About this project
"The World Needs This Maya Angelou Documentary" - New York Magazine
"Today in important news: a documentary is being made about the life of Maya Angelou." - Man Repeller
"...It is only right that her legacy continues ... with the help of the new documentary." - Saint Heron
"It’s also yet another case of 'I can’t believe a documentary doesn’t already exist about this person.'" - Entertainment Weekly
"...a much-deserved upcoming feature-length documentary on the late, great Maya Angelou - what will be the very first of its kind!" - IndieWire
"But while bigotry could get you the boot from Angelou’s home, working with her often meant an invite into her enormous extended family of friends." - Vogue
"Using each of her experiences, good and bad as life lessons, the documentary covers everything from Angelou’s time as a dancer earning money for her family to being named poet laureate of this nation." - Black America Web
A word from supporter, Alfre Woodard:
We have financed the Maya Angelou Documentary with grants and out of our own pockets until now. Our Kickstarter goal represents the remaining cost of getting this film to the finish line.
We can't accept funds from people interviewed in an American Masters film, so it's up to all of you. Join the campaign.
The Maya Angelou Documentary
The Maya Angelou Documentary is the first documentary about Dr. Maya Angelou. As friends from Dr. Angelou's inner circle, we have been granted remarkable and unmatched access to Dr. Angelou’s life. After years of working on this film, we are honored to present her incredible journey to the rest of the world.
Dr. Angelou has become a global symbol of peace, humility, and freedom–– but parts of her story are not well known. The Maya Angelou Documentary will reflect on how the events of history, culture, and the arts shaped Dr. Angelou’s life and how she, in turn, helped shape our own worldview through her autobiographical literature and activism. We hope to shed light on the untold aspects of her life and to educate audiences about her story.
About the documentary
We will examine Dr. Angelou's remarkable life––from her birth in 1928 to her passing in May of 2014––which spanned the Jim Crow South, the Civil Rights, the Women’s, and Art Movements, along with her impact on celebrity and mainstream popular culture.
Our team filmed Dr. Angelou at the Smithsonian Institution in April of 2014 when her portrait was unveiled for the National Portrait Gallery and at the 2014 Women2Women Conference in Atlanta, amongst other momentous events. We last interviewed Dr. Angelou in January of 2014.
This is a documentary for those who miss Dr. Angelou's voice, and for future generations who need to hear her impactful words. Help us memorialize Dr. Angelou––her work, her life, her legacy.
We are also in a logistical time crunch to finish the documentary for its broadcast premiere on the PBS series American Masters. With a story so vast and varied, there are tremendous archival licensing rights costs for images and footage that we need to account for. In addition, we need to finish the final edits, plus mixing, and color correction.
Who is in the film
We were able to interview a vibrant array of close family, friends, celebrities, academics, and political figures who shared intimate insights into Dr. Angelou's life and who were deeply affected by her work.
Some of the interviews featured include: President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, and Dr. Angelou's son, Guy Johnson, plus many more.
Dr. Angelou's life was well lived and drew inspiration from the life around her. We will bring backers into this world through rewards donated by her family, friends, and contemporaries.
Some of our featured rewards include artwork by some of Dr. Angelou's friends, Faith Ringgold, Cristobal Gabarron and Phoebe Beasley, and a copy of "On the Pulse of Morning" signed by Dr. Angelou. Scroll down to see some of the work from the artists involved.
We have also invited a series of talented contemporary artists to create limited edition t shirts inspired by Dr. Angelou. Their work has been the subject of exhibitions worldwide and is in the collection of numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum.
Our featured collaborators
World class artists have joined us in making this campaign a success, many for the limited edition Kickstarter rewards, to your right.
Below are examples of some of our collaborators' past work.
The life and times of Dr. Angelou
Even as friends of Dr. Angelou's, we found ourselves surprised by the scope of her lifetime achievements. As we began filming, we revealed the many mysteries to her story, which we look forward to sharing with you. Here are just a few of the incredible accomplishments we will shed light on in The Maya Angelou Documentary:
1928: Born as Marguerite Annie Johnson.
