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This film follows 93-year-old Merle Hayden, the last crusading devotee of aviation pioneer Alfred Lawson's movement, Lawsonomy. Read more

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Funded!

This project was successfully funded on August 28, 2013.

This film follows 93-year-old Merle Hayden, the last crusading devotee of aviation pioneer Alfred Lawson's movement, Lawsonomy.

About this project

We Made It!!!

We are beside ourselves at the fact that we made our goal already! Thank you for your support! Since we still have a week, we made a few stretch goals to get us through.

If we reach $15,500, we will hold a special preview screening (with post-screening party) in the Milwaukee area! Anyone giving $75 or more will receive a free ticket in addition to the other incentives even though this incentive is not listed at the right. If you pledge $150 or more, you get two free tickets. Already pledged more than $75? Then you automatically receive tickets if we make it to $15,500.

If we raise over $18,500, we can track down, restore, and afford the usage rights for footage of the first Lawson Airliner in flight!

If we raise over $20,000, we will hire animators. Why do we need animators for a documentary? Part of our dream is to bring Lawson’s illustrations to life and creatively visualize the decay of Lawson’s place in history. Please see our 6th update for more details about this.

THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING THIS PROJECT! (Yeah, I know. I'm screaming. Sorry :)

And now back to the original story...

Everyone who has driven I-94 between Chicago and Milwaukee has seen the “Study Natural Law” barn and wondered, “What is that place?” We decided to find out. Natural Law refers to the teachings of Alfred Lawson, inventor of the first U.S. passenger airliner. We know this because of Merle Hayden, Lawson’s last crusading follower.

Merle is the star of Last of the Lawsonomists. At age 93, he works tirelessly to educate the American people about Lawson’s Direct Credits book – an economic treatise that Merle feels will provide for all at the expense of none. Merle also acts as caretaker for Lawson’s legacy, overseeing a literal barn full of books, newsletters, photographs, and other information that has been written out of history. For 35 years, Merle has traveled to the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to discuss the Lawson Airliner and reach new audiences. For the past decade, he has been doing this essentially alone.

Last of the Lawsonomists is a documentary about Merle—an attempt to preserve both his legacy and that of his mentor, Alfred Lawson, and to understand Merle’s persistence. We have been traveling with him for four years. During this time, we have gotten to know his friends and sweetheart, Betty Kasch; we also have witnessed his determination firsthand. Merle’s story is one of dedication, loss, and the American Dream. He has seen the United States make the same financial mistakes repeatedly over the past 90 years, and he believes Lawson’s writings hold the answers to solving many of these problems. Few are listening, however, and time is running out.

We hope to finish this film within the next year so that we can meet major film festival deadlines and invite Merle to the film’s premiere. This Kickstarter will cover certain hard costs associated with the post-production phase of a documentary, including things like hard drives, computer equipment, and office space. Additionally, our incentives feature Alfred Lawson’s books. We are purchasing these from Merle, so part of the Kickstarter funds will go directly to him. Finally, the fees associated with a Kickstarter campaign amount to about 10% of funds raised.

The Incentives

All of the Benefactor newspapers and Alfred Lawson books, sheet music, and program books are 100% authentic and straight from the source. We are purchasing these items from Merle's personal collection so that our Kickstarter campaign additionally helps him.

The Benefactors

Here are some images, headlines, and illustrations from Benefactor newspapers. Benefactors be chosen at random for our supporters.

Benefactor Illustration - Finance is the Bunk
Benefactor Illustration - Finance is the Bunk

Direct Credits Book

Short Speeches Book

The Poster

This is just a mock up. It'll be prettier in person.
This is just a mock up. It'll be prettier in person.

The Airline March Sheet Music

1954 Lawsonomy Class Reunion Program Book

The Hat

Producer Susan wearing the Direct Credits Society hat and holding Direct Credits and Manlife.
Producer Susan wearing the Direct Credits Society hat and holding Direct Credits and Manlife.

The Team

Ryan Sarnowski - Director

Ryan's first feature, Passing the Baton: The Joe Sims Milwaukee Striders Story, has aired on Wisconsin Public Television and is currently on the festival circuit. He also is Co-Director of doc|UWM, a documentary center based in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Film Department, where he has worked with students to produce over 120 short films. Ryan holds an MFA from UWM in Film Production and a BFA from Florida State University.

Susan Kerns – Producer

Susan wrote the screenplay for Little Red, which is currently winning awards on the festival circuit, and has produced numerous short films. She recently accepted a position as Assistant Professor at Columbia College Chicago in the Cinema + Science Department and previously was Education Director at the Milwaukee Film Festival. She is finishing her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, holds an MA from the University of Northern Iowa, and completed her undergraduate work at the University of Texas.

Terry Caddell – Producer

Terry is a freelance videographer and editor residing in Framingham, Massachusetts. Previously he worked as an Account Manager for Markey’s Rental and Staging in Indianapolis. He obtained his degree in film production at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he shot and edited several doc|UWM projects.

Jessamy Meyer - Editor

While completing her undergraduate degree in the Film Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jessamy edited the award-winning feature documentary My Way Home. Jessamy currently works as an Editor at About Face Media.

Thanks so much for your support, and please let us know what other questions you have about our project, the incentives, and Merle!

Want to stay engaged and track how we're doing? Feel free to watch our stats on KickTraq.

