Harriet, a beautiful and sophisticated girl from a serious Christian home, was traveling to college on a train in 1893 when she met Percy, an Ivy league medical student, and an agnostic.
Harriet and Percy are my great grandparents. When I began a simple little video to tell the story, things snowballed: a great videographer became available. My kids dressed up to play their great grandparents. My niece decided to play the role of Harriet, her great great grandmother, and she was perfect!
Then more progeny got involved, and before I knew it, a grand documentary was on its way to being produced by the heirs of the ancestors. I don't know that it's ever been done before.
Harriet’s father opposed the marriage, but after six years of correspondence and Percy getting baptized a Christian, Harriet agreed to marry Percy in 1899. That same year her father died.
Within a few years, Percy and Harriet had fallen in with some of the most radical social figures of the early 20th century and were soon outspoken advocates for atheism, communism, and free sex.
Before long, Harriet grew extremely jealous of the other women, and called for an end to the open marriage. Percy refused, and Harriet grew depressed and sickly.
Her sudden death the day after surgery as a middle-aged woman was accompanied by mystery and scandal, and questions linger to this day as to what actually happened between she and her doctor husband. Was it an accident, or was it something else?
The day she died, my grandmother, age 15, and her brother took a train to experience an event that traumatized them the rest of their lives. My two children, Jaime and Tabitha, are pictured here on the train acting out that trip by their great grandmother.
Harriet’s Secret is a simple morality tale, yet it addresses illicit subject matter, is filled with intrigue, and involves one-of-a-kind characters in American history.
A friend asked me the other day the premise of the story. The answer was very straightforward:
“Listen to your father!”
— Dean W. Arnold, Producer and Director
Risks and challenges
If the documentary reaches excellence in quality (which looks very possible), large scale distribution and visibility is difficult to pull off. We can enter film festivals and submit our specs to a cable channel, etc and hope for the best, but often these things are out of reach unless one is highly connected.
But we are hopeful. The director is also an author who has achieved some nice successes by self-publishing. Will hope this project will find similar success.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (52 days)