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Filmmaker's videos show the underlying bonds of humanity

Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee takes a lesson from his jazz background to make films about 'oneness.' Then he distributes them for free.

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Some 25,000 Global Oneness DVDs have been distributed worldwide, with an assumed audience of at least 10 times that. The Global Oneness website also has been streaming between 80,000 and 100,000 videos per month for the past year. And that is just a fraction of the total audience since a number of other websites, such as YouTube, also carry Global Oneness videos.

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"I can say that our films have been seen, either online, via DVD, or television, millions of times," Vaughan-Lee says.

Vaughan-Lee's road to becoming a filmmaker began in the summer of 2004. Three years earlier he had graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Boston and returned to the San Francisco Bay area. He was getting regular gigs, had started his own music production company, and was teaching at a summer jazz program at Stanford University. But driving home from a class, he recalls, "something in me had changed. I said to myself, 'I need to do something different in my life.' And so I just started opening myself up."

This time of transition, he says, had something to do with integrating some deeper spiritual ideas into his work – facets of his life that he had kept pretty separate up to then.

The transition from music took concrete form in Vaughn-Lee's involvement with the marketing and distribution of "One, The Movie." This independent film posed a series of deep questions to prominent contemporary spiritual thought leaders such as Deepak Chopra, Ram Dass, and Thich Nhat Hahn.

The film led Vaughan-Lee to want to further explore "oneness," though from a more practical, rather than philosophical, point of view. The result was Global Oneness, an idea he took to Kalliopeia, which awarded him an $80,000 grant to fund his project for a year.

"We get excited about projects that transcend conventional boundaries, such as religious, ethnic, or national identities, and which instead find ... the exper­ience of love that crosses all boundaries," says Barbara Sargent, Kalliopeia's executive director.

Vaughan-Lee enlisted the services of filmmaker Tom Tanquary, who worked with him on the first few projects. Now Vaughan-Lee has embarked on his most ambitious film venture. He's spending the next two years producing a full-length film about water. Recently, he flew to the United Arab Emirates and India as part of that project.

As something common to all living things, water represents another way to explore "what is most missing in all our lives," he says – that universal ingredient he calls our "oneness."

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