Love Anyway gathering in a living room in Iowa.
- Hear how staff in Preemptive Love’s Iraq office watched the film together as a team in the small studio we use for recording these podcast episodes.
Episode Quotes From Host Erin Wilson:
- “We label ourselves and each other to decide who’s in, who’s out. Who’s like us, who’s not. Who’s safe… and who isn’t. But this kind of division leads to violence. And violence leads to war. We’ve seen it. We’ve lived it. And we know: there’s another way.”
- “How do we heal all that’s tearing us apart? We stand shoulder to shoulder. We listen. Then we listen some more. We change our own minds and our own posture with a commitment to turn enemies into friends.”
- “What does it look like to love anyway in our own communities? What does it look like to end war in your own heart, and your own neighborhood? No two contexts are completely alike, and yet, could pursuing peace be the thread that brings us together? We believe there’s a way to heal all that’s tearing us apart, so we can rise together.”
We’re often asked: what is the best way to support the work Preemptive Love is doing in Iraq, Syria, the US-Mexico border, and beyond? Here’s the answer: A monthly donation.
Even $5 a month makes a huge difference in giving war-torn families what they need for today, and for many, many tomorrows.
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Love Anyway is a podcast by Preemptive Love. It’s written and produced by Erin Wilson, Kayla Craig, and Ben Irwin. Sean Gabrielson is our audio editor. Skip Matheny is Preemptive Love’s director of digital. Executive producers are Jeremy Courtney, Jessica Courtney, and JR Pershall. Special thanks to Ricky Kraemer and The Brilliance. Our theme music is by Roman Candle.
Kayla: Hey, it’s Kayla, producer of the Love Anyway podcast. I’m popping in from our regular podcast schedule to invite you to something special we’re doing here at Preemptive Love.
The episode you’re about to hear takes you behind the scenes of the Love Anyway tour that took place last fall. We were planning to share this immersive, encouraging episode with you later this year to go along with a new Love Anyway tour across the US. But because of COVID-19, our spring tour is going online. And it’s happening now.
We’re hitting the road virtually to reinforce what holds us together, across the distance. I want to personally invite you to join Jeremy and Jessica Courtney and friends from around the world for the spring Love Anyway Tour.
So as you’re listening to this special episode, make a note to get to loveanyway.com/tour to book your seat now! Here’s the show.
Ben: This idea that’s become really clear to us over the last decade plus is that war begins in our heads, and our hearts long before it reaches our hands, long before it looks like bullets and bombs and destruction, and refugees fleeing for their lives. So that’s the story that we want to tell, because that’s a story that we think has particular relevance for people, for people in the United States, and for people around the world today, who are feeling maybe more fractured and more polarized than ever.
Erin: Welcome back to the Love Anyway podcast … I’m Erin Wilson, Preemptive Love’s senior field editor in Iraq. In season four, we’re exploring the idea “To End War”: What does it really mean to end war, especially when we’re more connected than ever… yet growing even more divided.
We label ourselves and each other to decide who’s in, who’s out. Who’s like us, who’s not. Who’s safe… and who isn’t. But this kind of division leads to violence. And violence leads to war.
We’ve seen it. We’ve lived it. And we know: there’s another way.
PODCAST THEME MUSIC
Erin: Today, we’re diving in to a look at the Love Anyway film, a short documentary we created to explore the ideas around how we can heal what’s tearing us apart. We’re pulling back the curtain, letting you in on some of the conversations that happened before and during the making of the film.
Erin: That’s the intro to the Love Anyway film. Does the narrator sound familiar? Some of you might recognize her as Frozen’s Princess Anna, or maybe Veronica Mars, or The Good Place’s Eleanor Shellstrop. But we know her as Kristen Bell, a fellow sojourner on this path of choosing to love anyway, and supporter of Preemptive Love.
Kristen Bell: And feel like once you create the “we all feel this, some of us feel scared when you see the refugee boots,” once you have that as your peanut butter, the jelly can be, “We have to do this.”
