During the Vietnam War, the Red Cross sponsored a program known as Supplemental Recreation Activities Overseas (SRAO), and the women who joined were better known to our military men as “The Donut Dollies.” Through this program, 627 female college graduates volunteered for a year of service in Vietnam. Armed with nothing but cookies, Kool Aid and home-made entertainment programs, they logged over 2-million helicopter air miles while fulfilling their mission to cheer up the US military troops. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, these courageous young women put themselves in difficult and dangerous situations in the active war zones of Vietnam nearly every day. The question is why? The goal of the Donut Dollies documentary is to answer that question and many more that have gone unanswered and help give these unsung heroes more of the recognition they deserve for their service.
As the 50th anniversary of the first Donut Dollies arriving for service in Vietnam is approaching, we felt that it was important to document the stories of the Donut Dollies now. Even though we’re launching our Kickstarter campaign at this time, it’s not something that was just thought of. Norman Anderson, the Director of our documentary has been filming interviews and reunions of the Donut Dollies, as well as documenting their personal archives, for over 15 years. It’s been a labor of love, because his mother, Dorset Hoogland Anderson, served as a Donut Dollie from 1968 – 1969 in Vietnam and Norm has been listening to her stories since he was a child. Through Dorset, Norm has also had the opportunity to get to know many other amazing Donut Dollies, including Mary Blanchard Bowe aka his “Auntie Mary.” What began as a personal interest in family history evolved as Norm grew up and realized how unique the Donut Dollies’ role in the Vietnam War was, and how little attention and recognition they've received. Through our documentary, we hope to spread the word and help preserve an important part of American history.
- "Donut Dollies is a little-known story about the Vietnam War that deserves to be told and Norm Anderson seems the perfect filmmaker to tell it. Not only does he have a personal connection to the subject, but he has the filmmaking skills to vividly portray the complexity of these women's experiences in a tragic war that many Americans would still like to forget we fought." – Mark Jonathan Harris, three-time Academy Award-Winning Filmmaker and Documentarian
We have already shot hours and hours of Donut Dollie interviews, reunions and other visual documentation here in the States. The successful funding of this Kickstarter campaign will allow us to complete principal photography by traveling to Vietnam with two Donut Dollies - Dorset and Mary - and documenting their first return to the country in over 46 years.
While revisiting the places they were stationed, the Donut Dollies will share their personal experiences of life as women volunteers in a war zone; the good, the bad, the elation and the heartbreak. They will reflect, through the lens of maturity, on why they went and how their service shaped their lives. We will also film meetings between the Donut Dollies and Veterans currently living in Vietnam, who will support them in their journey of rediscovery and recollection.
Dorset and Mary are nearly a lifetime removed from their original journey to Vietnam, but as you’ll learn, their lives were profoundly impacted by their time "in country," and hardly a day goes by without memories coming to mind of their experiences as Donut Dollies during the Vietnam War.
We don't know exactly what returning to Vietnam will evoke for them, but we know it will be powerful, emotional and important to document and share. It is our hope and belief that this project will help preserve an important part of American history for future generations and historians. Your help will make that possible.
If successful, our campaign will allow us to complete principal photography in Vietnam. To undertake two weeks of filming in Vietnam, expenses will include: roundtrip coach airfare from the U.S. to Vietnam and back, accommodations, transportation, production materials and services for the director, producer, two Donut Dollies and an in-country film crew.
This is actually our second attempt at a Kickstarter campaign for the film. Earlier this spring, we ran a campaign which unfortunately didn't reach its goal, but we did get a tremendous amount of support and encouragement. In light of the enthusiasm surrounding our documentary, Norm and the film’s producer, Jess Hill, made a self-funded trip from California to Vietnam in May 2014 to research and lay the groundwork for a return to Vietnam with the Donut Dollies and to ensure the successful completion of principal photography in Vietnam.
Thanks to contacts they made with Vietnam Veterans, expats and Vietnamese locals, Norm and Jess were able to visit and do exploratory filming in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang and Tuy Hoa. These locations were chosen because they were home to some of the military bases where Dorset and Mary served. The video on this page includes some of the footage shot during this exploratory pre-production trip. When we return, we will revisit these areas, and explore additional places where Mary and Dorset were stationed, including Pleiku, Cu Chi and Danang.
We learned a lot from our exploratory trip, and made some terrific connections that will allow us to film in-country more efficiently and economically. As a result, we're actually able to lower our fundraising goal and maintain full confidence that we can succeed in this endeavor. But, as always, Kickstarter campaigns are all or nothing. If we don't reach our goal, we won't receive a penny.
We truly appreciate your interest in our project and we hope that you’ll find the story of the Donut Dollies as intriguing and important as we do. To allow us to tell this story, we need your financial support. Whether $1 or $10,000, whatever you are comfortable with pledging will be greatly appreciated.
As our mission is to tell and share the story of the Donut Dollies, you can make a huge difference by helping spread the word. Whether you send a short e-mail with a link to our Kickstarter page to your friends, family, co-workers, Veterans or Veterans organizations that you may know or if you post a link on your Twitter feed or Facebook page to help us reach out to many more people, it will certainly help get the word out. After the campaign you can learn more about the progress of our documentary by visiting the Donut Dollies website. (during the campaign, DonutDollies.com will be sending folks to our Kickstarter page). Also please make sure to "like" us and follow us on our Facebook page.
