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A photography and creative advice book from fifty of the world's best documentary filmmakers.
A photography and creative advice book from fifty of the world's best documentary filmmakers.
445 backers pledged $26,936 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$26,936

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What can you learn from the world's best documentary filmmakers?

In TELL ME SOMETHING, we've asked fifty filmmakers we admire, from veterans to up-and-comers, for one piece of advice. Then we took their picture. The resulting book is an art project, a creative manual, and an inspiration generator. 

Edited by New York filmmaker Jessica Edwards, TELL ME SOMETHING is a clothbound, hardcover book with full-color photographs taken by esteemed photographers from around the world. Legendary directors like Albert Maysles, DA Pennebaker, Frederick Wiseman and Barbara Kopple, and renegades like Morgan Spurlock, James Marsh, Sam Green, Margaret Brown, and Gary Hustwit deliver advice on everything from career development to personal relationships to risk taking to fashion choices. They even throw in some filmmaking advice too!

Why do documentary filmmakers give such good advice?

Doc makers are a rare breed, they're creative, persistent, they're master storytellers and each film they make is like a graduate degree in their chosen subject. Some of them have spent over 60 years making films, and along they way they've learned a lot about how to balance life and art. They've got insightful advice for people in any creative field, like so:

Who will be in this book?

We have a great list of filmmakers already signed on to participate, and we're adding more every day. They've won Oscars, Emmys, and every type of filmmaking award out there, topped box office charts and travelled the world to make their films. 

Some of the folks already on board are: Michael AptedJennifer Baichwal, Amir Bar-LevAlan BerlinerDoug BlockMargaret BrownYung ChangMarshall CurryJohn DowerSandi Simcha DuBowskiHeidi Ewing & Rachel GradyNegin FarsadLiz GarbusAlex GibneySam GreenDavis Guggenheim, Judith HelfandGary Hustwit, Steve JamesRoss Kauffman, Barbara KoppleKim LonginattoJames MarshAlbert Maysles, Brett MorgenStanley NelsonD.A Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus, Doug Pray, AJ SchnackMorgan SpurlockAnnie Sundberg & Ricki Stern, James Swirsky & Lisanne Pajot, Lucy WalkerEva Weber and Frederick Wiseman

Don't see your favorite doc-maker? Don't worry, we'll be announcing more filmmakers over the next month throughout the Kickstarter campaign!

The Book

We've teamed up with award-winning graphic designer Philipp Hubert who will realize the book design with us, which will be a 128 page, high-quality clothbound hardcover. And we've commissioned photographers from around the world to take original portraits of each of the filmmakers. Thom Powers will be writing a foreword for TELL ME SOMETHING. Powers is a documentary maverick working as a filmmaker, programmer, teacher and festival director. We are so inspired by the dedication and passion he has for documentary in all its forms.

The Rewards

Backing at the $40 level gets you a hardcover copy of TELL ME SOMETHING, plus an ebook version formatted for iPad, Kindle, and other devices. 

We've also got some special rewards packages that include signed books and DVDs, limited edition photographs of the filmmakers, and invites to the launch party with filmmakers in New York City. The Albert Maysles and Gary Hustwit Super Bundles have sold out, but we've just added a new DA Pennebaker / Chris Hegedus Super Bundle, see the rewards list for details.

The Goal

The money we raise through Kickstarter will go towards completing the portraits of the filmmakers, and designing and printing the book. Our dream is to expand TELL ME SOMETHING into a whole series of advice books, where we'll ask chefs, architects, fashion designers and other creative professionals for their advice. You can help Kickstart this series by backing our first volume! 

We hope you will take the journey to help us finish TELL ME SOMETHING. We've got some great rewards for you to choose from and we'll have some surprises to come. 

Thanks for your support! 

Special thanks to our friend Amir Husak for the music in the video! 

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Update: We've made our initial funding goal! THANK YOU to all our backers for supporting TELL ME SOMETHING!

