The Film Version of Jim Stovall's 'The Ultimate Gift' to Premiere in Charlotte Charitable Screenings of the Film Spark a Movement that is Having an Impact in Classrooms and in Board Rooms across America

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Long after the credits roll and the lights go up, people of all ages and across economic lines continue to respond to the powerful message of the soon to be released film "The Ultimate Gift." In the last month, charitable screenings of the movie, based on the best-selling novel by Jim Stovall, have resulted in significant gifts to organizations and initiatives in the US. The movie will be released nationwide on March 9.

Long after the credits roll and the lights go up, people of all ages and across economic lines continue to respond to the powerful message of the soon to be released film "The Ultimate Gift." In the last month, charitable screenings of the movie, based on the best-selling novel by Jim Stovall, have resulted in significant gifts to organizations and initiatives in the US. The movie will be released nationwide on March 9.

"The Ultimate Gift" delivers a strong and thoroughly engaging presentation that includes Oscar-nominee 10-year old Abigail Breslin together with veterans of the stage and screen James Garner, Lee Meriwether, Brian Dennehy and rising star Drew Fuller.

The story told in the film provides the perfect backdrop for dialogue about universal values and personal transformation. When his wealthy grandfather (Garner) dies, trust fund baby Jason Stevens (Fuller) anticipates a big inheritance. Instead, his grandfather has devised a crash course on life with twelve tasks - or "gifts" - designed to challenge Jason in improbable ways, sending him on a journey of self-discovery and forcing him to determine what is most important in life: money or happiness.

Since the screenings began, Stovall and Film Foundry executives have been inundated with communications from viewers who want to say "thank you" for the film and its message. A 16-year old from Connecticut wrote, "I just got home and wrote down all the 'gifts' and their definitions on the back of my ticket stub and I hope to keep it with me to remind me of how to live my life."

"I believe that the movie honestly depicts the challenges we all face daily in honoring what's really important," comments Stovall. "Clearly there is a shift away from the pursuit of 'me' to really valuing other people and identifying ways to 'give back.'"

The shift is also evidenced by the range of cottage businesses that have sprung up to promote themes presented in "The Ultimate Gift." A product line inspired by the story is available from Once Upon a Family, offering everything from suggestions for family activities to journal exercises that can be shared at home. In addition, the firm has launched Show of Hands, a youth philanthropy campaign to educate teens about ways they can impact culture with their time, talent, resources and passion.

The idea of doing something lasting seems to be at the base of many of initiatives that have cropped up around the movie release. Stanford Financial Group out of Houston caught the vision early on, providing the lead funding for the film production. Stanford, as a company, has a made it a priority to "give back" and strengthen communities, and the message of the book caused the financial services company to invest in taking the story to the big screen in the upcoming movie. In markets across the country and leading up to the movie's release, Stanford joined with nonprofit Foundations and philanthropic groups to host pre-release premieres of the movie for those who are in a position to make a real difference. The premieres were aimed at raising the dialogue and encouraging increased activity in the realm of philanthropy.

The Denver-Based Financial Planning Associations has spent $50,000 distributing copies of the book to members and has worked out discounts for members to buy it for their clients. Financial tools inspired by the story have been developed to assist in setting and achieving personal financial goals - both for saving and giving.

It would seem that American culture is poised for the messages presented in "The Ultimate Gift." Its appeal is broad and its themes are timeless. The movie hits theatres on March 9, but time will be the best gauge of the ultimate success of the film as a movement with a challenge: "Share the Gift; Change the World."

About the Movie. The nationwide release of the movie, "The Ultimate Gift" will be marked by a premiere event at Phillips Place Cinema in Charlotte on March 7. The film was produced by Rick Eldridge, President of Charlotte's Film Foundry and is the first of a steady stream of films coming out the of the recently announced Independent Producers Alliance (IPA). Headquartered at the Film Foundry, IPA is an effort to help filmmakers fund and distribute their products in the most efficient and effective manner, according to Eldridge. "The Ultimate Gift" is one of four IPA films expected out this year. In October 2006, Executive Producer Paul Brooks and Producer Rick Eldridge were honored with a Crystal Heart Award for "The Ultimate Gift." The award is given to a select group of independent filmmakers "for demonstrating excellence in filmmaking" while promoting positive values.