Erin: Way before we added the final voice-overs to the Love Anyway film, we had to decide what stories to tell, and how.
Kristen Bell: All right, I’m gonna read this one cold. See what we get.
Erin: For a behind-the-scenes look into our storytelling process, we sat down with Chad, who helped produce the film.
Chad: My name is Chad Clendinen and I am producer, animator, editor on the film Love Anyway for Preemptive Love.
Chad: So when you hear a story, and you feel it, in your soul and your heart, it actually can transform you into changing something in life and being different. I think with everything going on in the world, and I have friends and family on the left and the right politically, and you know, my Facebook wall just looks like every opinion you could find in America. So you’re always like, what, what am I supposed to do with that, and I think human nature is to like, put up your fist and fight. But you see yourself and so many people like putting up their fist and fight and trying to change the other. And it’s just not working. It’s never gotten us anywhere. And it’s, it’s not going to get us anywhere. So the message for me of love anyways is a bit about putting your fist down. And it’s not about changing the other person, it’s about you changing how you treat the other person and how you perceive them.
Erin: Ben Irwin, our director of communications, played a significant role in shaping the film script, and helped to choose which stories made it into the final film.
Ben: My name is Ben. And I’m part of the communications team at Preemptive Love.
Ben: The film on the surface, it tells the story of Preemptive Love. How we began, going back to when Jeremy and Jessica, who founded the organization first moved to Iraq, and why they did that, and what we’ve experienced, through the early days of our organization through the rise of ISIS and responding to the crisis that that sparked.
But it’s actually a film to look at the question of what causes war and violence, and division. I mean, you see a lot of the external effects of war, and you see it in the film—the bullets and the bombs and the destruction. But it’s really a film about what’s happening underneath the surface.
Chad: I just got a message from our composer John, he’s half of the band called The Brilliance which their music actually inspired a lot of the film. So when we were outlining the film, we were listening to their song Brother, which is all about loving your enemy.
BROTHER BY THE BRILLIANCE
It’s this really amazing song. And so we email them, they’re like, hey, do you guys want to compose this film you’ve like already inspired it. So it’s been really amazing, kind of like working with them as they feel inspired. And their music has inspired us and the film. Because we used a ton of their music and the entire film. But yeah, John was just like, as I was composing this thing, I’ve just been crying and feel honored to be able to work on this thing. So I think everyone kind of feels that way. With the whole film.
Erin: It’s not just about violence “over there” … it’s about the violence in our own hearts …
Chad: We had this idea for the opening of the movie to get a bunch of people who don’t on paper should not belong together in the same room or have conversations, people who were politically different, religiously different, culturally different. And we interviewed them by themselves, then we sat them down to have a conversation.
Chad: One conversation that sticks out to me is we there was this one guy that was he, he self-represented himself as a nationalist. And was like for immigration reform, big time. And then this girl whose dad was deported, like 10 years ago and can’t get back into the country, and they sat down and had a conversation.
Chris: My name is Chris. I’ve lived in LA for about 21 years. But I’m originally from Miami, Florida. Born and raised, lived there till I was 23. And came out here to go to graduate school UCLA liked it so much that I stayed a high school teacher. I teach math and science. I’ve done it for 18 years.
Nicole: I’m Nicole. I’m here from LA. Yeah. My parents are from Mexico. And I did live there for almost eight years. Yeah.
Chris: I think I’ve always been proud to be an American. What I love about America is that everything is possible, no matter what your background is, or at least that’s the ideal. I know. It’s not perfect. But I think in so many different ways, America is always making improvements. And I think the proof is the fact that so many people want to come here. It really is the land of opportunity.
Nicole: So my mom and dad are both immigrants from Mexico. My mom came here legally like she has her residency. But my dad, he crossed the border illegally. And they’re actually from the same town in Mexico, but they just met here in the States. They got married. They’re still married. And then when I was 12 years old, my dad got deported. And from there we went to live to Mexico with him because he got deported. So just to try to keep the family unit together.
