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Watch IN AN IDEAL WORLD on PBS this coming April 26th @ 8pm on America ReFramed!
Watch IN AN IDEAL WORLD on PBS this coming April 26th @ 8pm on America ReFramed!
249 backers pledged $41,624 to help bring this project to life.

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IN AN IDEAL WORLD, feature documentary in Soledad prison

$41,624

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THIS IS OUR LAST DAY ON KICKSTARTER--PLEASE PLEDGE IF YOU BELIEVE IN THE MESSAGE!

IN AN IDEAL WORLD is not like the tv prison shows. But then, neither is prison. I was frequently told that nothing would prepare me for prison, so I was a bit surprised not to be shocked or scared. Instead, I found it full of people, in all our flawed, sometimes familiar, sometimes horrifying and on occasion even sublime humanity. The people who live and work in prison have a lot of time, something most of us crave. Perhaps because of that, they can think hard about the place they find themselves.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD may seem a strange title for a film about men in prison, but here at Soledad, three men showed me and hopefully will show you, what is really at stake--and what is possible--in the struggle for something better. The challenges they face are real, not theoretical, and their stories reveal both the hope and the hidden risks of transformative change. They remind us that in an ideal world, dignity and humanity matter.

I’ve been all over Soledad with John, Sam and Warden Ben, gaining their trust, witnessing their battles and defeats (and occasional triumphs) for almost ten years, filming for seven. They will reach you, as they did me, in ways that will surprise you. With their protective masks and quiet pleas, their universal hopes and clouded regrets, their hard won insights and scary blind spots, they will also move you.

In the anguish following Ferguson and Staten Island, something that can get lost is the tacit involvement of all Americans in public institutions, whether we agree with their embedded cultures or not. IN AN IDEAL WORLD goes deep inside Soledad to better understand how an American institution can use race to organize and maintain order, something that is often hard to unpack. Here, it is simply life, both imposed from the top and dutifully perpetuated by inmates and staff below. Power and race are explicit; the stakes are high; and the central characters are compelling and articulate. The stories of these three men compel us to grapple tangibly and deeply with prejudice, shared humanity, and the dire threat a criminalized race order makes to fundamental civil and human rights.

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IN AN IDEAL WORLD is almost done! I’ve completed the edit, locked the picture, worked with extraordinary composer B. Quincy Griffin on the musical score, but it cannot screen at festivals, theaters or on TV without a few critical finishing steps. All I need is your help to inch it past this final stage, and ready it for launch in early 2015. Poised to premiere and run in the 2015 season, it needs those magical touches that only out-of-house experts can bring: a little color correction, graphics rendering, audio tweaking and packaging. It’s hard to believe I've gotten it this far, and now it's time to call on a few trusted, incredibly talented (but pricey) professionals to bring what I've edited to its final, fabulous release-ready form. (I've submitted the film to a host of festivals already so don't worry, it has not missed any important festival deadlines! Wouldn't it seem  almost *criminal,* though, to pass on a festival because of money?)

I've had some really critical help along the way. I've been blessed (I think that's the only word for it) to have had the impassioned help of the best possible talent--Jon Shenk, Jon Else, Amanda Micheli, Doug Dunderdale, Marcy Schwerin--who brought not just their skill but their shining character, support and great patience to the effort this film required. The MacArthur Foundation, the California Council for the Humanities and the Sundance Documentary Fund also provided more than just funding; they brought dedicated people and perspective, and for a filmmaker who found herself laboring alone a lot, also a kind of committed companionship. These and many other people have been, in the end, wiser than me, as they somehow managed to keep me on track to release IN AN IDEAL WORLD at a moment of dramatic and potentially profound change in American justice, the first in many decades, and one that actually appears to engage both political parties. (Let's keep the pressure on. After all, in whose ideal world does one in 99 adults go to jail?!) 

For the first time in 40 years, Americans are beginning to reject the blanket "tough on crime" slogans and the sentencing laws that went with them. We are listening to ideas about restorative justice that make the victim and the community--i.e., the harmed and not just the perpetrator--the focus of criminal justice. We are questioning the morality of solitary confinement and the death penalty. We are resisting the cost that prisons exact on education, other important public services, whole neighborhoods and our national identity.

