Lee Storey has a brand new reason to smile 'til it hurts.
A Phoenix-based water rights attorney with Ballard Spahr LLP, Storey earned a spot as one of our 2011 Big Brain Finalists for her debut feature documentary, Smile 'Til It Hurts: The Up With People Story.
The film tells the complicated tale of the Up with People program, which sent large casts of singing, dancing, turtle-necked youth around the world in the 1960s and '70s to represent American exceptionalism with a smile. As ambassadors from the land of peace and love (with, in this case, a distinctly conservative bent), the Up with People performers - like Glenn Close and Storey's husband, William - shared surreal meetings with world leaders as they spread their homespun values during the Cold War era.
Completed in 2009, the documentary earned praise from audiences and critics alike and a spot in film festivals across the country, winning the Special Jury Prize at Michael Moore's Traverse City Film Festival. What it didn't earn - yet - were financial profits. Storey had claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses from her work on the film during the years 2006-08, but in an audit the Internal Revenue Service denied those deductions and charged Storey $259,842 in back taxes.