An Invitation to Invest in the Future of Film
Among my favorite filmmakers, homegrown or otherwise, is Sonoma County’s own John Harden whose masterful short films, La Vie d’un Chien (The Life of a Dog) and The Story of Sputnik, for my money, represent much of what’s great about the form.
Harden is now in preproduction for NEW, which follows an elderly couple who elected to be cryonically preserved at death only to be restored to life and youth in the distant future where futureshock and identity crises ensue. Harden is running a campaign on USA Projects to raise the $22,000 budget which has to be met by Wednesday, May 15, at 11:59pm. At present writing the projection has raised in pledges $12,200, with $10k to go. Naturally, as a longtime fan of Harden’s, I’ve contributed and I urge you to do as well by clicking here now.
After you’ve contributed to the next great John Harden film, dig this recent Q&A with him in which I lead with my my standard mid-period Woody Allen question…
Daedalus Howell: You’ve mentioned the inspiration for NEW coming from a magazine article about cryonics. What are your own views on this possibility – would you do it yourself and generally how do you feel about death?
John Harden: Generally how do I feel about death? Gee, I guess it’s fine, if that’s what you’re into. You know, if you’re okay with your consciousness popping like a soap bubble, never to return and all. It’s a funny question to be asked in an interview, but it also gets to the nugget of the motivation behind cryonics enthusiasts. They aren’t satisfied with the terms of the deal, the deal being mortality. Who is? It’s not like any of us got to read the contract or had a choice about signing.
Cryonics… would I do it myself? I’d never seriously considered it, but since I started researching it and have spent so much time thinking about out, this isn’t the first time that question has come up. Scientifically and practically speaking, cryonics is pretty far from a sure thing. But as cryonicists will tell you, your chances of surviving your body’s death, if you DON’T get preserved, are pretty assuredly zero. How’s that for a non-answer?
In any case, my script doesn’t dwell on the process: the actual preservation in liquid nitrogen, the revival… all that is backstory. As the film begins, our main characters are living in the distant future, in freshly cloned 20-year-old bodies. It’s really a drama about this old married couple coming to grips with a whole new reality. It’s a story of future shock, because of the society they find themselves in, but it’s also about the identity crisis that comes with suddenly going from elderly and dying to young and having a whole new lifetime handed to you.
Most of the people who go in for cryonics are also into a host of related ideas: futurism, transhumanism, things like that. There’s a tendency among these people to think of their innate selves — their souls, if you will — as software. Software that just happens to be running on this hardware that’s made of meat. The inconvenient meat, that will eventually fail.
My script kind of rebuts that and says, no, you are not just your mind. You are also your body, and you are your age. Crucial parts of your identity and behavior come from chemicals your glands are pumping through you, and also how your physical age defines your place in society, to yourself and to others. I mean, I’m not the same person I was 20 years ago, are you? So think about how these characters must feel.
DH: Why crowdfund? And tell us about the grant…
JH: NEW is fairly ambitious. We think it’s a 7-day shoot, and there are a lot of special effects. A pro FX house did a bid just on the effects and came back with $48,000. We’re going full-on indie shoestring – though I insist on paying everyone a little something – and trying to make the whole film for $22,000. I don’t have $22,000, hence the crowdfunding.
We’re doing the campaign on a site called USA Projects. You can see the NEW pitch video and donor page there, if you visit www.NewTheMovie.com. USA Projects is unique in that they are a vetted, invitation-only arts funding site. I’m there because I received an award from the Arts Council of Sonoma County for my work a few years ago, and that qualified me to be invited. The downside of being there is it’s fairly obscure – they don’t have the traffic and the lively community of donors of a Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
The upside is personalized support and the availability of matching funds. We won their monthly competition for the “Creative Vision” fund – $5,000 in match money! The guest judge making the decision was the head of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and we beat out 24 other projects to get it. That’s huge for us. And there’s nothing comparable on the other crowdfunding sites. Now, we just have to get the donations to come in so we can USE those matching funds!
DH: As a working artist, how do you define success?
JH: I’ve been throwing stuff at the wall for years, maybe this one will stick. If not, whatever. I’m too old to get as torqued as I used to about ‘making it’ or being a “success.” I’m doing what I do. I’m writing what I want, and making the films I want to make. I think that’s a pretty good definition of success.