From Aris with Love, Music, and Film

Losing a loved one is unthinkable. Knowing it could have been prevented makes it even more horrific. The people responsible not taking responsibly is unacceptable. There are no words to comfort someone who has suffered such a loss, there are no actions that can bring a loved one back but there are ways we can help to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. If you don’t already know him, I want to introduce you to my friend, Aris Ziagos, and I would like to share his story and the story of his mother, Virginia.

I met Aris after the loss of his mother and from what he has told me of her, I’m sorry I never got to meet her. She was an interesting, kind, loving soul and someone I would have LOVED to interview! I know she was amazing because she raised one amazing son. I’m so proud of him for taking on this latest project and I want to help him to make the film a reality.

In his words:

“On October 29th 2012 Bellevue Hospital was crippled and left without power in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy. My mother was a patient in the ICU, and died in the aftermath of the storm. In the midst of the worst tragedy that has struck my family, the biggest storm ever to hit NYC changed our lives forever and revealed cracks in our emergency management and health care systems. This documentary is so important, for learning from the lessons of these events, for grieving and healing.”

You all know I have always felt entertainment and social media are best when we are telling stories that help others and this is definitely the case here. Please enjoy our interview and visit the fundraising page if you can help. Even one dollar can assist and hopefully prevent this tragedy from happening to others.

Q: Your project, From Virginia With Love: A Documentary, is a labor of love and the story of your mother. Can you tell us a little about your mom?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, thank you! My mother was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and travelled around the country a lot in her youth as the daughter of an army family. In her 20′s and 30′s she toured as a belly dancer across America, finding a home in New York City. It amazes me that an Irish American girl from Ohio taught herself Greek, how to dance and sew, and made a career out of it. As she approached 40, she went on to real estate work and had me. I grew up around all these amazing photos of her from her belly dancing career, and it definitely influenced and inspired me to find my own way to the stage. When I made this choice and at every step along the way afterwards, my mother was my biggest fan, attending every show and offering any help she could.

Q: You suffered such tragedy during hurricane Sandy, and it seems like it could have been avoided if the hospital was better equipped to deal with natural disaster. Is part of the motivation behind the film to try and correct this for others going forward?

Aris Ziagos: Yes, that’s exactly what sparked my desire to make this film. The hospital (Bellevue Hospital) where my mother was an ICU patient did not make the necessary modifications to their emergency power systems or infrastructure for a tropical storm or hurricane in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. Worse yet, because the hospital is run by a corporation and the city, they worked in lock step to keep their failing infrastructure out of the news, until the entire hospital was unable to function with doctors unable to wash their hands, medication not reaching patients, toilets not being able to be flushed, no food for anyone. It was an absolute nightmare. We can’t change the past but we can learn from our mistakes by addressing exactly what happened and what could and should be done differently going forward. Anyone who lives in a coastal area should be thinking about ensuring the safety of the vulnerable in emergencies like this.

Q: We hear so often that “it gets better” but that surely doesn’t happen all on it’s own. Where did you find the strength to go on after all of this? What advice would you give to people who are grieving right now?

Aris Ziagos: My biggest motivation has been living in a way that would make my mother proud, and also finding a way to transcend the tragedy and find a way to honor my mother’s legacy of love. Her passing was so tragic, and I got stuck in that for a while in deep depression as could be expected. A big motivator for my life moving forward from that was to make sure my mother was remembered by her amazing spirit, not just by her passing. That’s been the inspiration for a lot of my music, and definitely for bringing this film to the world. The arch of tragedy to grieving to healing to finding purpose is one everyone can take something away from, and it’s one that plays out during the documentary.

Q: Since you have gone public with the story, what responses have you been getting from fans and friends?

Aris Ziagos: Everyone has been very supportive, encouraging and sympathetic. A lot of people were surprised to hear about the events surrounding my mother’s passing, because very little of the information made it to mainstream news. It was a week before the 2012 Presidential elections, local elections, and the entities that hold New York City together were very careful to present the story in a way that would not cause public outrage.

Q: Has anyone from the hospital contacted you since you started the campaign?

