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Founder of Terra-Rising Films Mike Ricucci talks about Music Therapy and his upcoming documentary

Founder of Terra-Rising Films Mike Ricucci talks about Music Therapy and his upcoming documentary

Chime-Therapy-Terra-Rising

We had the chance to sit down with Founder of Terra-Rising Films Mike Ricucci. He is also the director of a soon-to-be-named music therapy documentary. We got a chance to talk about many things including traveling the world and making a positive mark on society in addition to his new untitled project. The project will be a journey where we witness the transformative power of music and how it can and has changed lives. The music therapy tour has made its way through 47 countries US and 3 South American countries. What started out as a record label is now a global movement. Terra-Rising Films has transformed into so much more than its name would suggest. With an instrument donation program that has seen them help music therapy and education programs the world over, Terra-Rising Films definitely is having a positive impact on the communities it comes in contact with.

Mike sat down with us to discuss his journey and the crazy awesome fun he has had along the way.

Film Fad:

I appreciate you so much for sitting down with Film Fad and talking to us a little bit about your project. You know all this time we have been chopping bit up talking it and I didn’t ask about the actual name of the project. So what’s the project and what’s the name of it?

Mike:

It’s gone through a number of different iterations because the growth of it keeps expanding and so the title keeps changing. Because we had things that were associated with it in a certain context before we were doing it here in America but now that we started to travel all over the world we’ve kind of scrapped the names we were using before and we’ve actually started hitting it hard about what are we going to call this as we travel internationally, researching music therapy. So it doesn’t have an official name yet but it is a feature length documentary style media project based on the science and connection of music as seen through music therapy.

Film Fad:

Awesome. So…how did you get started on this project?

Mike:

Man, me and some friends jumped in a van without actually having a camera. My girlfriend at the time was awesome, Deeba if you are listening thank you! She hooked us up with a camera and came with us and came with us to help with filming and everything. So we just started out driving around the country. We didn’t know anybody, we didn’t know what we were doing.

We just got on Twitter and everything kind of started happening from there. So really this all just began by really trying to find out about the true healing power of music. What that was all about. All the information. The people behind it. And honestly it was finding the real stories and I think that is where our project has really grown and elevated, is the really personal, you know, interesting and powerful stories of people’s lives day to day. And not only just the music therapy side of it but what music therapy has allowed them to do. The struggles they have to deal with, profound struggles, and the way that the music itself plays a role in their lives. So many different people from all over the world, from all over the United States. So yeah it just started off as this tiny little idea and we got in a van and now we are flying all over the world to do what we love.

Woman-On-Guitar-Terra-Rising

…powerful stories of people’s lives day to day

Film Fad:

Where has this story taken you so far? How many different places have you been to, countries, etc?

Mike:

We’ve been to 47 US states. We’ve been to Ecuador and Peru. And we will be in Rwanda and Uganda in two weeks. We just started the world tour last month. That was in Ecuador and Peru but we spent twelve hours in Mexico city but it was just at the airport so that doesn’t count. But we’ve also sent instruments to Panama and Haiti as a part of our instrument donation program. So our instruments that we have collected for different groups to help start music therapy and support music therapy programs, those have gone to Haiti and Panama. We look forward to bring some to Uganda as well, so we can add Uganda to that list. So 47 US States, 5 countries including the US, and then we will be looking to do about 35 more before the project is finished.

Film Fad:

So it sounds like you have gone to places that have dealt with hardship. Do you notice that the places you have gone to that have dealt with this hardship, the music being richer or what are the differences in the music that you see in these places that have had hardship?

Mike:

It’s something where I think the music itself reflects the culture of the people. So people are different, and so the music itself in its whole is different but in terms of the mechanisms playing an instrument, singing. Now the mode of singing the style of singing, those are all different. And I think that’s what’s really unique about whether it’s a really nice place that we are filming in or a place like you said that’s a bit more destitute. The music can apply to all of it and the music that works best with that population. So if we are working with a homeless population in Atlanta for instance and we are working with the homeless population in Ecuador the music would be totally different even though they’re the same population. Now it could be the same but the chances of those people hearing the same types of music are probably very rare. So that music may be different based on the experiences you’ve had in your own life. And I think that regardless of how bad a situation that you have been in we’ve been able to see music be just as effective in those situations as it is in a first rate hospital here in the United States.

Film Fad:

Cool. So could you give us maybe a story about the power of music that you have seen first-hand through this project?

