About this project
Currently titled “The Internet’s Own Boy,” the new film by Brian Knappenberger, director of “We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists,” follows internet activist and programming pioneer Aaron Swartz from his teenage emergence on the internet scene and involvement in RSS and Reddit, to his increased interest in political advocacy and the controversial actions he allegedly took in downloading nearly four million academic articles from the online service JSTOR. The film explores Aaron’s arrest, the prosecution’s tactics in bringing the case to trial through the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the CFAA, and the impact a seemingly small hacking gesture had on Aaron’s life and the future of information access on the internet.
WE NEED YOUR HELP! Independent documentaries created outside the studio or traditional broadcast system face an uphill battle getting made and distributed. If we are able to raise the funds we need for this film, we hope to get creative with how we bring it to audiences. In addition to finding as many new ways as possible to share the final documentary, we have decided in the spirit of open access to release the film digitally through a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Aaron gave a lot of his time and energy to Creative Commons. We also hope to find other outlets as well as live screenings, a small theatrical run and bringing it to college campuses and libraries. We think this is the best way to share this powerful story!
HELP US MAKE IT HAPPEN! Any contribution gets us closer to the goal. Obviously the way it works with Kickstarter, if we don't make the goal we don't get anything.
Director Brian Knappenberger
A lot has been written about Aaron, some of it very good, but I felt that taken as a whole it represented a fractured picture of him. I wanted to hear from the people who knew him, explore each chapter of his life and go through his numerous video appearances to have him tell his own story as much as possible. I was well aware of Aaron long before the news broke. I happened to be attending a social computing conference in New York at the time and surrounded by dozens of people who knew Aaron personally. Through their stories it became immediately clear how many diverse corners of the internet Aaron's work touched. A few days into the conference I started recording people’s memories of him on camera, and weeks later I knew I had to go deeper to fully understand what caused such an accomplished and inspired person to take his own life. As became obvious in "We Are Legion" many internet activists are so frustrated with existing systems that they consider them unfixable. But Aaron didn’t fit into this category. Countless friends describe him as someone who wanted to work within the system, to “hack” or use new tools to fix problems in our society – everything from internet freedoms to health care.
This documentary is an opportunity to explore the influence one incredibly talented programmer and celebrated internet visionary had on the discussion of information access, what his involvement in such a volatile subject means for all internet users, and what his trial has shown us about the cracks in an outdated legal system that lead to such tragic consequences.
WE HAVE ALSO DECIDED AFTER THE FILM IS COMPLETED TO RELEASE THE RAW INTERVIEW FOOTAGE AND POST IT TO THE INTERNET ARCHIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO THROUGH A SIMILAR CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE.
“The Internet’s Own Boy” is currently in production. Money raised will go towards setting up further shoots, conducting interviews, facilitating research and collecting archival footage. The project also reunites Knappenberger with We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists soundtrack composer John Dragonetti, who will compose an original score for the film.
YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS ARE CRITICAL to bringing this powerful story to a wider audience!
NEW STRETCH GOALS!
We have been VERY moved by the outpouring of support for the documentary. YOUR support has pushed us over the top of our goals after just 12 days! We hope to keep up the momentum and reach our full goal. In the final push if we are able to reach $125K, it will carry us deep into editing. All we'd have left would be any finishing and distribution costs!
We anticipate the full film will cost us around $175K to complete, not including distribution, so this is just our first round of asking for funding. We may be back for finishing funds! Anything from $5 to $5,000 helps and is HUGELY appreciated!
Many thanks for helping us tell this incredible story. It is a significant and poignant chronology of Internet history.
Risks and challenges
There are risks inherent in any film made outside the studio system. Mostly that's because the elements are many, including initial research and investigation, archival and original footage and interviews, soundtrack creation, final polishing with color correction and sweetening and then the many facets of distribution to a large audience. Because of Luminant Media's huge experience, we feel like this project has an excellent chance of being completed and going on to screen to huge numbers of people. Dir Brian Knappenberger has an enormous documentary track record.
We are firm believers in the power of independent documentaries. So far we have had such a huge outpouring of people interested in being a part of the documentary (and are truly grateful for their support) that we feel like we are well on the way to making a great and historically important film.
The Luminant Media team
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