Risks and challenges

The key challenge we face is telling Merle’s personal story, including its ups and downs, without breaching his trust. Since Merle is a private person, and since historically people have not necessarily been kind to Lawson’s story or to the Lawsonomists in general, we are cognizant of this challenge and treating it respectfully. It seems to be working out well.

Another challenge of making this film is balancing how much archival information to include. We have an overwhelming amount of historical information that we are trying to use, help preserve, and make available to the public. This includes not just photos, slides, VHS tapes, and audio recordings but also books, plays, sheet music, newsletters, correspondence, and FBI files. Several interns have helped digitize and archive this information, but it is a rabbit hole, to be sure, if we want to go down it. We are trying to help find homes (like historical societies) for some of the Lawsonomy ephemera, but we must consider how much we should help manage the future of Merle’s collection. We have considered creating a website or app to feature more of these documents, but we feel it is important to finish the film first.

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Rewards

  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    21 backers

    Equieverpoise Level: Find just the right balance with a comfortable donation and a “Thank You” on our Last of the Lawsonomists facebook page.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    60 backers

    Suicidal Orgy of Finance Level: You will receive an original Benefactor newspaper and an invitation to watch the finished documentary online (streaming via a private link). Find out how GREED is the “Destroyer of Man” or why you should “WATCH the SLICKERS.” Alfred Lawson’s ideas can awaken your curiosity in finding the truth behind the facade. Remember, “Unless you know these things you are not educated.” This is the real deal, folks. We also will thank you on our facebook page.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    42 backers

    Good Reactions Level: Share your love of Lawson with your friends. At this level you receive a special edition DVD of the film and a download of the Lawsonomy typeface so you can design your own Lawson-themed posters and newsletters! You also get a Benefactor newspaper and a “Thank You” on our facebook page.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships anywhere in the world
  • You selected
    Pledge $65 or more

    16 backers Limited (84 left of 100)

    FINANCE is the BUNK Level: At this level you receive an original copy of Alfred Lawson’s Direct Credits book! (Canadian or U.S. edition.) You also get a special edition DVD, a Benefactor newspaper, the Lawsonomy typeface, and a “Thank You” on our facebook page.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $85 or more

    2 backers Limited (98 left of 100)

    Menorgs & Disorgs Level: They can control your body if you don’t get a handle on them! Educate yourself by receiving a copy of Alfred Lawson’s Short Speeches book. You also get a special edition DVD, a Benefactor newspaper, the Lawsonomy typeface, and a “Thank You” on our facebook page. You’re on your way to becoming a Lawson scholar.

    Estimated delivery:
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  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    27 backers Limited (73 left of 100)

    Justice For All Level: Let the world know where you stand with this limited edition, handmade, silkscreened movie poster! You also receive a special edition DVD, a Benefactor newspaper, the Lawsonomy typeface, and a “Thank You” on our facebook page. This level harms none!

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  • You selected
    Pledge $125 or more

    7 backers Limited (93 left of 100)

    Zig, Zag, and Swirl Level: Don’t let gravity hold you in one place. Learn about Alfred Lawson by receiving his Short Speeches AND Direct Credits books (Canadian or U.S. edition), a special edition DVD, the Lawsonomy typeface, a Benefactor, and a "Thank You" on our facebook page! You'd be dizzy to pass this up.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $175 or more

    3 backers Limited (47 left of 50)

    Telementy Level: This is for the person who is truly on the path and not just ready to dabble. At this level you receive ALL of the benefits of the Zig, Zag, and Swirl Level *plus* a "Thank You" in the film credits! We’ll also throw in a digital download of a very special collection of Lawsonomy-related images and ephemera.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    5 backers Limited (25 left of 30)

    Airliner Level: You aim high and dream big, so we’ll give you a copy of the sheet music for the Airline March (written to commemorate Lawson’s historic flight) *and* the 1954 souvenir University of Lawsonomy Class Reunion program booklet! Plus EVERYTHING at the Telementy level. Get ready to soar.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    4 backers Limited (1 left of 5)

    Study Natural Law Level: Let Merle tell you about Lawsonomy himself! If you can visit Racine, Wisconsin (and pending Merle's availability), we will arrange for you to have dinner with Merle at the famous Hob Nob supper club! Let Merle elucidate the history of Alfred Lawson to you personally. We also will throw in everything listed at the Airliner Level.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    2 backers Limited (3 left of 5)

    Penetrability Level: Be our Associate Producer! This level includes invitations to rough cut screenings (we want your feedback!) and invites to any additional preview screenings or events associated with the film’s premiere! Your name will appear in our credits AND our IMDB page. PLUS we will send you the books Short Speeches, Direct Credits, and Manlife (Susan’s personal favorite), a Benefactor, the Airline March sheet music, the 1954 University of Lawsonomy Class Reunion Program book, the special edition poster and DVD, access to the electronic image archive, and the Lawsonomy typeface! We even will include a special surprise Lawsonomy-affiliated gift picked just for you. This is like the Ginsu knife of Kickstarter levels.

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  • You selected
    Pledge $3,000 or more

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    Knowledgian Level: This level includes a highly coveted Direct Credits Society hat! This is an original hat worn by one of the members of the Direct Credits Society during parades, photos, and assemblies. We also will include everything in the Penetrability Level above.

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Funding period

- (30 days)