I began Earth Camp One because I had an experience – losing four family members in five years. I became aware -- viscerally -- that, in our culture, we don’t know how to deal with loss, much less how to talk to one another about it. It’s as if death itself has become "shameful and forbidden,” writes Joan Didion. At heart, Earth Camp One is about the very American problem of discomfort with discomfort.
Earth Camp One is a first-person family story, also an essay, spanning thirty years. There is great work that negotiates this territory (books: Persepolis, Fun Home, The Year of Magical Thinking, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; films: The Gleaners and I, That’s My Face, Sherman’s March, Connected. (And many more.) Like these works, Earth Camp One is neither therapy nor diary; it’s an expansive and deeply humorous trip around the outer edges of what it means to be alive and human. My intention in making Earth Camp One is to encourage a conversation about loss and impermanence, the way my film Paris is Burning encouraged a conversation about class, gender, race, sex, and the construction of identity that’s still going on in theaters, on television and in university courses 20 years after that film’s release.
“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” –Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
In the 1970s, I went to a hippie summer camp, Earth Camp One. There were geodesic domes and yoga and organic gardens, but, fueled by a health crisis at home, I was a neurotic mess. When we backpacked in Lassen Volcanic Park, I was certain the dormant volcanoes were about to erupt. Years later, the volcanoes have ERUPTED. In 1996, my mom and grandmother -- Myra Cohn Livingston and Gertrude Cohn -- died within months of each other; in 1998 my uncle, and film mentor -- Alan J. Pakula -- died in a freak accident on the Long Island Expressway; and in 2000 my brother Jonas -- my first best friend -- died in a drug accident. We spend years leaving our families to become who we are. Who do we become when they leave us?
Through narration; archival film and audio; interviews; and animation (about different conceptions of the afterlife) the film takes the viewer on a journey that, like it or not, is the journey we’re all on. The film asks surprising questions, like whether or not dead peoples’ stuff matters; and whether anxiety and fear actually create ill luck. From my own experience, from the successes of some of the works named above, and from our Earth Camp One work-in-progress screenings, it’s clear that people need to talk about this subject; from personal questions (like, how do we live with loss?) to the political (if we are all vulnerable, what do we owe other people and nations?)
It’s hard to believe, but just as certain kinds of dramatic films (broad comedy, action-adventure, films about Harry Potter) are easily “green-lit” by Hollywood studios, it’s also true that funders favor particular kinds of documentaries. Currently there’s an emphasis on historical or biographical films, and on social issues or environmental documentaries focused on achieving “measurable impact.”
As the director and producer of Paris is Burning, a documentary that’s motivated more than one generation of queer activists and thinkers, I’m all for films that encourage people to act. But it’s surprising that just as social media and the blogosphere are revitalizing first-person storytelling (in ways that run from irritating to brilliant), first-person stories, in film, are a tremendous challenge to make. Companies, foundations, and investors fear that a work that’s “personal” is, by definition, not relevant to audiences or to broader social goals. In this way, film is trailing behind both conventional and Internet publishing; as when, thirty years ago, a memoir not written by a movie star or president was unlikely to find a publisher. Back then, the literary and commercial successes of best-selling memoirs by authors like Dave Eggers and Marjane Satrapi were unimaginable.
So far, Earth Camp One has received support from the Guggenheim Foundation, Netflix, Chicken & Egg, the French American Charitable Trust, and many generous individuals. Having successfully raised a significant portion of the budget, we're determined to push the project to the next level. Your support will allow us to move from having shot lots of footage, edited several sample assemblies, and made several animation tests, to get to a ROUGH CUT, the stage of the edit where the story becomes a story. I'm immensely grateful to friends, companies, organizations, and to all kinds of individuals and support networks who've made the film possible so far. Without people who say, “Please, make something I haven’t seen before!” films like this one won’t come to life. That’s the beauty of crowd-sourcing and Kickstarter.
WHAT IS CROWD-SOURCING AND WHAT IS KICKSTARTER?
Crowd-sourcing is about knowing and trusting that by making creative projects possible, people get the pleasure of making the world a better and smarter place; we (I say "we" because the Earth Camp One team and I have supported several campaigns on Kickstarter!) get the joy of knowing we are an essential part of that process; and, by pressing “send” (I didn’t make this up, I read it in the Times) we get the same rush of endorphins that accompanies exercise, chocolate, and sex.
Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. The website is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully funded or no money changes hands. In other words, if Earth Camp One doesn’t raise its goal of $40,000, we get nothing. The reason for this is to be certain our goal is achievable, and to encourage you to do everything in your power to get us there! Once we have reached the goal we will contact you to get you the incentives (visible to your right) you will have earned by pledging.
CAN I INCREASE MY PLEDGE ONCE IT'S BEEN MADE?
Yes. Once you donate to the campaign, you may want to change your incentive reward to a different one, or increase your pledge amount. To do so, go to Kickstarter and sign in. If you go to our campaign page, the green “Back This Project” button has been replaced with a blue “Manage Your Donation” button. Click it and you can enter a new amount, or choose a new incentive.
CAN WE EXCEED THE GOAL?
Yes! Exceeding the goal would help us immensely.
WHAT WILL YOU DO WITH THE MONEY? AND IF YOU DO REACH YOUR GOAL, WHY SHOULD WE EXCEED IT?
The Earth Camp One Kickstarter campaign will allow my creative partners and I to move from having sample assemblies, a huge amount of footage, and animation tests, to ROUGH CUT STAGE. It will give us the time and resources to focus on storytelling, editing, and animation; it will allow us to hire an editor, to shoot our last interviews, and to find animation partners. Every penny will be used to actually make the film.
But to complete a film, there’s more. Creating all the drawings and frames for animation, arriving at a fine cut, purchasing music and music rights, a sound mix, etc., all cost money, and although we don’t expect to raise the full amount here on Kickstarter, we have seen films with relatively modest goals, whose crowd-sourcing campaigns wildly exceeded the producers’ expectations. So, if we reach our goal, PLEASE DO NOT STOP, and if you are the kind of funder, donor, or executive producer who’d like to discuss participation at a more significant level, please contact us directly through Kickstarter or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IS MY PLEDGE AMOUNT PUBLICLY DISPLAYED?
No. Only you and the project owner will be able to see your pledge amount.
I'M NOT IN THE US, CAN I STILL PLEDGE?
Yes, you can pledge from anywhere.
CAN I GIFT AN INCENTIVE?
Yes. To "gift" your reward to someone else, please follow the normal process with the pledge and payment in your name. Once we've reached the deadline, we'll send you an email requesting the information we need to fulfill the reward. At that time, please reply with the contact info for the person you want to receive the reward.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE MONEY ISN'T RAISED IN TIME?
If our goal isn’t met before the deadline, we don't receive any of the pledges. Your credit or debit card will not be charged.
HOW CAN I CONTACT YOU?
You can send us a message through the Kickstarter website by clicking on "send message" at the top of the page just under the Earth Camp One heading, or on "send message" above the bio on the lower right hand side of the page. Or, you can email us directly at email@example.com
-Jennie Livingston and the Earth Camp One team
PRAISE FOR PARIS IS BURNING
"A politically astute, historically important document of our precarious times." -Michelle Parkerson, The Black Film Review
"a beautiful piece of work - lively, intelligent exploratory...Everything about 'Paris is Burning' signifies so blatantly and so promiscuously that our formulations - our neatly paired theses and antitheses - multiply faster than we can keep track of them, and the movie induces a semiotic daze. What's wonderful about the picture is that Livingston is smart enough not to reduce her subjects to the sum of their possible meanings..." -Terrence Rafferty, The New Yorker
"Zeroing in on an obscure and outré corner of a subculture, Livingston's film ends up shedding an extraordinary light on American culture as a whole." -David Ansen, Newsweek
PRAISE FOR WHO'S THE TOP?
"witty and accomplished" -Kevin Thomas, The Los Angeles Times
"Livingston delivers a sharp...tale about the meaning of power, the nature of reality, and the elusiveness of love by posing questions seldom heard at cinemas." -RJ Grubb, Bay Windows
"production numbers are more exuberant than anything in Rent." -Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
"the best Marie Antoinette fantasy we've ever seen" -Sarah Harrison, Nerve