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Four extraordinary ordinary women run for Congress, battling powerful political machines in very different American landscapes.
Four extraordinary ordinary women run for Congress, battling powerful political machines in very different American landscapes.
424 backers pledged $28,111 to help bring this project to life.

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Knock Down The House: A Documentary

$28,111

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This year, a coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia, a grieving mother in Nevada, a registered nurse in Missouri and a young bartender from New York are challenging powerful incumbents in Congress. None of these women have experience in politics, but each has had a life-changing experience of injustice. Running on their own, they might never stand a chance. But running together, as part of a rising movement, they’re finding the courage to do something extraordinary.

"Now that my eyes are open, I cannot and will not close them  again." — Amy Vilela

When her daughter died from a preventable medical condition, businesswoman Amy Vilela of Las Vegas didn't know what to do with her anger about America's broken health care system. Bronx-born Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to work double shifts in a restaurant to save her family’s home from foreclosure after losing her father. Cori Bush, a Saint Louis nurse, was drawn into the streets when the shooting of Michael Brown brought protests and tanks into her neighborhood. Paula Jean Swearengin buried family and neighbors to illnesses caused by West Virginia’s coal industry — and worries her children will be next. All four women understood that their lives were affected by politics, but none had considered running for office themselves. Until now.

"It's not faith in me. It's survival." — Paula Jean Swearengin

Knock Down The House is a story about power and what it takes to achieve it—both inside yourself and in the world. Behind the scenes and in the streets, we follow these four women on the roller-coaster journey of running for office, from early doubts to finding their voices before huge crowds. As these outsider candidates steel themselves for confrontations with well-funded career politicians like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and New York’s Joseph Crowley, they have a few tricks up their sleeves. Backed by a surging grassroots movement of voters hungry for change, they’re running with dozens of progressive challengers on a unified slate under the banners of Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress. They have access to veteran campaign managers, a national fundraising base, and tech innovations like the most efficient peer-to-peer voter contact system in the history of US elections. And they’re forming tight friendships with each other across culture and geography. To win, Amy, Alex, Cori and Paula will have to unify their divided districts, discover courage in the midst of pain and loss, and withstand personal attacks from political machines determined to hold on to power. No matter what happens, none of them will ever be the same again.

"At the end of David vs. Goliath, David wins." — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Why doesn’t Congress—made up primarily of white, male, millionaire lawyers— better represent the American people? Why do so many eligible voters abstain from casting a ballot, and what happens when they have new options to choose from? Each of the charismatic women in Knock Down The House has had a firsthand experience with the life and death stakes of injustice in the environment, healthcare, police brutality and economic inequality. Their stories of empowerment will challenge the cynicism that keeps many people from engaging in politics and ask what it really takes to break down the barriers of access to the halls of power.

 "I'm able to stomp through some doors other people are afraid to." — Cori Bush

At a time when political surprises are becoming the norm, Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress are the only groups systematically recruiting extraordinary working people to run for Congress. The experienced but controversial organizers behind these candidates are building a new pathway to power that bypasses lobbyists and good old boy networks. Our exclusive inside access to these groups, combined with the dramatic life stories of our main characters, ensures that this project will present a unique angle on the rise of progressive upstart candidates, and the historic waves of ordinary women running for office—two of the biggest stories of 2018. The time to make this film is now, both because the story is moving quickly and because our deeply divided country faces urgent challenges that can only be addressed if more people get involved with the democratic process.

Thank you for visiting this page! We literally can't make this documentary without your help. The 2018 election season is coming up fast and traditional documentary funding sources move very slowly. The only way to raise funds in time to capture this rapidly unfolding story is to make this a people-powered production. Every dollar you pledge (besides fees and the reward costs) will go directly to production—including travel, equipment rental, and other direct costs. We have over a decade of experience producing in a lean, efficient way to capture stories as they unfold, and have calculated that our goal of $25,000 is the minimum amount we need to cover the 2018 primary season. This will put us in the best possible position to edit a work sample that can bring on grants or investors to get us over the finish line.

Candidates meeting in Washington DC
Candidates meeting in Washington DC

In a media landscape dominated by profit, Kickstarter backers like you keep the heart of independent film beating! But a Kickstarter campaign isn't just about money. It's about building a community around the project—so that you’re with us on the journey of watching the story unfold, finishing the film, and maximizing its impact when it is released. We never forget or take for granted the wonderful ensemble of friends, family and total strangers who supported our past work. If you become a backer, we will make you part of our team, give you behind-the-scenes peeks in our process, and shower you in fun, exclusive rewards. And you’ll be helping us bring this story of hope and courage to as wide an audience as possible — in time to impact the national conversation around the 2020 presidential elections. So thank you!

