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My simple vid about Mom's side of the family tree turned into a grand documentary with 2nd & 3rd great grandkids acting out the parts.
63 backers pledged $7,012 to help bring this project to life.

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Harriet's Secret — (Grandkids star in the ancestors' movie). project video thumbnail
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Harriet
Harriet

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!

Jacki plays her great-great grandmother
Jacki plays her great-great grandmother

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.

My daughter and son (below) playing her great grandmother and brother (above)
My daughter and son (below) playing her great grandmother and brother (above)

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.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    I love the idea! Here's my small support. Please keep me posted on the date of the premiere and the rollout of the movie. Email me the link.

    (Receive a $7.50 ticket to the premiere.)

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Mail me the DVD. Please keep me posted on the date of the premiere and the rollout of the movie. Email me the link. (Receive a $7.50 ticket to the premiere.)

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Mail me the DVD.

    (Your name will also be listed in the credits at the end of the movie for this level or higher. Also receive a free ticket to the premiere.)

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Send me a blu ray hi res version, a DVD, and a poster signed by the director and lead actress.

    Your name also listed in the credits at the end. Also receive a free ticket to the premiere.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Please help with my family tree. (If you send us your known ancestors we will send to you THEIR ancestors—the earliest known according to the best current online databases.)

    You also receive: blu ray, DVD, signed poster, and name credited at the end. Also receive a free ticket to the premiere.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Let's have a private screening at our home or a place selected. (The director will attend and give Q & A.)

    Your name will also be credited at the beginning of the film as an Associate Producer. (You also receive: family research, blu ray, DVD, and signed poster, along with ticket and recognition at the premiere.)

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    I would like an expert, director Dean W. Arnold, to provide a professional recommendation for the storyline of our family heritage. (See DeanArnold.org for Mr. Arnold's portfolio as a published author and screenwriter.) Arnold will spend an evening with you and your family members reviewing material and will then follow up with a three page formal recommendation.

    Your name will also be credited at the beginning of the film as an Associate Producer. (You also receive: family research, blu ray, DVD, and signed poster, along with ticket and recognition at the premiere.)

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Funding period

- (52 days)