Aris Ziagos: No, not a peep. The hospital’s official story is they triumphed through the disaster with no loss of life. In spite of a great deal of independent reporting, and some good mainstream reporting exposing the hospital’s faults, there has been no accountability for the choices made. They have made some improvements to their infrastructure as defense against a future Hurricane Sandy, but we’ll have to see how thorough those defenses are in a future hurricane.

Q: How can people help you to get this story told?

Aris Ziagos: I’m raising funds for the documentary on IndieGogo:

I’m offering some really cool merch, like vintage photos of my mom’s belly dancing years, original music, tickets to advanced screenings and fun experiences, as well as pre-selling the documentary.

Q: What are some of the greatest lessons your mom taught you that you can share with us all?

Aris Ziagos: So many things! Love can move mountains. Never stop believing in yourself. You can achieve anything if you keep trying and learn from failure. Be of service to others and give back often in different ways.

Q: I know you have other projects you are working on as well. Can you tell us about some of those?

Aris Ziagos: I’m finishing up work on a few new songs and remixes which I’ll be releasing on the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” in a few months. I’m also excited to finally release my collaboration with Paula Cole as a single in 2018.  It will be a year that will also see me focused on completing this film, and some new music to accompany it. I have a lot of other songs in the works for future releases, so there’s a lot on the horizon for the next 24 months.

Q: Where can we find you, your music, and your projects online?

Aris Ziagos: You can find me on my official site at

and on social media at -

Q: Do you think you will be doing more film work in the future? Would you stick to the social good theme or perhaps branch out into other genres?

Aris Ziagos: I can definitely see exploring film more in the future, a short film, more documentary work. I tend to put my heart into things that inspire me that I can get fully passionate about, who knows what the future will bring?

Q: I always ask people to give me one thing they absolutely cannot live without and one thing they wish we could all live without.



Q: What’s up next for Aris the artist?

Aris Ziagos: Next up is the deluxe edition of my album “Pulse” and some new singles in 2018!

I want to thank Aris for taking time to talk to me and for being a part of my NYC family. Take my word for it, he’s one of the good ones. Here is the Indiegogo page if you can make a donation:

And, for your enjoyment, here is the video for his song ‘The Music’:

Learn what BEing KINDred is all about from Mary Elizabeth Boylan

I recently had the opportunity to interview Mary Elizabeth Boylan about her latest project, a documentary called BEing KINDred for The Homo Culture. The film highlights the current struggle of the Transgender and transitioning community by telling their story in hopes that a better understanding can come of it.

Here is an excerpt of the interview, but you can read the entire article here:

Q: Tell us a little about BEing KINDred. What made you want to make this film?

Mary Elizabeth Boylan (MEB): One of my best friends transitioned from Male to Female. During that process, she was slowly and deliberately rejected by her family, including her 3 children. Not only was it heartbreaking to witness, but also the polar opposite of what should have been happening. She was trying to be true and honest with herself, in order to be her best self, largely for them. Sadly hers is not an uncommon story. I wanted to do something to educate and inspire families to support their loved ones in transition.

Q: Can you share some of the statistics that also appear on your page?

MEB: The suicide rates are the most astounding of all the statistics of the Transgender population. 41% attempt suicide in their lifetime, and over half of those people state their reasons for doing so were due to being rejected by their families.

Q: What are the main messages you hope to get across to all people through this film?

MEB: Tolerance. Love. Understanding. These are basic human values. The human race is one family. As our culture becomes progressively more globalized, I feel like we are trying on some level to move toward an understanding of this, which starts at home. We need to teach love, acceptance and kindness above all else.

Hopefully, you will be moved to help support Being KINDred and this project opens a greater communication as well as our hearts and minds.