Chad: And by the end, it was just like, a really sweet moment where like, it wasn’t about the politics are like whose stance was right, it was actually about the humanity and each other’s eyes.
Chris: I hope that her family is reunited. I hope that you’re able to somehow fight this administrative decision. I mean, I know there is a court process, I know that you can appeal. I know, that can be long and expensive. And I wish it was more streamlined and fair. But I think you need to go through the process.
Chris: But I would just encourage you to fight for your case as much as you can. And, and, and try to try to get your dad here.
Nicole: I mean, you’re you seem like a really good person, you know, like, just…you seem like a really accepting person.
Nicole: I just hope that you know, you have a good life with your wife, when she comes here, and that you guys, you know, build something in that you guys that she never has to have any fears of, of anything while she’s here. That she’s happy. That you guys are happy.
Chris: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Chad: So there’s something different about these conversations that happened when these people sat down.
Chad: I think there’s just something about when you’re, you know, someone’s in front of you that you disagree with, but you’re looking into their eyes, you actually can have a real conversation that is way different than a lot of the conversations we’re having in the world today. So there’s something about the physicalness of being across from each other that’s like, is really important to the process like this process can not happen online. And that’s something I really like about the film is it’s trying to get us off our phones and our computers and to look other people across the table into the eyes and have a conversation about things that are light or things that are heavy
Erin: Another powerful conversation that we only caught a glimpse of in the film was between Marwa and Menachem.
Marwa: My name is Marwa. I was born in Washington, but I now live in California. And, man, I don’t know. I’m pretty funny, too, sometimes.
Marwa: I am Circassian. Circassians are an exiled people from the North Caucasus region of Russia. They had a war that spanned 100 years. And it was one of the earliest genocides but it is still unrecognized by the Russian government. 10% of our population survived. But within the route of escaping our region, only four to 5% survived. So I’m some weird descendant of like, four or 5%. And that’s a lot of pressure.
Like, I feel like I’m in survival mode, even though I don’t need to be. But I always feel like my grandparents from both sides refuse to die.
Menachem: My name is Menachem. And I’m from Brooklyn, New York, where Jews are made.
So I am an Orthodox Jew. I’m a comedian. I’m a screenwriter, father, husband.
Being a Hasidic Jew, it’s fun to…I like that I look different. So then it kind of like, starts a conversation right away. And I feel like nowadays, like conversations are the most important thing. And then right away, like you see me, I look a little bit different, but at the same time, I look the same. And if I engage you, then we can go and have a conversation and discuss what it is and what it isn’t what I would like to change about it.
So I come from an insular community that and a lot of the older our members are also like, post-Holocaust, either Holocaust survivors or children of Holocaust survivor survivors. So they kind of a lot of them want to retreat from the world, and they don’t want to give other people a chance, because they’re scared of getting hurt again. So I think that if we can open up to having more conversations, and speaking to people than we can see that we’re really not that much different. And hopefully, the world is taking a step towards, you know, being more open-minded and more peaceful.
On the surface, Marwa and Menachem don’t seem so different. They’re both American. They’re both funny. They’re relatively the same age. And they are both descendants of genocide survivors. But there is one very obvious difference between them that you can’t “see” on a podcast. Marwa wears a headscarf. She’s Circassian, and she’s Muslim.
Marwa: I need people to understand that Muslims come from pain. They come from occupied lands. And they come from lives that are never built for themselves. They come from dictatorships. And that’s something that was out of our control, and we’re trying to rebuild ourselves.
As a Muslim, first-generation American, it’s like trying to exist as a typical American, while Americans are telling you to not exist as an American, while your parents are telling you you’re losing grasp of who we are. And you’re trying to do that as well. And you’re also trying to heal what your parents have gone through at the same time.
