A BRAVE HEART: The Lizzie Velasquez Story is a documentary following the inspiring journey of 25 year old, 58 pound Lizzie from cyber-bullying victim to anti-bullying activist.
Born with a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Velasquez was first bullied as a child in school for looking different and, later online, as a teenager when she discovered a YouTube video labeling her "The World's Ugliest Woman." The film chronicles unheard stories and details of Lizzie’s physical and emotional journey up to her multi-million viewed TEDx talk, and follows her pursuit from a motivational speaker to Capitol Hill as she lobbies for the first federal anti-bullying bill.
Bullying is a subject that historically yields heartbreaking stories of hopelessness and in many times, loss. Rarely is there a story of survival and inspiration that continues to crossover ages, genders, and ethnicities… enter the brave story of Lizzie Velasquez.
Lizzie and I met when I asked her to give a talk at the first TEDxAustinWomen event which I was producing. She was a local hero whose time, we found out shortly after, had arrived. It was clear quickly, that Lizzie’s philosophy on her health and her experiences, was as rare as her syndrome that mystified geneticists worldwide.
We live in a culture of tremendous meanness. And few people have experienced it more than Lizzie. Bullying first became a reality when she entered kindergarten and the whispers and the pointing began because Lizzie looked different. At 17, discovering “The World’s Ugliest Woman” video, with its 8 seconds of Lizzie’s face, its 4 million views, and its thousands of comments including KILL IT WITH FIRE, presented Lizzie with a choice. Lizzie chose to not give up, but to forgive and to thrive; as an author, as a speaker, and now as an activist.
Just recently, in September 2014, the World Health Organization published that every 40 seconds, someone takes their own life. When we arrived in Washington DC to help lobby for The Safe Schools Improvement Act, the first federal bill with potential to reach the floor for a congressional vote, Lizzie asked the question repeatedly, How Many MORE? How many more kids do we have to lose to being bullied and discriminated against because they look or act different? Lizzie wanted to go to Washington in hopes that her personal testimony might make a difference, to require data collection of kids being bullied in school. At the end of filming, Lizzie’s efforts helped garner a record 208 co-sponsors out of 218 needed for the bill. This was more support than over 8 years of congressional efforts.
What I wanted to show is that this is Lizzie’s film, but it is Everyone’s story. Our record-breaking Kickstarter campaign yielded support from 16 countries and proved that Lizzie’s message knew no limits. From 65 year old veterans giving their retirement checks over to the campaign in California, to 12 year old girls doing lemonade stands in the UK, to Lizzie’s church members taking out second jobs so they could contribute at home here in Texas.
Lizzie had already proved to more than 10 million TED talk viewers that she was worth listening to. My job was to show what Lizzie could do with more than the 18 minutes the TED rules allowed. Where does the strength and bravery in Lizzie’s fragile 58 pound body come from? How does she battle an unknown syndrome in the hospital one morning and speak on stage to thousands that afternoon? Simply put, to Lizzie and her family, her life has never been about the start and end dates on our life, but the dash in between.
A BRAVE HEART is Sara’s film directorial debut. Sara met Lizzie when she Produced the first TEDxAustinWomen in 2013, the most viewed 2013 TEDxWomen event worldwide both live and on demand. Prior positions in media and entertainment include Executive Director of Interactive Marketing at Paramount Pictures, VP of Digital Marketing at MGM Studios, and CEO & Co-Founder of NowLive (acquired by Live Media Group in 2013). She is a member of The Producer's Guild of America New Media Council and Women's Impact Network.
Chris’s most recent work was as Assistant Editor for the Golden Globe nominated, critically acclaimed BOYHOOD. Prior, Chris was Associate Editor on the Academy Awards nominated and 2011 Palme d'Or winning film The Tree of Life, and Editor of Terrence Malick's To The Wonder. Chris has worked for Warner Independent Features, Paramount Pictures, MTV, HBO, and Fox Searchlight. Chris is a member of the Motion Picture Editor's Guild as well as the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences.
Ben has worked on several festival winning feature documentaries. His documentary Homemakers won Audience award at IFF Boston, and Phil Collins and The Wild Frontier premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival and is currently on the festival circuit. Barge received grants from the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund, the Garrett Scott Development Grant, and the Austin Film Society Grant. In addition, Ben has directed for clients including Ford, DELL, and Bravo TV. Ben received his BFA in Film, Animation, and Video from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Jose has been an editor for over 8 years. His diverse background in the entertainment industry ranges from independent films to television production with clients including National Geographic, Yahoo!, and Warner Brothers. Starting out as an accomplished editor and motion graphic designer, Marcelino had the opportunity to feature documentaries and short films that earned international recognition and awards.