We created this video and the short candidate profiles above for narrative.ly, an award-winning online literary magazine.

Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick are Emmy-nominated New York-based filmmakers and 2013 Sundance Fellows. Our last feature documentary, The Hand That Feeds was broadcast on PBS and won awards at numerous festivals, including Full Frame, AFI Docs and DOC NYC. It was supported by major grants like Sundance Documentary Film Program, the Ford Foundation, Latino Public Broadcasting, Chicken & Egg Pictures, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), and Bertha BRITDOC Connect Fund. Here's what reviewers had to say:

We have a track record of making character-based documentaries about real life David and Goliath struggles, and stories of different kinds of people teaming up to confront common enemies. We've spent years investigating the way power works in our world and what it really takes to make change. Knock Down The House will build on the fast-paced, gritty, observational style we developed for The Hand That Feeds. We’ll move from lively urban neighborhoods to sleepy mountain hollows and suburban sprawl, dramatizing powerful connections between people in very different regions of the country. We’ll use split screens to interweave the four candidates’ storylines, and playful archival montages and animated screencasts to show the role of media and technology in elections. With its suspenseful storyline and life and death stakes, this documentary will change the way we think about democracy and keep audiences on the edge of their seats.

On location in West Virginia, October 2017
On location in West Virginia, October 2017

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Risks and challenges

It’s not easy to finish an independent documentary and get it before an audience. But we’ve already faced many of the most common challenges with our previous films, and we’ve learned ways to overcome them, from handling our own editing and shooting to running our own DIY theatrical release. Our biggest risk for this project is time. We must move quickly to expand our team, capture events as they unfold in various parts of the country, and prove to potential funders and collaborators that this film is a sound investment. We can only do this with your help! We've earned a reputation among our peers as hard working, motivated artists who can be counted on to meet deadlines and keep our promises, and we've never failed to reward our Kickstarter backers. If you put your faith in us, we promise we won't let you down.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 5 or more About US$ 5

    INFORMED CITIZEN

    Exclusive updates about the project and our heartfelt gratitude!

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    CONSTITUENT

    Updates + an individual thank you on social media from us or one of the stars!

    Includes:
    • Shout out on social media
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    Pledge US$ 25 or more About US$ 25

    GRASSROOTS

    All of the above + a home use digital download of the film (subject to film’s release date)

    Includes:
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
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    Pledge US$ 35 or more About US$ 35

    DOOR KNOCKER

    All of the above + “EVERYTHING YOU DIDN'T KNOW YOU NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT RUNNING FOR OFFICE,” a humorous and informative guide featuring the unique perspectives of the stars of the film. (Delivered as a pdf download)

    Includes:
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
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    SUPER VOLUNTEER

    All of the above + a digital download of our favorite outtake scenes and original score tracks.

    Includes:
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
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    36 backers
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    Pledge $65 or more About $65

    ORGANIZER

    All of the above + a signed home-use DVD of our award-winning, Emmy-nominated documentary THE HAND THAT FEEDS (which has been building solidarity across the country since 2014!)

    Includes:
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
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    Pledge $80 or more About $80

    INFLUENCER

    All of the above + political campaign-style Knock Down The House bumper sticker and buttons (yet to be designed, but they will be tasteful and eye catching!)

    Includes:
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    CAMPAIGN TRAIL

    All of the above + a set of striking postcards made from film stills, depicting the four diverse districts featured in the documentary + a special thank you on the film's website

    Includes:
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    14 backers
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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    PRESS CORPS

    All of the above + a bold, beautiful 18 x 24” signed movie poster

    Includes:
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    2 backers
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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    CONTRIBUTOR

    All of the above + a special thank you in the film’s credits

    Includes:
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
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    Ships to Only United States
    9 backers
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    Pledge $175 or more About $175

    WONK

    All of the above + a signed copy of RULES FOR REVOLUTIONARIES: HOW BIG ORGANIZING CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING, the best-selling book by Brand New Congress co-founder Zack Exley and Becky Bond. Learn the inside story of how the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign harnessed cutting edge technology and millions of volunteers to make grassroots history.