You can join this conversation. You can even help steer it, not necessarily away from from discussions of spiraling costs and state budgets, but perhaps also toward something deeper more enduring (though less quantifiable), something about the human spirit, its transgressions, its aspirations and its unique capacity for mercy, forgiveness and change. Help this film, or go out and find another way to talk about and engage, without irony, about what might contribute to an ideal world.

As one character in the film reminded me, “Be careful what you practice. You get good at what you practice.” It was a simple truth and a piece of potent, cautionary advice. Let's practice thinking hard about what's hard to think about. Then let me know your thoughts, where you think the film might/should be shown and what great creative ideas you have about American justice, particularly the appropriate role of prison and the intersection of race and power in American corrections. I want to hear from you and I want the film's release to be just the beginning.

Remember, participation is what counts! (and all contributions are fully tax deductible!)

Thank you! Noel

Please visit our FB page for photos, links, videos and more: https://www.facebook.com/IDEALWORLDFILM?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Risks and challenges

The only real challenge now is AFFORDING THE FINISHING STEPS NEEDED FOR RELEASE! I’ve worked for years developing a rich and deep outreach and engagement plan and have a great network of people waiting to use the film in novel and exciting ways. Gatekeepers in broadcast, festivals and conventional as well as novel distribution are eager to see its launch.

We're just weeks away! Think of it this way: the really, really hard stuff is over: things like getting the (frankly) unbelievable and unprecedented access to all aspects of life inside prison; achieving the trust, candor and long term commitment of principals inside the system who had little to gain and a lot to lose by participating in the film; winning the stunning contributions of the creative professionals and funders cited above; learning the proper process, permissions and political chess games I figured out on the fly; surviving the lack of money (the endless rejections, raised eyebrows, easy dismissals) and the crises of confidence. But there was always the story, and it was important, and the belief of my family, Sam, John and Warden Ben--less challenges for me than unqualified acts of faith and generosity by them.

Please help nudge this project past the finish line. I guarantee it will deliver on its promise to open eyes, and to deepen and broaden the conversation about race, power and redemption in America. I didn't dedicate the last decade to anything less.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    Deepest thanks and endless gratitude. Welcome aboard! You are part of it now, at the core of what we're building. This is where I also make a pledge to you: I will get this film out and seen by the people who need to see it, to open their eyes, to change their minds or simply to show them how 1:99 Americans (and some very dear loved ones) live. Pledge whatever you can. We’ll be sure to send you exclusive project updates along with tons of good karma and a shout out on Facebook and Twitter. THANK YOU!

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Now we're getting something going! Thanks and thanks and thanks again! We want to shout out on FB and Twitter not just about you, but about those people really special to you. Maybe they've known something about prison; maybe they've faced other challenges; maybe they are simply thankful to be free. Dedicate some of the ample love on this project to people you love for an honest, heartfelt and LOUD shout out on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll of course also name you too, and send you exclusive project updates.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Welcome, welcome! Another big boost to our efforts. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts and at the top of our lungs. (Can you hear us?) You'll get a handwritten note from Noel on a limited series postcard made from one of our very cool on location production stills. Plus you'll of course be included in our social media community and get those exclusive project updates.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    This is so great. Thank you. Thank you! You'll receive a private streaming version of the finished film (after festival premiere) to watch at home before it hits the theaters! Deep thanks plus shout outs on Facebook & Twitter. And of course, we'll keep you fully up to date on the project.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    All of the above, our crazy enthusiastic thanks, PLUS a special thanks credit on the film that we will send you as a digital download (on release) to screen anytime you want. (We'll let you know where to look for your name!)

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Imagine all the above PLUS a special dedication and thank you (to you or whomever you choose) at the beginning of the film for you to screen and share with friends and family. Imagine the lights go dark and the first thing you see on screen is your name, with our genuine and heartfelt thanks!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Everything from the $50 level PLUS a thank you credit at the end of the film AND a freshly minted DVD signed by Noel.
    BONUS PLUS, also personally signed with thanks from one of the main characters (Sam, John or Warden Ben...your choice)!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Everything from the $50 level PLUS a thank you credit at the end of the film AND a freshly minted DVD signed by Noel.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Enjoy all our thanks from the $100 level as you listen to an exclusive private release CD of the film’s original score by the brilliant composer, B. Quincy Griffin (Daughter of Danang, The Barber of Birmingham, The Waiting Room), including never before released cues. Want to contemplate the choices and revisions we made? Be your own sound design editor? You'll have a rich resource to play with, not to mention a VERY limited edition CD!