Mike:

Yes I can. There’s a young man, his name is Jacob Moore. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia. I moved down to Atlanta, Georgia actually to film him and his family more in depth. They’ve become a really big part of the project. And they’re just…it’s Jacob’s story is one thing but the real powerful stuff is the connection to that and just the rest of the family and who they are. I’m excited for everybody to get to know who the Moores are because they are incredible people who have dealt with a lot.

So Jacob was born with autism, down syndrome, and then he developed leukemia. I think it was around nine years old. And so he was hit kind of with two big punches to start his life with and then he was hit with this third. And he beat leukemia through chemo but since he was three months old they’ve been using music therapy and the reason why is because music helps with a lot of different processes in the brain that afflict people with autism, down-syndrome, and even cancer. Now specifically with neurologic music therapy or the application of this music therapy that is really used to create new neural pathways, you know, Jacob has worked on his speech, he’s had to learn how to. It was difficult for him to learn to walk the first time but he’s had to relearn to walk. He’s gone through massive weight loss and weight gain. He’s dealt with all of the others things that people don’t necessarily think about when you think about these three big conditions. There’s bone marrow damage and joint damage and a lot of different issues that compound on top of the other until it’s like how is this kid still going. Well, he’s used music to help enhance his communication with his parents, with the world around him, and it’s enabled him to be able to enjoy more speech therapy, more occupational therapy, and more physical therapy.

Jacob-Autism-Mike-Ricucci

Jacob’s really able to communicate with the world around him and be connected to more of it

So he’s lifting himself up now, he’s doing pull-ups, and he can communicate. He can let people know what he likes and he doesn’t like. And that’s where it might seem very simple like, okay music helps him with a speech pattern or how he goes about communicating but at the same time when he’s in the orthodontist chair getting his braces taken off, his dad is using music to calm him down. There’s a lot of people around him, we have cameras and with music he is able to really center himself and for a family that is dealing with a lot of unknowns one minute to the next, music has become a great way to be able to connect with their son. And what that has spawned is an incredible relationship with his brother. They both share this love of hip-hop music, these two kids from Atlanta. And so Jared, Jacob’s brother, introduces music to him and Jacob just lets him know he likes it or not. He’s dancing and he really will dance with it and smile and you know, just have his own connection. So Jacob’s really able to communicate with the world around him and be connected to more of it, because there’s a lot of different processes they use with music therapy.

Film Fad:

So it sounds like you are capturing some amazing stories. How are you shooting these and what’s your process for capturing all of this footage?

Mike:

We are shooting on a number of different Canon…I mean I should say we weren’t shooting on anything before because we didn’t even start with a camera. We were very…as amateur filmmakers you can possibly imagine. We just had a lot of heart, determination, and connections to be able to use really high quality DSLRs. DSLRs of the Canon variety. We’ve used the Mark series, the 7D, and now we are gonna use some Sony cameras. And as our project has elevated so too has our equipment. Our process is very raw in regards to…we have had a variety of scripts as I’m sure many of you filmmakers can understand. That first script is good to look at and says “look I’ve grown everybody, I’ve gotten better at this.”

So our process is to really be prepared for any opportunity to capture something unique. Don’t force that opportunity. Which does involve a lot of hours of filming but it’s just trying to put ourselves in the perspective to give the audience the best way of being in that really special moment with us. So we are really trying to make this personal because the stories are personal. I mean there’s a lot of science involved. We want to make sure all the information is backed up obviously with evidence based on research and all of that. But at the same time, this movie is about relationships. It’s about how people are connecting that we have never met and how we’ve connect with them and the story created throughout the world.

So even Go Pros and phantom drones. We’ve incorporated a lot of different styles, just to give people some fresh perspective. To utilize the landscapes and the environments that are around us. I think that with all of our travel we are given the unique opportunity to see a lot and we want to make sure that that is part of the story. So we are utilizing whatever is at our disposal to capture the full story both behind the camera and in front of the camera.

Film Fad:

Very cool. So speaking of connections can you tell us a little about how you have run into on this journey in creating the project?

Mike:

One of the well-known artists in America is Ben Folds of Ben Folds Five. And Glenn, I don’t know if you listen to Ben Folds Five but he was popular when we were old men in high school. I’ve run into him. I’ve met and been talking to him, and one of the really big reasons we are going to Scotland is Julie Fowlis who did soundtrack for Pixar’s “Brave.” She normally sings in her native language of Gaelic and she is a big proponent of keeping the language alive and the culture alive. She is a part of some of the historical societies and different things of Scotland. So she has a deep knowledge of not only the music of Scotland but the culture as well. And she is just…Julie Fowlis…her voice is absolutely beautiful and it’s an incredible language.

