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.
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.
Here are some images, headlines, and illustrations from Benefactor newspapers. Benefactors be chosen at random for our supporters.
Direct Credits Book
Short Speeches Book
The Airline March Sheet Music
1954 Lawsonomy Class Reunion Program Book
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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