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Enjoy all our thanks from the $100 level as you listen to an exclusive private release CD of the film’s original score by the brilliant composer, B. Quincy Griffin (Daughter of Danang, The Barber of Birmingham, The Waiting Room), including never before released cues.

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    Pledge $175 or more About $175

    JUST ADDED NEW REWARD! All of the other $150 rewards PLUS: When you watch the film you'll get to know Sam (whose family lives in L.A. but is originally from Louisiana) and see how he manages to make a mean gumbo inside prison. Pledge here and you'll get the exclusive big house recipe as well as the original Bayou one!

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    How about a private viewing with the filmmaker in your home (or anywhere you choose that is reachable by phone)? Noel will join you and your hand picked audience by skype for a private screening and Q&A about the film. Share the film and the filmmaker in a setting of your choice. Call it the "__ __ Film Festival." That and all of the $150 level gifts on top.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    NEW REWARD! You'd like to dig deeper? All right! Pledge here and Noel will share with you a digital file of her primary research over the last decade of issues at the intersection of race and prison, with book and blog recs and a keen shared interest.

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    Pledge $275 or more About $275

    How about a private viewing with a Q&A with filmmaker in your home (or anywhere you choose that is reachable by phone)? Noel will join you (after the screening) and your hand picked audience by skype for a private screening and Q&A about the film. Share the film and the filmmaker in a setting of your choice. Call it the "__ __ Film Festival." That and all of the $150 level gifts on top.

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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    You’ll see the film. Want to meet the men at its center? This level pledge will reward you with everything above PLUS a first person phone or skype call with Noel and one of the three men profiled in the film. Add this to the $200 level and have your own private screening and dedicated Q&A panel with the real experts. Learn what's happened since the film wrapped, how Sam, John and the Warden see their years inside, or the film experience itself. Ask whether everyone is still on speaking terms and what they learned from each other. Now you are really part of the team!

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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    JUST ADDED NEW REWARD!!!
    John is one of a kind. Complicated, smart, difficult, compelling...he has more of what makes us human than most people you'll ever meet. SO WHY NOT MEET HIM!? Pledge at this level and you will get to HAVE LUNCH WITH JOHN in central California. You will not be bored! (Plus all of the rewards above of course. Travel not included. Barring major, unanticipated change in circumstances, access guaranteed.)

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Ever wondered what the buzz is all about? Join Noel in person at a festival screening of the film in 2015. Share the excitement of being one with a festival audience, helping talk up the film and watching it finally launch. See what else is out there breaking new ground in indie film. As festival invitations come (say a little prayer), we will identify possible dates and locations. (And of course you get everything else we've mentioned above!)

    Travel not included.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    For those of you who really want to know more, feel more, grow more, this reward is your ticket to an actual Alternatives to Violence Workshop facilitated by Sam Lewis himself! Spend a day listening, learning, sharing and laughing with people you'd never otherwise meet. Learn to deescalate conflict and transform anger into humor. Imagine and even take a step closer to an ideal world, with Sam Lewis as one of your guides.

    You'll get the digital download, the DVD, the postcard, the shout outs and the updates too, of course!

    Held on a weekend in the greater Los Angeles area, date to be determined. Travel not included, except for one night accommodation.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    WOW. You are a full on supporter and we want to treat you like one. You get to choose!

    1) an Associate Producer credit on the film
    2) an all expenses paid trip to a festival screening
    3) an all expenses paid trip to California to spend a day hearing more about Soledad, about filming or asking anything you want of one of the main characters (or Noel)
    4) an all day fundraising/grant writing or filmmaking tips tutorial with Noel

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    Ah bravo! Your commitment moves you far from the sidelines. Now you are one of the filmmakers. We welcome you with a Producer credit and solo special thanks on the film, AS WELL AS on all the related print, digital, promotional and educational material we are producing. If you come to a festival or other screening--your choice as you are always welcome--we invite you to introduce the film (when possible) and to share why you wanted to make it part of your own story.

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Funding period

- (28 days)