    Includes:
    • Copy of RULES FOR REVOLUTIONARIES signed by Zack Exley
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • Special thank you on the film's website
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    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    Limited 4 backers
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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    INSIDER

    See the film on a big screen before it is widely released! All of the above + an invitation to a special private early screening with the filmmakers in NYC (travel not included). Plus all $150 rewards!

    Includes:
    • Attend an early VIP screening of the film in NYC
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    10 backers
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    Pledge $300 or more About $300

    CAMPAIGN MANAGER

    Exclusive webinar with Saikat Chakrabarti: Justice Democrats executive director, Brand New Congress Co-founder, and former Director of Organizing Technology on the Bernie 2016 campaign. Go deeper than a film possibly could to learn about the technology and ideas behind this revolutionary approach to political organizing! Plus all INSIDER rewards.

    Includes:
    • Special webinar with campaign visionary Saikat Chakrabarti
    • Attend an early VIP screening of the film in NYC
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    3 backers
    $
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  14. Select this reward

    Pledge $400 or more About $400

    MEDIA STRATEGIST

    1 hour private filmmaker video chat session with you, your organization, school or group to talk about this film, the issues, and/or the art and business of documentary filmmaking. Plus all INSIDER rewards.

    Includes:
    • Video chat with the filmmaker
    • Attend an early VIP screening of the film in NYC
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    0 backers
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  15. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    RUNNING MATE

    Exclusive webinar with at least one of the film’s stars (Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Paula Jean Swearengin, Cori Bush, and/or Amy Vilela)—hear inside insights about activism, organizing, and what it’s like to be an ordinary person running for office, and ask your own questions! Plus all INSIDER rewards.

    Includes:
    • Special webinar with one or more of the films stars
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    2 backers
    $
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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    DARK HORSE

    All INSIDER rewards + your face in the film. Come to a public campaign event we’re filming and we’ll prominently feature you in an audience cutaway shot. Kind of like product placement, but with you as the product! (dates and locations TBD, travel not included)

    Includes:
    • Your face in the film
    • Attend an early VIP screening of the film in NYC
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    0 backers
    $
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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    DELEGATE

    All INSIDER rewards + two tickets to our festival or theatrical premiere and dinner or a drink with the filmmakers (and possibly the stars) afterwards. Celebrate with us! (travel expenses not included)

    Includes:
    • Tickets to the film's premiere + dinner with filmmakers and stars
    • Attend an early VIP screening of the film in NYC
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    3 backers
    $
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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    SUPER DELEGATE

    Be our first test audience! Enjoy access to all above rewards + an invitation to an exclusive rough cut screening (travel expenses not included), or a chance to offer feedback on a rough cut digitally (if travel/scheduling is difficult).

    Includes:
    • Invitation to weigh in on an early rough cut of the film
    • Tickets to the film's premiere + dinner with filmmakers and stars
    • Your face in the film
    • Video chat with the filmmaker
    • Special webinar with one or more of the films stars
    • Special webinar with campaign visionary Saikat Chakrabarti
    • Attend an early VIP screening of the film in NYC
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    • Special thank you on the film's website
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    0 backers
    $
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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    SUPER PAC

    Join our team with an Associate Producer credit! Your credit will appear in the main end credits of the film, in the press kit and on the film website. We will make you a special thank you video, and give you special recognition at film events. Plus full access to all of the above rewards.

    Includes:
    • Join our filmmaking team as an Associate Producer
    • Invitation to weigh in on an early rough cut of the film
    • Tickets to the film's premiere + dinner with filmmakers and stars
    • Your face in the film
    • Special webinar with one or more of the films stars
    • Video chat with the filmmaker
    • Special webinar with campaign visionary Saikat Chakrabarti
    • Attend an early VIP screening of the film in NYC
    • Your name in the end credits of the finished film
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE movie poster (delivered in 2020 or sooner)
    • Set of postcards made from film stills
    • KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE bumper sticker + button
    • Signed DVD of THE HAND THAT FEEDS
    • Digital downloads of extras & outtakes (delivered in 2020)
    • Guide to running for office from the film's stars
    • Digital download of KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE (delivered in 2020)
    • Shout out on social media
    • Project updates and our gratitude
    Less
    Estimated delivery
    Ships to Only United States
    0 backers
    $
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Funding period

- (29 days)