Erin: Yeah. It’s not easy. When Marwa and Menachem sat down for a conversation, things got emotional. They care deeply, and have very different perspectives on politics, on Israel and Palestine, on a lot of the big issues. But when you bring it back to the personal level…they each find places of openness.
Menachem: When I was 18 years old, I got mugged. Okay, so I got mugged by two young, black kids. And then right away, my friends were like, Oh my gosh, because there is a lot of there’s still a lot of conflict between the Jews and the blacks in New York, unfortunately. But the first thing was my friend was like, Oh my gosh, do you hate black people? And I was like, why would I? I got mugged by two black eyes. But the first two respondents who like helped me and offered me water for two black girls. Then the cops came, one was white one was black, the EMT that helped me one was white one was black. The doctor that helped me was a black guy. So how could I hate? It’s just circumstance.
Marwa: As much hatred as being brewed, there’s also love being brewed. And I can say this, in my experience that this is the first time in my life that I feel support. Like when the travel ban was in its prime, and everyone was at the airports, it was, as a Muslim American, I can’t describe the feeling of like your whole life being told you’re a terrorist, you’re this, you’re that and then all of a sudden, like thousands of people at airports all over America are in support of you. And those little situations, not those happenings are moments that give me hope.
Erin: Ben Irwin sat in the room in Los Angeles where Chris and Nicole, Marwa and Menachem, had a chance to interact… From my office in Iraq, I gave Ben a call to ask him about what it was like to be in the room where it happened.
When you put people together, who have very different ways of looking at the world or understanding themselves, some really interesting conversations can take place, sometimes some stressful conversations, but also you can start to see a roadmap for what this can look like in my life, how I could do this, how we could… it’s very easy, like to look at kind of the sensationalized story of our work in Iraq, or work in Syria on the front lines of war and to think well, I could never do that like that. That’s great. That’s amazing. But that’s, like, so far removed from my world. But actually, what’s at the core of it is what we’re all dealing with, what we’re all facing.
Erin: Connecting past the labels and the fractures—It’s what we’re all facing. The very best way to start conversations, is to do it together. So to launch the film, more than 170 New Yorkers gathered for an intimate screening and conversation with Preemptive Love Founder Jeremy Courtney in Midtown Manhattan.
Erin: How do we heal all that’s tearing us apart? We stand shoulder to shoulder. We listen. Then we listen some more. We change our own minds and our own posture with a commitment to turn enemies into friends. And sometimes, it helps to watch what it was like for others who already made that commitment.
Erin: That’s the music Chad was talking about…the music that provided inspiration during the filmmaking process.
Erin: Ferisa, originally from Tajikstan, had this to say about the film:
Ferisa: After seeing this, it just reminds you that there’s so much more you can do with your time and resources and helping people that sometimes we get immune to what’s happening in the world, because there’s so much and especially when you live in New York City, there’s brokenness around you all the time. And you kind of like, you know, you get immune to it, but maybe there’s a way to protect your emotions, but at the same time, reroute them, like do something good with that. Don’t let it get into you to break you, but actually strengthen you so we can go forward and do more.
Erin: We’ve had the chance to meet many of you at film screenings across the county, and to hear feedback, like when we spoke with Kyndi.
Kyndi: I think what struck me is that loving your neighbor overseas starts with loving your neighbor here, in your own city, in your own community, with people that you consider “other”. Loving, loving that other person here is an extension of that is loving other people around the world. That’s, that’s a small step forward, but a profound step forward in healing what divides us today.
Chuspa: Hi, I’m Chuspa. I am 17 years old. If you go into the dance floor, and you’re the first person dancing, and then someone follows up, and then starts dancing, and then another person comes up and then starts dancing, then a whole bunch of people just start dancing, it’s the same thing with peace as well. Once you’re like, you show people about peace and love and everything, then they want to like, they want to be the same as you, because they look at this person, and they’re like, “wow, this person is doing good things. Like we should be more like them.” So they try to do that. And then everyone else tries to do that. And then everyone’s peaceful and happy.
