Inspired by true events.
At Vassar College in 1933, Elizabeth Bishop and Margaret Miller sneak around campus in the dead of night posting an anonymous call for submissions to their experimental, boundary-pushing literary newspaper, Con Spirito. Caught in the rebellious spirit of the mission, they wind up spending the night in a tree, discussing their radical venture, life at Vassar, writing, and loneliness. As the sun rises on Vassar’s campus, the two women leave their perch on the tree with a new, profound understanding of each other, and of the challenges ahead of them.
Why make this film?
Con Spirito is a character study of one of the most important figures in American poetry; it is also a story of rebellion.
In the era of Trump, #metoo, and a Hollywood finally ready to confront patterns of inequality and abuse of power, we need women telling women's stories. Stories about women finding their voice, as artists and as individuals. Stories about women pushing boundaries and discovering new ways to exist and create in the world. Stories about intimacy and connection between women, told in a way that's neither fetishized nor trivialized.
We'd like to think that anyone who loves Elizabeth Bishop's poetry will be fascinated by the historical background of the film. We hope that the film will go beyond that to tell a powerful, universal story of youth, rebellion, and self-discovery.
In 1933, a group of young Vassar students (among them Elizabeth Bishop, Margaret Miller, Mary McCarthy, and Frani Blough) launched an anonymous literary newspaper called Con Spirito, in an attempt to "startle the college" and separate their writing from the more conservative Vassar Review.
From the Vassar Encyclopedia:
“It is really going to be good,” Blough prophesied before its publication, “a little shock at the Review! Nothing tame, arty, wishy-washy, ordinary or any of the other adjectives applicable to so much college writing.”
The editors distributed information about the forthcoming publication in February, posting advertisements on tree trunks around campus, distributing them to selected student mailboxes and publishing them in The Miscellany News. “Material must be submitted,” they announced, “anonymously, typewritten, and sent through the unstamped to the editors of Con Spirito…we demand nothing but fresh conception.… Frankly, we are more interested in experimental than in traditional writing. We should like to avoid bookishness. Anything—politics, science, art, music, philosophy—anything that is spontaneous, that is lively.”
Separately, in her 1978 Paris Review interview, Elizabeth Bishop mentions that she and a friend once “spent a night in a tree at Vassar outside Cushing dormitory.”
Con Spirito melds the two true stories to create a portrait of the young Elizabeth Bishop: intellectually restless, deeply affected by the early loss of her parents, hopelessly in love with an "unresponsive Vassar beauty" named Margaret Miller, and, above all, determined to carve out her place in literature and in society.
The script is based on extensive research about Elizabeth Bishop’s time at Vassar in the 1930s and the founding of the original Con Spirito. The Elizabeth Bishop archives in the Vassar library collection were an invaluable resource.
From insurance to accommodations to paying cast & crew, movies are expensive. Here's where all the money is going:
And it doesn't stop there! Any money we raise above our goal will go towards renting even better equipment, additional post-production expenses, and festival submissions (which cost $60/submission, on average, not including the money it costs to attend). We intend to not only make a beautiful film, but also to get it in front of audiences at some incredible festivals.
We are scheduled to shoot on location at Vassar College on March 12-15, 2018.
That's soon! So while this campaign is going, we'll be busy casting, assembling costumes, securing equipment, rehearsing, and adjusting to night owl mode in preparation for the shoot. We'll be posting updates as things speed along, so you can look forward to casting news, fun historical tidbits, and more over the next month.
**The music featured in our teaser video is: Sonata for Viola and Piano by Rebecca Clarke (1919).
Risks and challenges
We're shooting all exterior night scenes—this means that lighting the film beautifully (and cost-efficiently) will be a challenge.
Luckily, our team is made up of talented people who not only know what they're doing with a camera, but also have the enthusiasm, creativity, and resolve to make it all happen.
Another challenge will be to capture the look of the 1930s in our sets and costumes. Thankfully, Vassar's campus hasn't changed all the much. We're dedicating a significant part of our budget to finding the right vintage costumes and props.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)