About Jim Stovall. Jim Stovall has overcome blindness to become a National Champion Olympic Weightlifter, a successful investment broker, entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. He is co-founder and president of the Narrative Television Network (NTN), which makes movies and television accessible for our nation's 13 million blind and visually impaired people and their families. NTN has grown to include over 1200 cable systems and broadcast stations, reaching over 35 million homes in the US, and NTN is shown in 11 foreign countries. Stovall has appeared on "Good Morning, America" and CNN, and has been featured in Reader's Digest, TV Guide and Time Magazine. Jim Stovall has authored a number of other books, including You Don't Have to Be Blind to See, Success Secrets of Super Achievers, and The Way I See the World. The President's Committee on Equal Opportunity selected Jim Stovall as the 1997 Entrepreneur of the Year.

About The Film Foundry. The Film Foundry is a post production facility that provides online (non-linear) editing, music composition, audio editing, graphic development and studio services, and is one of three Charlotte-based businesses operating under the oversight of Rae Management, also owned by Eldridge. Eldridge's other related and cooperating ventures include GlueWorks, a full service animation division, Film Foundry Releasing, which provides theatre licensing and motion picture distribution services, and the Film Fund, an investment fund developed in association with The Ultimate Gift Experience (TUGX).

About the Stanford Financial Group. Stanford Financial Group is a privately held, wholly owned global group of financial services companies founded by Lodis B. Stanford in 1932. Stanford's core businesses are private wealth management and investment banking for institutions and emerging growth companies. Stanford provides private and institutional investors with global expertise in asset allocation strategies, investment advisory services, equity research, international private banking and trust administration, commercial banking, investment banking, merchant banking, institutional sales and trading, real estate investment and insurance. Stanford serves clients from 126 countries on six continents. Securities products and services offered through Stanford Group Company, member NASD/SIPC.

Summary of Case Histories

  •     On March 6, author Jim Stovall, in conjunction with organizations that aid the visually impaired, will present a Narrative Premier of "The Ultimate Gift" (based on his novel by the same name) from the Empire Theatre in NYC. It is the first time a movie has been presented to this audience before its release to the general public. The movie features a narrative tract that can be heard only during pauses in the original audio, in order to keep the audience apprised of changes on screen.
  •     300 screenings of the movie through February have netted approximately $25 million in gifts to charitable organizations across the US.
  •     In Iowa, winner of one of the largest lottery awards in the US reports that he has been using "The Ultimate Gift" as a driving force behind his foundation.
  •     In Noble County, Indiana, the book was used in the county's first community-wide book read that culminated with a movie screening event. At the conclusion of the screening, two organizations offered $40,000 each in a matching gift opportunity to promote literacy. In addition, a grant was made that will allow all county residents to purchase tickets to the general release of the movie for $1.
  •     In Tulsa, students joined five other schools in reading, discussing - and journaling - about Stovall's book, culminating in a multi-school teleconference with Stovall himself. In response, a local financial group introduced a college scholarship program for students with the best journals. A permanent curriculum for all grades is now being developed.
  •     An Oklahoma businessman responded via email regarding his reaction to the film, stating that it influenced him and his wife to move forward with a four-year contribution to a local hospital that they had previously discussed but never acted upon - until now.
  •     In a community near Vale, Colorado, a businessman attending the movie screening pledged monies to cover the ticket costs of every high schooler in the area - a move that inspired a second attendee to offer the same for every area junior high student.
  •     A product line based on the story has been introduced by Once Upon a Family, a company with a mission to help families connect in meaningful ways. Recently the firm announced the launch of a second venture targeted at teens, called Show of Hands . The initiative, described as a youth philanthropy campaign, is offering an items inspired by the book. A portion of proceeds from the purchase of "handstrands" and/or tickets sold on Fandango for opening weekend of "The Ultimate Gift" will go to the purchaser's designated charity.

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