Tilt Shift is a documentary that retraces the first transcontinental flight, made by Cal Rodgers in 1911, in something nearly as rudimentary: a weight shift trike, basically a hang glider strapped to a go kart. For 40 days a young pilot will fly his trike along the original route, sleeping in hangars and battling headwinds, reliving history and capturing it all on film.
In 2013, I was depressed and out of shape, so I decided to create an adventure: a self-initiated rite of passage that would challenge me completely. So I left New York City and moved to the west coast to learn to pilot a trike - little more than a hang glider strapped to a go kart - and then fly it back across America.
I’ve been training for three years.
So far, I’ve slept in a hangar, acquired a sponsored aircraft, had my engine conk out at 1,000 feet, and earned a pilot’s license.
When I started, I had a “safety first” approach to most things, a woozy fear of heights, a stellar lack of gumption, and was like a baby with a socket wrench concerning anything mechanical.
Becoming a pilot has remolded me: it’s forced me to make real, flight or fight decisions and to learn to be authoritative. The flight will test my resolve.
Flying a trike is an intense, physical form of flying; I sweat like I’m in hot yoga just practicing landings. I’ve become a marathon runner in the past year, hammering myself into the best possible physical shape for the intensity of this trip.
For the first time in my life I feel like I am the architect of my own fortune.
There are no frills and this flight isn’t cute; I’ll sleep in a bag next to a runway every night for 40 days if I have to. What does “having an adventure” mean in 2016?
Let’s find out together.
In 1911, mere years after the airplane was invented, Calbraith Perry Rodgers became the first man to fly across America. His 84-day sprint involved 17 crashes, multiple rebuilds of the “Vin Fiz,” and the oppressive presence of his own mother. Soon after, Cal became the first pilot to die as a result of bird strike, plummeting into the Pacific Ocean and onto the back burners of history. His sole monument is a grave in Pittsburgh, its epitaph faint: I ENDURE / I CONQUER.
99% of the pilots I’ve met haven’t heard of him and he’s flat out ignored in some texts.
Beginning on September 17, 2016, my team and I will retrace Cal’s flight over the course of 40+ flying days. My quest is to become him; to eke a hero out of myself and to do it all on film, with you, sparing no detail.
Luckily, I have an extraordinary team surrounding me as I prepare for the greatest challenge of my life. With your support, I know we can do this.
Stephen Tonti (left) is a young Writer-Director for Film and Theater based out of New York, NY. He holds a B.F.A. in Theater Directing, including an emphasis in Film Studies, from Carnegie Mellon University. Aside from freelancing, Stephen is also a Director/DP on staff at The Wild Honey Pie. By day, he is working on short films, new plays, and feature documentaries. By night you can catch him mixing tasty libations at your local cocktail lounge.
David Grabowski (right) is a film composer and writer. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, he has written music for films, a webseries musical, dance troupes, chamber ensembles, soloists, and orchestra. Until 2013, David had never set foot in a plane that didn't require a boarding pass; in 2016 he became a licensed Sport Pilot. He also enjoys long-distance running, backpacking, and cooking.
Arina Bleiman is a New York based Director of Photography. Bleiman draws her cinematography from a love of culture and a diverse background - growing up in the northern metropolitan of St. Petersburg, Russia and the sizzling streets of Miami, Florida. With every project she strives to design and sustain a unique aesthetic - a powerful connection between image and emotion, always trying to reinvent and grow.
As film makers, our primary focus will be the creation of a feature length documentary charting our cross country airborne adventure through the heart of America. But we’ll also focus on the peoples and the cultures we meet along the way. The route will take me and my team through 80+ airports, 12 states, and 4,000 miles in 40 days. Who knows what sorts of people we’ll meet, what lessons we’ll learn? We can’t wait to find out.
But Tilt Shift is more than just a documentary. The goal of this project is to reawaken and rediscover the meaning of adventure in an era of total connection and commodification. We want you to come with us, to experience this journey first hand. To that end, we'll be posting blog entries, video diaries, pieces of our personal writing, and more as it happens on the road.
We want to take you with us by making our story as media rich as possible! And, as we progress, we'll create opportunities for you to join us on our path, celebrate the spirit of adventure, and maybe even take you up in the air.
After three years of training and preparation, it’s September 17 or never. That means we need funds not for me, as I said I’ll sleep in fields if that’s what it takes, but for our crew and post production. I might be flying from stop to stop, but that won’t mean anything without our director Stephen Tonti and our crew hitting the road with me to document and share everything with you. We’ll need funds for equipment, gas, scary motel rooms, and all the other hurdles and challenges that come with documentary filmmaking.
After three years of preparation, none of this is possible without your support. Will you join us on a true adventure?
If you live near any of the following cities, we also want to encourage you to come out and meet us in person as we fly across the country.
So if you're near any of our landing sites (listed below), we'd love to hear your thoughts about your town, your life, your experiences -- anything you want to tell us. And, if we can, we'll let you tell us about those experiences 1,000 feet above the ground.
Sacramento, CA, Half Moon Bay, CA Monterey, CA Santa Maria, CA Santa Barbara, CA Los Angeles, CA Long Beach, CA Pasadena, CA Pomona, CA Beaumont, CA Banning, CA Niland, CA Phoenix, AZ Maricopa, AZ Tucson, AZ Willcox, AZ Lordsburg, NM Deming, NM El Paso, TX Fort Hancock, TX Sierra Blanca, TX Marfa, TX Alpine, TX Sanderson, TX Dryden, TX Del Rio, TX Spofford, TX Uvalde, TX Sabinal, TX LaCoste, TX San Antonio, TX San Marcos, TX Kyle, TX Austin, TX Granger, TX Waco, TX Dallas, TX Fort Worth, TX Bonita, TX Gainesville, TX Pottsboro, TX Durant, OK McAlester, OK Muskogee, OK Vinita, OK Moran, KS Kansas City, KS Blue Springs, MO Marshall, MO Mexico, MO Thompson, MO Nebo, IL Springfield, IL Middletown, IL Peoria, IL Streator, IL Joliet, IL Chicago, IL Hammond, IN Knox, IN Huntington, IN Geneva, IN Rivare, IN Marion, OH Mansfield, OH Kent, OH Warren, OH Pittsburgh, PA Harrisburg, PA Lancaster, PA Brooklyn, NY
We can’t wait to take this adventure with you, and we know your time is precious. We just wanted to thank you for taking the time to look at our project. Anything you can spare will make a tremendous difference as we fight to get this project off the ground.
If you are unable to contribute financially, and you feel strongly about the trip, we hope that you will help us get the word out about our adventure on social media, by sharing us with your favorite blogs, or even just letting a friend know. See you in the open skies!
Risks and challenges
First, we're making a documentary. So all the usual challenges of filmmaking apply. Equipment can fail. Files can be lost. Things sometimes set on fire.
Second, we're making a documentary about flying across The United States in what we lovingly describe as "a go kart stapled to a hang glider." After stalling out at 1000 feet we can assure you - there are risks. Bad weather, mechanical failure, dropping out of the sky and splattering on the pavement. All of that is possible.
When we ran our first Indiegogo to raise the funds for the trike three years ago, we had no idea how big this project would be.
But! We have spent the last three years training for this moment. David has earned his pilot's license. Stephen has been honing his craft as a film maker. And the challenge of learning how to do this and set up a realistic plan has driven all of us to up our game. We're very confident we can pull off this journey. We've allowed extra time for bad weather and other issues. We have a serious flight itinerary. We have the aircraft. We've been preparing for this for three years. We're so ready to get started.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)