WE STILL NEED YOUR HELP TO REACH OUR STRETCH GOAL of 25K!
So we can add animation to a crucial scene and take this film to festivals.
Please help us get all the way there!!
And thank you immensely to everyone who's gotten us this far!
"We are all just walking each other home"
- Ram Dass
A Short Film about Being - Here, Now, and Forever
Ram Dass - Background
Ram Dass is one of the last great counter-cultural figures from the Sixties and Seventies and one of the most important spiritual teachers of the last fifty years. If you've read, or even glanced through Be Here Now, you have almost certainly been touched by his work. But that seminal book was only the beginning of a journey dedicated to helping others along their personal paths, always with a focus on expanding awareness, expanding love, and living in the present moment.
In fact, Ram Dass' journey along this path began even earlier, with the work he and Timothy Leary did at Harvard in the mid 1960s. Together, they famously experimented with LSD as a consciousness-expanding drug, both personally and in laboratory studies. The work they did, and the publicizing of it, was a key factor in the transformative individual and societal changes that swept through those decades. Unlike Leary however, Ram Dass, or Dr. Richard Alpert as he was known at the time, went off to India on an extended journey in search of more enduring ways to expand consciousness. There he met a guru who changed the dimensions of his search, and his life, altering his pursuit of consciousness expansion from a psychedelic path to the yogic path, and shifting his awareness from the material and the ego to the spiritual and the Self.
Be Here Now
Upon his return, Ram Dass (the name given to him by his guru) wrote and published the seminal book, Be Here Now, which introduced, or, it could be said, “turned on”, a large Western population to the spiritual wisdom and practices of the East. It’s hard for us to place into context now, as commonplace as yoga and dictums to live in the now have become, but in 1970 these were unconventional ideas and practices even to the progressive, educated classes of the time. Be Here Now was, and remains, one of the most influential books that contributed to the spread of Eastern knowledge to the West.
Interestingly, of the iconic cultural figures from that era, the arc of Ram Dass’ life most resembles the arc that society has taken in the ensuing decades, from unbridled experimentation to a more purposeful practice, whether we’re speaking about psychedelics or the integration of Eastern spiritual practices into our Western lives. With that in mind, Ram Dass appears perhaps as the most significant figure of that era, and his book remains an invaluable guide for a whole new generation seeking to better understand themselves and their connections to the world and cosmos.
The Film - overview and synopsis
Ram Dass is one of the most important spiritual teachers of the last three generations and is approaching the end of life. Since suffering a life-threatening stroke over fifteen years ago, he has been living in his home on Maui and deepening his personal practice and teaching as he prepares for his return. His spiritual practice is centered on love and his idea of merging with his surroundings and all living things. In his professional life, Ram Dass was an outspoken advocate of changing the way we view death in the West, and he is bringing that expanded awareness to his own process of aging and preparing for that transition.
This summer, Ram Dass invited me to Maui to shoot this unique documentary portrait, the only one on him in this style. There is a wonderful feature documentary called Fierce Grace, from the early 2000s, which is both a broad biographical documentary and a chronicle of his struggles following his stroke, and his process of acceptance. However there hasn’t been anything that updates his story from that time forward, or that explores this current stage in his life. This film will briefly present the full scope of his life but focus more closely on his current awareness and reflections. His willingness to share in this context as he approaches the end of life will make this a uniquely intimate film that will be a meaningful and relevant addition to the cumulative document of Ram Dass and his life's work - so much of which has fearlessly examined, and encouraged us to alter, our Western view of death.
The film footage has been shot in a nuanced cinematic style, that intimately observes the details of his daily life – his home and natural surroundings, his personal practice, and his regular swims, both in the ocean and his swimming pool, plus an intimate interview on the summary of his life learnings and awareness as he prepares for the great mystery beyond.
To finance this film, we've already benefited from the generous support of some executive producers from our immediate circle, which made it possible for us to assemble our team, handle all of our pre-production planning, and travel to Maui to film Ram Dass over several days in July.