1954-58: Dr. Angelou toured Europe under the State Department with a production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, studied modern dance with Martha Graham, danced with Alvin Ailey, and recorded her first album, Miss Calypso.
1960: Dr. Angelou worked as the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1960: Performed in the radical off Broadway play The Blacks with Cicely Tyson, Lou Gossett, Jr., James Earl Jones, Godfrey Cambridge, and others.
1961: Dr. Angelou served as the editor for The Arab Observer in Cairo, Egypt. The following year she moved to Ghana where she taught and was the feature editor for The African Review and wrote for The Ghanaian Times.
1965: After meeting Malcolm X in Ghana, Dr. Angelou moved back the U.S. to join his civil rights efforts.
1969: Dr. Angelou's first autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings published by Random House.
1977: Dr. Angelou received an honorary degree from Wake Forest University, where she taught American studies for 32 years. Since then, Dr. Angelou has received over 70 of these honorary degrees from institutions around the world.
1993: Dr. Angelou read her poem, “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
2000: Dr. Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts.
2010: Dr. Angelou receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
2013: Dr. Angelou publishes her 7th autobiography Mom & Me & Mom.
Dr. Angelou was the first…
- African American woman to become a member of the Director’s Guild
- African American woman to have a Nonfiction best-seller
- Recipient to receive the Voice of Peace Award
- Black female director and producer for 20th Century Fox
- African American woman to have her script made into a film
- African American female cable car conductor at age 14 in San Francisco
- Poet to recite an inaugural address since Robert Frost spoke for President JFK
Dr. Angelou died on May 28, 2014, having written 37 books. The reaction from the public was powerful, poetic, and loving. Dr. Angelou was a national treasure. The Maya Angelou Documentary hopes to assure that though she will be missed, Dr. Angelou will not be forgotten.
Who we are
Bob Hercules (Director, Media Process Group) Bob Hercules directed two recent films for the PBS series American Masters: Bill T. Jones: A Good Man and Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance. He won the Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Slamdance Film Festival for his acclaimed film, Forgiving Dr. Mengele and his 2007 film, Senator Obama Goes to Africa, played in over 100 countries.
Rita Coburn Whack (Director, RCW Media Productions) Rita Coburn Whack was Producer of the Award-Winning Maya Angelou Show on Oprah Radio, Maya Angelou Black History Month Specials, Manager of Maya Angelou’s Facebook site of 5.5 million fans, and produced three Emmy-Award winning television documentaries airing on C-Span and the History Channel.
Michael Kantor (Executive Producer, American Masters) An Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, Michael Kantor has created films for PBS, HBO, Bravo and 20th Century Fox. Kantor’s documentary series include Broadway: The American Musical (hosted by Julie Andrews), Make ‘Em Laugh (hosted by Billy Crystal) and Superheroes (hosted by Liev Schreiber). Kantor served as executive producer of Give Me the Banjo with Steve Martin, and directed Quincy Jones: In the Pocket for American Masters in 2001.
Reuben Cannon (Executive Producer, Reuben Cannon Entertainment) Reuben Cannon was the Producer of Down in the Delta, directed by Maya Angelou, The Women of Brewster Place (with Oprah Winfrey), and Get on the Bus (Spike Lee), and producer of ten Tyler Perry films, including Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and Madea's Family Reunion.
Marquetta Glass (Executive Producer, MGS Innovations Group) Marquetta Glass has produced numerous programs for Hallmark Cards and the Hallmark Channel including Spirit Table with Dr. Maya Angelou, Celebrate Christmas with Maya Angelou, and Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Run Away. Glass also created the 2011 business alliance with BET to produce Soul Mates featuring Maya Angelou & Common.
Chris Gardner and Raymond Lambert are serving as Producers.
Risks and challenges
Our biggest challenge will be timing. We want to make this film and tell this story as soon as we possibly can, but there may be production delays along the way because of interview scheduling and rights issues.
This will in turn delay the expected delivery for rewards associated with the film itself. If this does happen, we will be sure to update our backers and be completely transparent.
That all said, based on years of experience with film, television, and documentary production, we are confident we will overcome any obstacles we face.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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