So those two from an entertainment standpoint have been great to meet. Dr. Connie Tomaino who was the assistant and worked with Dr. Oliver Sacks. He just passed away. He’s incredible. I want to say he is a neuro scientist and an author. He was a part of a documentary called “Alive Inside,” that highlighted music education and I believe it won an award at Sundance. I’m in connection with their producers. They’re amazing people. Great people doing a great thing. So yeah, we have been able to really partner with the heavy hitters. Dr. Michael Thaut in Colorado. He was a part of the lead research team or he was the lead researcher for the team that discovered the evidence behind the science with music therapy. Not a household name for everybody but somebody that is powerful in the music healing community. And so these people have led us to others and as the world tour grows we have the opportunity to meet other well-known people in other countries that hopefully will share their story and be able to lend their insight into how music has affected them in their lives.

Film Fad:

You’re talking about all these people that you met and all these stories that you’ve heard. How many hours do you currently have or is that like a trade secret?

Mike:

(Laughter) No. I mean it’s not much of a secret. I mean I probably didn’t know that much when I started this so I probably just let a lot of secrets out. We are right around 4000 right now. And it’s something that we have invested a lot time in…a lot of time. A lot of different people and a lot of different networks. So we are looking at 4000 hours and still we have more than 35 countries left to film in. I’ll be filming tomorrow when we go up to New York City to the UN. So it’s gonna only grow. SO we will probably be around 5000. That’s our goal and that was our goal to be over that anyway so it will be great if we can get there.

Film Fad:

So tell us about the UN trip.

Mike:

So a lot of our process is being open to anything. And we put ourselves in situations where just really organic experiences happen that lend incredible visuals incredible access to our film. So I was just hanging out at Clarendon yesterday, my friends invited me up for a VIP day in the tent. Everybody was awesome. Jason that was running… I think he was the guy in charge of the bar that they had set up. Great dude and took care of everybody. The food was delicious, so anyway. They were packing up and everything was shutting down and kind of nobody was there and this guy was sort of talking to my friend. He is from Iran and I happened to mention that we were going to Iran to film and he told me about this group of people that he was going to go to the UN with and he thought that they might be interesting people to interview and share kind of what their view of things are. And so they invited me to come up on their bus and film and join them for a day in New York City and he even invited me over to his house tonight. He’s like, “Hey just we have to leave really early.” He’s like, “I’ll give you a room just come on over my family won’t mind.“ And his wife’s cool and so yeah. So it will be a really interesting adventure. And I think for me history is a big part of our film as well and history is just a big part of what Terra-Rising films does anyway. So it will be a really great opportunity to talk with people from a different country that, you know, kind of gets talked about in the news media one way but being able to talk to the citizens and just the different people that come from there will be fascinating to just really get into that culture and learn more about their music and their art and just their course in history.

Film Fad:

So you’ve been going around meeting all these people, talking to all these different people, tell us about the most surprising thing that you have learned or seen on this journey or tour?

Mike:

You know, that’s a great question. It’s hard to put into one idea because of how many places or how many people we’ve met. But I can tell you that I didn’t know anything in the beginning. And it’s changed. What I see in the world in terms of potential. What really is out there. What we fear versus what we know. The idea that a kid can be born with cerebral palsy and he can be told that he is going to be a vegetable all his life. His parents have to hear that from a doctor the first day that they have this child. And that kid can get up out of his wheelchair, that kid can feed himself, put his own clothes on, and live a better life. I believe that we see in the world such break downs in communication whether it’s through the media, governments, our own perceptions, our own limitations. I think that there is a lot to be said about what an autistic child may gain from music therapy in terms of how they’re able to communicate more effectively. What are we missing as a global society in terms of our issues with communication? And why are these issues still present in our world? And so I think it’s really challenged me to look at that situation deeper and it’s really allowed me to open up to all these opportunities and resources. And I’m receiving them. There’s no formula I can imagine or think to give us the access and the adventures and the locations…I mean the multiple US tours. The multiple regional tours. The ability to keep doing this for four years full-time. I mean it’s crazy. I think I have just learned of the real generosity, the real power of music, and the real ability to elevate ourselves to start to have a deeper conversation about how we can become more peaceful and more unified.

Guitar-Therapy-Terra-Rising

What are we missing as a global society in terms of our issues with communication?