Sundance film seeks to show real Bin Laden ‘Manhunt’

Sundance film seeks to show real Bin Laden ‘Manhunt’ (via AFP)

While Hollywood-style Osama bin Laden manhunt movie “Zero Dark Thirty” has garnered controversy and awards, a lower-profile film seeks to tell the real story of finding the Al Qaeda chief. “Manhunt”, a documentary by US director Greg Barker, was presented at the Sundance Film Festival this week, days…

Continue reading “Sundance film seeks to show real Bin Laden ‘Manhunt’” »

American Winter: A Season of Hope

American Winter is a documentary feature film by Emmy award winning filmmakers and brothers, Joe and Harry Gantz.  You may recognize their names from HBO’s Taxicab Confessions and CBS’ The Defenders.   The pioneers of Documentary/Reality TV have now taken on a new reality – The Human Face of Economic Crisis.  Their new film is a documentary that follows the firsthand stories of families, many formerly middle class, struggling to keep their heads above water while facing overwhelming financial challenges and a weakened social safety net.

The Gantz brothers have started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to help get the film out and seen by audiences.  Please check out the page and contribute if you can. Any amount will help a great deal.  You can also visit their website , follow them on Twitter, and Like them on Facebook.

I recently had the awesome opportunity to speak with Harry Gantz about the film and what he and his brother Joe hope to accomplish by getting it out there.

Me: Tell me a little about the motivation behind making American Winter.  Some people might assume that Filmmakers wouldn’t be affected or interested in the current economic crisis but that is not the case, is it?

Harry:  My brother and I grew up in a family that always had a motivation for social justice set by my father.  We felt making this film was a great opportunity to tell the stories of these families.   We have been much more successful raising funds outside of Hollywood.  Everyone is concerned about the decline of the middle class.  We have received many donations from individuals as well as corporations.

There is a sense of desperation in Portland, Oregon that we wanted to transfer to the screen to get people to come up with a solution to this crisis.

Me: Do you think we risk eliminating our middle class all together if something is not done?

Harry: We heard story after story of people suffering and affected by the social situation.  Once you hear it, you can’t help but want to assist people in some way.  How do you trust politicians and economists to solve this?  The problem encompasses Fair Wage, Medical, and economic development. We hope the film can become a touchstone for discussion of how to change this downturn.

Me: Has the economic climate forced filmmakers and others in the industry to handle business differently?  How has it changed the world of entertainment?

Harry: My brother and I pre-date reality TV.  Our experience in raising money and staying true to our mission has gotten harder.  The formula and “dumbing down” of reality TV makes it tougher to get projects out.

Networks are taking on so many pitches for reality shows that after a while you get numb to it.  Also, the definition of documentary TV has changed.  We used to wait for the story to unfold and not create it artificially.  The old days of REALITY would mean being paged when a couple was having an argument and having to rush over to catch it happening.  Sometimes they would have to be separated until we got there with the cameras.

Me: Do you see any good coming out of the forced change in thinking?

Harry: Thanks to the Internet and crowd funding, yes. The Internet bypasses distributing.  You don’t have to rely on one of twelve networks to buy a show.  There has become  democratization of funding.

There is this feeling that we are all in this together, especially with American Winter.  It has been inspiring and enlightening.

The film is about people at the bottom of the ladder but people at the top are interested in getting involved to help because they realize it will affect them as well in some way at some point.

Me: What did you learn while making the film that surprised you?

Harry: Families and friends are taking the place of government when it comes to helping these people out.  Some of the individuals are working poor.  Single mothers, single fathers not making enough to stay afloat.

The Department of Human Services in Portland, OR is doing an awesome job getting help for the people who need it but it is a huge undertaking.

With housing, one eviction will ruin your chances of getting another apartment even with a job and good credit.

This film tracked what these families do and how they felt about the situation emotionally. Even as great as 211 and the social workers are, it is still a full time job to get social services and navigate the system.  You have to call on the first of the month at 9 AM ans there are five hundred people calling for 20 spots.

Me: What are you hoping to achieve through the distribution of this film?

Harry: We want both sides to take a look at the issue.  It will take both political parties to solve this problem.  People have to go beyond dogma and see that we really are all in this together.  We would like to coordinate with other non profits to join together and create solutions.  Its not about our opinions, its about offering the solutions.


You can help by visiting their pages, donating, and sharing the story.  Start a conversation, that seems to be the best way to reach a solution.  I would like to thank Harry Gantz for taking time to discuss his project and sharing his ideas with me.  Let’s make sure this film gets to where it needs to be.