We'll use any additional money raised to add more filmmakers to the book, print more copies, and give some special gifts to our backers. If we make it to $25K we'll add five more documentary filmmakers to the book. And if we make it to $30K, everyone who's pledged at the $35 dollar level and above will get a limited-edition notebook. The notebook will be a companion to the book and a way to record your own day-to-day inspirations.

I hope you'll be inspired to back the project or upgrade your pledge so we can meet the new goals! - Jessica

Risks and challenges

We're printing several thousand beautiful books that will hopefully help you deal with your own risks and challenges! Our only challenge is raising the funds and overseeing the design and print production to the highest possible standard, we want these books to be really special.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    EBOOK: You'll receive a digital copy of TELL ME SOMETHING optimized for iPad, Kindle, and other devices. The ebook will feature additional photographs and behind the scenes video snippets and photos. You'll also get our sincere thanks!

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    EARLY BIRD BOOK: The hardcover edition of TELL ME SOMETHING at a lower price for the first 100 backers! Plus the ebook. US shipping is included, there's an additional shipping charge for outside the US.

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    Reward no longer available 100 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    THE BOOK: The hardcover edition of TELL ME SOMETHING, plus the ebook. US shipping is included, there's an additional shipping charge for outside the US.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    TWO BOOKS: Get two copies of the hardcover edition, one for you and one as a gift. Plus the ebook, and US shipping.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    SIGNED BOOK: Get the hardcover book signed by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me, The Greatest Film Ever Sold, etc.), plus the ebook. Shipping included inside the US.

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    Reward no longer available 10 backers
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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    SIGNED BOOK: Get the hardcover book signed by filmmaker Barbara Kopple (Harlan County USA, Shut Up And Sing). Plus the ebook.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    BOOK + JAMES MARSH PHOTO: Get the hardcover edition and the ebook, plus a limited edition 8.5" x 11" photo portrait of Academy Award winning filmmaker James Marsh (Man on Wire, Project Nim) by photographer Johan Rutherhagen. Each photograph is issued in an edition of 10.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    BOOK + FREDERICK WISEMAN PHOTO: Get the hardcover edition and the ebook, plus a limited edition 8.5 x 11 inch photo portrait of filmmaker Frederick Wiseman (La Danse, Titicut Follies) by photographer Emanuele Fontanesi. Each photograph is issued in an edition of 10.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    THE CALL: A filmmaker from the book will call you to give advice on your love life, retirement, child rearing, filmmaking, anything! Plus a hardcover version of the book, and the ebook.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    AL MAYSLES SUPER BUNDLE: A hardcover copy of the book signed by legendary filmmaker Albert Maysles, a signed 2-disc DVD Criterion set of his landmark documentary "Grey Gardens", plus a photo portrait of Al taken by photographer Jon Pack in a limited edition of 10 prints.

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    Reward no longer available 2 backers
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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    GARY HUSTWIT SUPER BUNDLE: A hardcover copy of the book signed by filmmaker Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified, Urbanized), a signed copy of his sold-out Design Trilogy box set, plus a photo portrait of Gary from a limited edition of 10 prints.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    NEW REWARD! PENNEBAKER / HEGEDUS SUPER BUNDLE: A hardcover copy of the book signed by legendary filmmakers DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, a signed 2-disc Criterion 20th anniversary DVD set of their acclaimed documentary "The War Room", plus a photo portrait of Chris and Penny taken by photographer Gary Hustwit from a limited edition of 10 prints.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    THE WHOLE SHEBANG: Come celebrate the launch of the book in New York City! An invitation for two to a private reception with filmmakers and photographers from the book. Plus a limited-edition photograph of the filmmaker of your choice, two copies of the hardcover book and ebook, and your name in the special thanks section of the book. (Your airfare and accommodations for the NYC event are not included.)

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    Pledge $3,000 or more About $3,000

    TELL ME SOMETHING - LIVE!: We bring three filmmakers from the book to your school, company or organization to give an in-depth discussion on creativity to your group. Then they answer your questions and give advice! Plus 10 copies of the book.

    (Filmmaker participation based on availability and location. Airfare and accommodations not included, except in the NYC area.)

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Funding period

- (30 days)