Film Fad:

Well it sounds like this is an amazing journey, amazing tour, and you guys have tons of footage. When can we expect to see this film?

Mike:

(Laughter) Oh that is such a great question. We are in the process now of figuring out the best format for it and how we are going to pitch this. So we’re in the process. We know that we are finishing it in the next year but it’s going to be what forum is the best for it. Is it a documentary film, is it a mini-series, is it a television series? So right now we are meeting with a bunch of different professionals that have come on board. C2C Media Group here in the Northern Virginia area has been huge for helping us gain access to be able to get into places so we can pitch this. So I am hoping within the next year to year and a half our project will be done, we will be promoting it, and we will be sharing it with hopefully the whole world on whatever format is chosen so that we will be able to maximize the biggest impact.

Film Fad:

Well we are just wrapping up here, but tell us a little bit about the next step for the movement because it seems like a more of a continuous journey as opposed to a finite one.

Mike:

For sure. I mean, like I said we are going to Africa. We are going to do this whole world tour. Then we get back, we do post, we figure out where the heck this thing is gonna go. And then as a whole for the company, for Terra-Rising Films, I think it’s going to be an opportunity to start to focus more centrally on specific locations around the globe. So from this tour what we are hoping to do is to obviously build on maybe some of the stories that we meet, some of the countries that don’t become full parts of this documentary and this series but actually try to focus specifically on a country or a group of countries or a situation. So like I said I think history is important and I really think that there are fun ways of going about it. I think there are interesting ways of going about it and I think that if we are going to do something involving other cultures and other history I think that we need to be authentic and we be there with those people in their environment. So I really want to do something in India. We’ll be there for 15 days with this project but I really want to spend some extra time over there and work on a couple of different projects involving some of the prehistory and some of the ancient languages that have not even been deciphered yet called the Indus script. So really just trying to get into some different parts of history that maybe some people don’t know about and have some fun with it. Of course there will be music, art, and dance and all the other good things that come along with Terra-Rising Films.

Film Fad:

Awesome. So Mike from Terra-Rising Films, thank you so much for stopping by or sitting down and… I guess you are sitting down…

Mike:

I am. Indian Style.

Film Fad:

(Laughter) And talking to Film Fad about your upcoming project, which has yet to be named. Perhaps we can give it a name, sometime in the near future.

Mike:

We’re hoping…

Film Fad:

How about the Rhythm of Hope? No No ?

Mike:

Ehhhh along those lines though. You’re… you’re… that’s good. I like that. I’m gonna write that down. And… The Rhythm of Hope. I like it.

Film Fad:

Give a special thanks to Film Fad in the credits if you don’t mind. But is there anything else that you would like to add or say before we sign off?

Mike:

Yeah I would just love people to know that we do have a musical instrument donation program. We collect instruments and we get them to programs in need. If they have musical therapy programs, if they have music education. We’ve done ten states here in the US. We’ve done Haiti, Panama, Ecuador, and we will do Uganda here coming up. So if anybody would like to do that hit me up at [email protected] That’s also our website. And anywhere on social media @TerraRisingFilm no S just Terra Rising Film. We are big on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, we love to connect with people. We would love to keep this conversation going. And if you are out there in a country or a state and you want to become a part of this just let us know and we will be there. It’s just that easy. That’s how we built this whole thing organically. And if somebody is out there that wants to be a part of the film, the instrument donation program, or just helping add to the global conversation please hit us up at Terra-RisingFilm.

Film Fad:

Mike Thank you so much for sitting with us. Much appreciated and good luck and Godspeed on your journey and your tour.

Mike:

My pleasure man. Thank you for having me. Peace Everybody.

About The Author

Glenn

Never one for hyperbole, Glenn has seen all movies that have ever been made or will be made. This power bestowed upon him by the ancient sentient being "The Viewer" Glenn has used this power to voice his opinion to any and all that would listen. Every Superhero ends up on a team and Glenn has found his in FilmFad. Together world domination seemed imminent however after a change of heart Glenn found himself unable to use his power to critique. After being bested by FilmFad head Ryan in a homemade game of Fear Factor, Glenn agreed to join the team again on the promise that any dissenting commenters would have to battle him to the death... To date all responses have been positive. Honestly Glenn, is a guy that has watched a lot of Cinema as well as TV. He has studied screen writing and directed a few short films. Stepping into the world of online blogging is fun and offers an entirely new exciting platform to share his unique views on Film and TV.

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