Erin: Our colleague Dane Barnett, one of our team out on the film tour, heard feedback from a young viewer in Maryland. The visual content of the Love Anyway film is intended for mature viewers. You know the young people in your life best, and we recommend the film be previewed before showing it to audiences that include younger viewers.
Dane: All right, what is your name? Sir?
Oliver: I’m eight. And I’m in third grade.
Dane: Awesome. Oliver, what did you think about tonight,
Oliver: I thought it was interesting. It actually made me realize that kids are also very important to this. Because kids start out with kind of like a blank canvas. And they have a choice on how they paint that canvas in what they do with their lives as you’re going to be kind and loving, or evil.
Dane: What do you think a third grader needs to know? What do you wish your friends at school knew? What do you wish they knew about peace?
Oliver: That as long as you treat other people equally to yourself, you’re pretty good to go.
Erin: In addition to official screenings, there are also more than 800 film showings being hosted in homes around the world. Producer Kayla Craig attended a local Love Anyway gathering in a living room in Iowa, and captured some reactions to the film …
Kelsey: My name is Kelsey Rogers.
Kelsey: It surprised me how powerful and how hard of a choice to love anyways can be sometimes, but how strong of a choice it is.
Kelsey: I felt really drawn to be a part of the movement. And because of who I am, I am biracial and bisexual and I kind of exist in the between and a lot of areas and to love anyways just fit so clearly selfishly with me wanting the world to be a safer place for myself and wanting that for other people
Sarah: My name is Sarah Stephanie. Watching the film truly helped me connect all the dots about how this um is happening in our country. It’s happening in Iowa, where I live and loving anyway is something that they have been doing in Iraq, but that we can also do right here, too.
Molly: My name is Molly Day. I really liked how the film kind of went global in scope, but then kind of came back to what’s happening in the US right now. And kind of making sure that we are implementing love anyway, in our own community, as well as abroad. I think that making sure that we take care of and like, love each other and love anyways, in our own communities is really important.
Erin: Staff in Preemptive Love’s Iraq office watched the film together as a team in the small studio we use for recording these podcast episodes. We were joined by some staff from our tech hub next door. Most of us in the room have lived through war, and some are refugees, who re-lived the war as images from the film flashed on the screen. There were tears, but there was an intense sense of hope by the end of the film. An experience that didn’t end with the final credits.
The next day, those tech hub staff showed the film to their students. And soon after, they recreated the feast shown in the film, inviting each other, and all their varying lived experiences, to the table.
Erin: So, what does it look like to love anyway in our own communities? What does it look like to end war in your own heart, and your own neighborhood? No two contexts are completely alike, and yet, could pursuing peace be the thread that brings us together?
We believe there’s a way to heal all that’s tearing us apart, so we can rise together.
Join us. Go to Loveanyway.com to watch the film for yourself now.
PODCAST THEME MUSIC
We’ll continue to tease out these ideas of loving anyway and ending war throughout the fourth season of the Love Anyway podcast.
Haven’t had a chance to listen to past episodes? Season 1 is an immersive introduction to the behind-the-scenes stories of Preemptive Love, and Season 2 dives into what “love anyway” looks in relation to the children in our lives. And remember, subscribing is a free and easy way to stay connected. Show notes for this episode, and all others, are available 24/7 at preemptivelove.org/podcast.
And don’t forget, loveanyway.com has all you need to stream the new Love Anyway film for free.
Until next time, I’m Erin Wilson, and this is the Love Anyway podcast. Thanks for listening.
PODCAST THEME MUSIC
Kayla: Join us now for our Love Anyway virtual tour. Starting April 9, we’re hosting 5 online, interactive events with Preemptive Love founders Jeremy and Jessica Courtney. Free tickets are available now, but space is limited. Go to loveanyway.com/tour to register and reserve your spot. We’re even lining up some special guests.
Space is limited. Book your seat now!