Mike is most recently known for writing the Netflix acquired film, The Human Experience, which was the recipient of over 30 film festival honors including Best Documentary, Best Humanitarian film, and Best Feature film. His next film Outcast, with Grassroots Films is premiering in 2015.
Graduating from University of California, San Diego, Jessica began working at NowLive in 2011 where she co-produced live events for the web including The Hunger Games and The Twilight Saga World Premieres, Live from Comic-Con with Entertainment Weekly, and The Academy Awards Red Carpet. From there, she continued on in the digital marketing space as a Producer at Jetset Studios and Digital Coordinator at Tool of North America.
Sara is an American singer-songwriter who has sold more than one million records and has earned 5 GRAMMY nominations. The film includes an original version of her platinum hit BRAVE and an original song, BEAUTIFUL GIRL. Her vocals are also heard on throughout the original score for the film.
After 10 years of touring as lead guitarist for Grammy nominated recording artist Sara Bareilles, Javier decided to pursue his career as a solo artist. A BRAVE HEART is his first effort at film scoring, and he hopes to continue working on films as he releases solo material and tours.
Ngoc Nguyen is an entertainment professional with over 15 years of experience in the industry highlighted by a special focus on feature film publicity and celebrity relations. She has worked at South by Southwest, Austin Film Festival, Miramax Films, Creative Artists Agency and Paramount Pictures and has led campaigns for filmmakers such as JJ Abrams, Robert Rodriguez, David O. Russell, Gore Verbinski and Brad Bird. In 2013, Ngoc spearheaded the PR campaign for TEDxAustinWomen, which became the #1 viewed TEDWomen event of the year and, currently, she oversees publicity and partnerships for Women Rising.
Originally from the Bay Area, Tamar moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to begin her career in the film industry at MGM studios where she worked in National Publicity for 5 years. She went on to Paramount Pictures as VP of Interactive Marketing, leading the digital publicity campaigns for a wide range of films. Tamar is committed to a number of philanthropic endeavors including her recent work with the Inside Out Writers Organization. She has traveled extensively to donate her time to local orphanages in countries such as Tanzania and Nepal.
Justine Ezarik a.k.a. iJustine is a one-woman new media phenomenon: techie, gamer, vlogger, and digital influencer. She is one of the top female personalities on YouTube amassing over 3.3 million subscribers across her 3 channels, more than 1.7 million Twitter followers and has garnered more than 500 million views on her videos. Justine has made the Hollywood Reporters 50 most powerful digital players list, Maxim Magazine's Hot 100, Time’s Most 100 list and in 2012, she was ranked the #6 most influential personality by The Daily Beast’s Digital Power Index. A popular brand ambassador, Justine has worked with top brands from Mattel, Microsoft, Ford, GE, Intel, Sharpie, Doritos, Taco Bell, eBay, P&G, Banana Republic, Samsung, AOL, and Carl’s Jr. and has been featured in numerous magazines, publications, and commercials. She also has been a host for MTV/Spike, E! News, NBC, and red carpet events and is set to publish her first book in June 2014.
Alexis is the founder of the non-profit I AM THAT GIRL and is an internationally recognized speaker, author, media personality, and activist. Alexis hosted a TV show on the red carpet, worked at ESPN, Fox Sports, MTV and was a contestant on the hit CBS show: Survivor. She recently launched ProtectHer, an empowerment company dedicated to inspiring men to better protect the girls and women in their lives and prevent sexual assault and domestic abuse. Alexis was featured as one of AOL’s MAKERS Video Series along with Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg. She has been as an Ambassador for L’Oreal’s new STEM initiative, and listed as one of DELL’s #Inspire 100 List, Fast Company’s “Female Trailblazers” and ESPN's "Pop Culture's Top Ten." She's been featured on Extra and Access Hollywood, and in Glamour, The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times.
Lizzie Velasquez, 25 years old, is a graduate of Texas State University, a motivational speaker, and author of three books: Lizzie Beautiful, Be Beautiful, Be You, and Choosing Happiness. In December 2013, she took the stage at TEDxAustin Women and gave a talk titled 'How Do You Define Yourself?' that to date has garnered over 9 million views across the web. Her story has been featured on Katie Couric, The Today Show, Dr. Drew, Inside Edition, Huffington Post, and Yahoo! Lifestyle among other national and international media.
I’m a firm believer that one person can help make a difference. Whether it be a difference that is on a small scale or a large scale. You, the person reading this right now has the power to help make a positive impact on at least one person.Use that power for good with me! Let’s work together and change the negative instinct to fight back with someone online to a positive instinct instead. Let’s start making a difference with our keyboards. After all, the solution is right under your finger tips. See you on the high road!