Charlie Chaplin's 1925 film The Gold Rush was just that, becoming the largest grossing silent comedy in film history.
Since Tacoma Washington was closer to the Klondike than Hollywood it made perfect sense to H.C. Weaver, a young man with very slender ties to D.W. Griffith, to build his own movie studio and begin producing major motion pictures in Tacoma.
In a grand quixotic venture he built a massive studio on five acres near Titlow Beach (second in size only to the main stages at MGM), constructed a village of Hollywood style bungalows for his film colony and started making major movies with big name casts and elaborate sets and location shoots. Between 1925 and 1928 H.C. Weaver Productions made at least three feature length films, all of which used Tacoma and Mt. Rainier for location shots and none of which were thought to exist. Maybe the most ambitious and mysterious of the films was “The Eyes of the Totem” which used the still standing Tacoma Hotel totem pole as a namesake set device in its gothic story of Klondike gold, murder, seduction, and lurid villainy. The dashing young director of the film was W.S. Van Dyke who would complete two Weaver films before finding fame in Hollywood and directing The Thin Man series and Tarzan the Ape Man with Johnny Weissmuller. Unfortunately for the little Hollywood of the north, technology and timing were not on its side. The advent and novelty of sound movies crushed the market for silent films and Weaver Productions folded. The massive studio building became a dance hall during the Depression and then burned in a spectacular fire in 1932. Until recently the story of the short lived movie company was thought to survive only in a rich collection of period photographs at the Tacoma Public Library Northwest Room. No Weaver Production film footage was known to exist.
Then, in 2014, Tacoma's Historic Preservation Office discovered that a complete copy of The Eyes of the Totem was among the papers of W.S. Van Dyke at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In late 2014 a digital copy was captured from the reels of fragile nitrate film and after more than 80 years it was discovered that the deterioration and damage was not serious.
Team Totem was created with the goal of bringing the film back-to Tacoma-and to audiences everywhere. Our plan is to restore the five reel feature film and re-release it for showing in Tacoma, where it premiered in 1927, and then to film festivals and theaters. An original musical score for the film will be composed and an exhibition trailer will be produced. We are also creating some programming and background materials to highlight the film's historic context.
Risks and challenges
Restoring a feature-length film from 1926 has a variety of challenges. First the film had to be transferred from nitrate, which takes technical expertise. Secondly, the original score was lost, so Team Totem's composer is creating a new original score. Finally, Eyes of the Totem isn't just a movie, it's a historic work of art. It takes time and resources to restore the film and produce programming to present it back to the community.
Film Restoration and Transfer 4250.00
(Nitrate to HD Tape/Standard definition Digital disk(MOMA Invoice)
Legal, Copyright expenses 3500.00
Format Digitization for Editing 1000.00
Restoration/Film Speed Correction/Intertitles 500.00
Kickstarter Video Production 2500.00
Titles, Trailer Misc Video production 3000.00
Kickstarter gifts costs/artist fees 2500.00
Music, Composer fees, recording 3000.00
Marketing, promotional costs, facilities rental, 2000.00
Payment Processing + (est. $0.20 per pledge) 1000.00
Campaign materials costs $500.00
Kickstarter Fee 1250.00
Working Project Total 25,000.00Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)