Two important things to keep in mind: when you make your pledge through Kickstarter and you are forwarded through their system to enter your payment info at Amazon (their payment processor), you are not being charged at that time. Your pledge payment will only be processed when we reach our funding goal and your account charged at the end of the fundraising campaign, at which time your funds will be sent to us so that we can proceed with principal photography. If we don't reach our funding goal, your pledge is not processed and you keep your funds. We hope you'll do what you can to help us achieve our goal.
If you have any questions or need assistance in navigating through the pledge payment process, please don't hesitate to contact us. Click the "Contact Me" link at the top right corner of this page, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll help walk you through the process.
We are already starting to get press for our film. The Daily Hampshire Gazette did a great piece on Donut Dollie Dorset Anderson and our project this summer, which included many terrific photos. Click here for a link to the article: "Return to Vietnam Documentary film to explore role of ‘Donut Dollies’ in Vietnam War."
Also, earlier this year we set up a Facebook page to help spread the word about our documentary, and it turns out that many Vietnam Veterans have been sharing their memories of the Donut Dollies and thanking them for their service. In less than six months, we’ve received nearly 4,000 likes and hundreds of great comments. Here are just a few…
- “It was a real treat to get a donut and a cup of coffee from an American Girl (R-E). They were angels in the middle of hell doing a kind deed for us, they were exceptional ladies.”
- “Thank you all for your selflessness--you made a huge difference for us all.”
- “Oh man, we'd be in the camp and the loudspeaker from the orderly room (think: MASH) would announce "attention in the compound (repeat) the Donut Dollies are here. Unless, what you were doing was essential, you stopped everything and ran to the mess hall, to see The Donut Dollies.”
- “I remember the Donut Dollies with the GREATEST Love and Admiration as I experienced their love both in the field and in my Hospital. THANK U ALL 4 what U did. It is greatly appreciated.”
- “You were all angels ... going places that those in the rear wouldn't dare… Thanks for the smiles, games and friendship… I'll always hold you in the highest esteem.”
- “I am so happy to see this Donut Dollies project being put together so their story will not disappear in our history. Now I wish I could have been there with them for they are my Heroes !! God Bless Them and Your work to preserve their courage and love to share their lives for our Vietnam Troops.”
- “God blessed you lovely young gals with Grace and strength! Thank you!”
- “Those ladies offered us a little sanity in an insane time and place!”
- “I always felt great when they came around to see us, they always spent time with us grunt enlisted men, they had alot of nerve to show up in some of the places they went…”
- “These Donut Dollies would boost the moral every where they went! I always thought they came to visit just to make us smile so much!! God Bless them!!!”
If this project is successfully funded, the biggest challenges will be the logistics of traveling to and filming in Vietnam. However, our small team of talented, passionate filmmakers has experience filming all over the world, including all over Asia and Africa, and we’ll be working with local liaisons in Vietnam to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
After completing principal photography in Vietnam in early 2015, we still may need to raise additional funds in order to complete post-production on the film in preparation for film festivals and theatrical screenings. Your financial support leading to the completion of principal photography will open up a lot of additional funding avenues and prove to potential investors how serious and committed to the project we are. It will also show that there’s a strong base of interest and support for a Donut Dollies documentary from the public. If we are successful in raising more than our goal amount, we may be able to bring more Donut Dollies to Vietnam and document their experiences as well. Additional funds would also be put towards post-production, which will allow us to fast track the completion of our documentary.
Completing a film is always a challenge. However, Norm and the film's producer, Jess Hill, have proven track records of successfully completing projects at the highest level.
While still in his teens, Jess started working on film sets in various roles. After earning a degree in filmmaking and screenwriting from NYU, he worked on several feature films and then was involved in a company that created long-form projects for HBO, including "Alexander the Great" and "The Pacific." Being bilingual, he helped develop two series, "The Flower Merchant" and "Titanic: Blood and Steel," with an Italian company, The DeAngelis Group, and the Fremantle Corporation. Jess is very excited to be producing The Donut Dollies and has actually known Dorset since she babysat for him in the late 1970s.
In addition to his work as a documentary filmmaker, Norm has produced dozens of hours of unscripted and reality television since graduating from USC Film School. He's delivered for networks such as Discovery, A&E, The CW, VH1, CNBC and many others. He also shared a Daytime Emmy nomination for his work on the Style network’s hit show, “Ruby,” and has written seven shows for Discovery Channel’s long-running Shark Week series.
Furthermore, Norm’s personal connection to the project means his commitment to finishing the film is not only a matter of professional pride, but also a matter of deeply personal obligation. In short, making this film is a promise he made to his Mom, so he’s got to keep it.
In addition to our sincere thanks to all who contribute monetarily or by spreading the word, we are offering a variety of rewards for various pledge amounts - because if you support us, you deserve cool stuff! From copies of the completed film to stickers, buttons, T-shirts, mugs, autographed memorabilia, custom-tailored traditional Vietnamese clothing and more, we have something for everyone.
Below are images of some potential rewards. Please Note: These are sample designs only. One Logo/Design will be created and used for all incentives due to cost. Samples here are subject to change/improvement. (Suggestions and/or Graphic Design assistance welcome!)
Risks and challenges
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