Now we are seeking the funds necessary to complete our project in the post-production stage, including editing, color correction, music, sound mixing, title design and film animation. Additionally, we'd like to raise enough funds to be able to submit the film to various festivals and have a number of special screenings in different cities.
We are hoping to reach potential contributors both from among those who know the work of Ram Dass and those who don't.
If you've encountered Ram Dass along your own journey, either through the book Be Here Now or any of the other wonderful books he's written, through his insightful lectures or workshops - either in the flesh or on YouTube and podcasts - then you will understand and appreciate the value of making a film on him at this later stage in his life and we hope you'll want to be a part of making this film a reality.
On the other hand, if you're discovering this man and his work for the first time and would like to know more about one of the most pivotal figures in both the psychedelic culture of the 60s and 70s and also of the Eastern spiritual movement in the West, then please support the making of this special film. We also encourage you to explore his work more through YouTube or his personal website, RamDass.org
The amount we've requested here is the minimum we need to complete the film. If we raise more than our target amount, the extra funds will be applied to expanding our resources in post-production, such as animating a particular section of the film, and for entering and attending select film festivals, as well as holding public screenings.
A few notes on funding expenses:
First, we don't get to keep all of the money we raise on Kickstarter.
We have to pay about 8% – that's about $1480 of our target goal – in fees to Kickstarter and the credit card processor.
Then there are the REWARD & SHIPPING COSTS. We have to design, produce, print, sort and ship all of the rewards we're offering in exchange for your pledge. That costs about 25%, so that's another $4625.
So out of the $18,500 target, we'll get to use about $12,400 toward the film.
For this reason we have a couple of important stretch goals:
First, if we can make it to $25,000, we'll be able to animate a 3 - 5 minute section of the film, inspired by some truly visionary ideas that Ram Dass shared with us during our interviews with him.
Second, if we can get to $30,000, we'll be able to spend more on music and finishing costs, add a couple of additional screenings, and travel with the film to a few of the festivals we anticipate getting in to.
By the way, we're not charging you twice for shipping. Even though Kickstarter asks you to add more for shipping certain rewards, they count that money toward our goal, even though we still have to spend it on shipping. So although it is added to our goal, it gets deducted right back out.
Director and Producer - Derek Peck
Producer -Jonny Podel
Director of Photography and Co-producer - Caleb Seppala
Editor - Taryn Gould
Assistant Editor - Colleen Hennessy
Production Company - Cosmic Wonder Films
Executive Producers - Matthew Josepher, Jacinta Hayne, Cindy Feinberg
Associate Producers - Sage Snakechalmer, Nadia Kaufhold
Others who helped us get here: Roberta Lemon, Katia Tallarico, Quinn Luke
Archival images, clips, and Be Here Now illustrations courtesy of The Love Serve Remember Foundation and RamDass.org
Ram Dass portrait courtesy of Rameshwar Das
Music performed by, and courtesy of, Evan Bushnell
Kickstarter video edited by Derek Peck
I'd personally like to thank Ram Dass, Raghu Markus, and Dassima for giving me the opportunity and access to make this film.
Risks and challenges
Every new creative project has its risks. To minimize the risks that we would expose you to, we waited until now to launch our campaign, after we'd already made it through the most uncertain parts of the project. As filmmakers, our main concerns were: Will Ram Dass feel comfortable with us and give us the time and access we need to film him in an authentic and meaningful way? Will he connect with me as an interviewer and share deeply in his responses? And, as an older man who has experienced a stroke and still lives with the changes it caused, will he be able to communicate well enough, and clear enough for us to be able to present that in a way that will intelligible to you? Fortunately I can say now, the answer to all of these initial questions is YES, YES, and YES.
Of course, the post-production process is not without its own risks as well. However, collectively, we are filmmakers who have navigated its terrain successfully many times, and we feel confident that with your help, in just a few months we'll have a beautiful and resonant short film on Ram Dass during this very special chapter of his life.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)