Three years ago, I learned, there had never been a film made about Molly Ivins. I couldn’t believe it. To me, she was and is an American icon in the vein of Mark Twain. She was hilarious and used a razor sharp wit to speak truth to power and give voice to those that didn’t have one. Who does that today? Molly was a pundit before there were pundits - a populist to the core. At the height of her popularity, nearly 400 papers carried her column. She was a best selling author and appeared on national television and radio programs and lectured all of the country. I couldn’t imagine Molly Ivins just becoming a footnote in history so I set out to make this documentary.
- Janice Engel, Director/Producer
A trailblazer for female journalists how did Molly Ivins, who came of age in the 1950’s, a daughter of oil and gas privilege from River Oaks, one of Houston’s wealthiest enclaves become one of America’s greatest populists?
Early on, Molly was outraged by the disparity of wealth and opportunity between her family and those of color, so she joined the civil rights movement in East Texas. These formative experiences set Molly on her life long path of activism. Clearly a debutante destiny was not in the cards.
Molly came up through the journalistic ranks at a time when women entering the field were relegated to the “snake pit,” a misogynistic term for the women’s columns: food, fashion and gardens. She was having none of that. At the age of 26, Molly became the first woman to co-edit the Texas Observer, one of the only liberal newspapers in the U.S. She later went on to become a best selling author.
She honed her skills by standing toe to toe with the politicians at the Texas legislature where she would drink them under the table. Her prolific liver earned her welcome into the good ol’ boys club. Molly’s wry good olʼ gal Texas voice publicly sucker-punched the arrogant and the entitled and gave voice to those who suffered from their abuse. She was beholden to no one and set a tone and direction that’s been adopted by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert today.
Hers was a prescient voice, bringing attention to what she saw as a crisis in American democracy. She fought particularly hard for campaign finance reform to keep from what she called, “big bidness” from influencing political decisions. Molly wrote and said, “Either we figure out how to keep the corporate cash out of the political system or we lose the democracy.” This is an issue our nation is still grappling with.
Molly was a fighter against injustice until the very end, when breast cancer took her out of the game way too soon.
More than a biography, Raise Hell is also a socio-political commentary that will make you laugh.
The documentary unfolds through visually intimate interviews of Mollyʼsʼ childhood friends, family and colleagues. In contrast interviews with politicians, pundits and pontificators from both sides of the political spectrum will be dramatically lit to illustrate the black and white polarization of “politics as usual.”
These interviews will be juxtaposed with footage from her personal appearances and, from her personal archives, a trove of photos, writings and audio recordings never before seen and heard. Graphics will animate quotes from her columns with images of Texas iconography to visually illustrate Mollyʼs satiric writings.
There will be no narration in Raise Hell. Molly's voice is the voice we want to hear, to laugh with, learn from and be inspired by. Underscoring all of this will be regional music driving the narrative forward: Texas honky-tonk blues, civil rights anthems and a composer written score.
Molly Ivins’ story has never been told. Many of her “beloveds” lament that she is gone as do we. Team Raise Hell is concerned that many citizens especially younger generations do not know who she is and how she utilized humor to get people to pay attention to the issues of the day.
“Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don’t much care for…politics is not about those people in Washington…it’s our deal, we run this country, we are the board of directors, we own it, they are just the people we’ve hired to drive the bus for a while…” - Molly Ivins
Who today can fill those large shoes? Mollyʼs death created a vacuum that has yet to be filled. Raise Hell will bring Mollyʼs larger-than-life personality back for those who are missing her and longing to hear that unique Texan voice but even more importantly introduce her to those who never knew her.
DIRECTOR-PRODUCER JANICE ENGEL is an award winning filmmaker who has created numerous documentaries, non-fiction specials and television series including: Jackson Browne: Going Home, (Cable Ace-Award) and Ted Hawkins Amazing Grace, (Rose D’Or Special Jury prize for the film that best reflects human values); as a show-runner, the provocative docuseries, Addicted, (recipient of a 2011 Prism Award for Accuracy in Depiction of Drug Addiction).
Under her own banner, Two Rivers Productions, Janice created What We Carry an ongoing, interactive documentary series dedicated to preserving Holocaust survivors’ stories for generations to come; presented at Yad Vashem in Israel, July 2014. The common through line in much of her work is her passion for political activism, speaking truth to power and standing up for the underdog.
She is also an Adjunct Professor at the Motion Picture Television Department of the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, and sits on the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation as Vice President and Chair for the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.
PRODUCER JAMES EGAN is a professor, producer, screenwriter, and is currently serving as the Executive Director of the School of Motion Pictures and Television at the Academy of Art University. He founded Wild at Heart Films in July 2000 to create "Media that Makes a Difference." With Wild at Heart, James has produced a number of award-winning films, including Jackpot (2001), co-produced with Participant Media the documentary Angels in the Dust (2007), with Mike Figgis. Executive produced Kimjongilia (2009), and Sound of Redemption (2014) partnered with international best seller, Michael Connelly.
Wild at Heart films has also produced The Defector directed by Oscar winner, Mark Harris. James was the editor of John Waters Interviews, a book in the prestigious series, Conversations with Filmmakers. Professor Egan serves as a National Trustee of the Wounded Marine Careers Foundation that works with entertainment professionals to train wounded members of the military, aiding them in finding careers in the film and television industry.
PRODUCER CARLISLE VANDERVOOT is a born and bred Houstonian, who returned from working in Los Angeles and New York to her roots, much like Molly Ivins. Vandervoort and Molly Ivins are cut from the same cloth – both were raised in Houston, attended the same private school, and made the rounds of debutante parties. Something deeper however, links these daughters of Texas, their family members were involved in backroom business dealings in the Oil and Gas business, and the volatile race issues that divided Texas and the South in the 1950s and ‘60s. Vandervoort’s paternal grandmother was an early advocate of school integration while serving on the Houston School Board which resulted in her vitriolic hate mail and a cross burning in her front yard. Both Vandervoort and Molly Ivins pushed back against these entrenched customs through their individual social activism and progressive politics.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER SUNDANCE PRODUCTIONS launched and founded in 2012 by Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn, Sundance Productions develops and produces innovative, compelling television content for linear and digital platforms in the U.S. and around the world. Sundance Productions partners with leading story-tellers, directors, and producers for the production of authentic tentpole series and specials across all platforms.
EDITOR KATE AMEND, ACE is the editor of the Academy Award-winning documentary features The Long Way Home, (1998) and Into The Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, (2001) for which she received the American Cinema Editors' Eddie award. She teaches fiction and documentary production courses for USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Amend edited the 2001 Oscar-nominated documentary short On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom and the Peabody Award winner Beah: A Black Woman Speaks. She is a frequent advisor at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Storytelling Lab and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers' Academy.
WRITER MARK MONROE is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose theatrical writing credits include: The Summit (Winner, Best Editing Sundance 2013), Who is Dayani Cristal? (Winner, Best Cinematography, Sundance 2013), Sound City, The Cove (Winner, Best Documentary 2010 Academy Awards & Best Documentary Script, W.G.A. 2010), The Tillman Story, Chasing Ice (Winner, Best Cinematography Sundance 2012), Stolen Seas, Last Play at Shea, Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos (W.G.A. nomination "Best Documentary Script", 2007), Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who, and writer-director, Morning Light, Disney Pictures. A journalism graduate from the University of Oklahoma, Mark began his career in television as a newswriter for CNN in Atlanta. Before writing for film, he produced more than sixty hours of biography-style programming for television.
CONTENT ADVISOR BETSY MOON is an independent political & publishing consultant living in Austin, Texas. Her work with Jim Hightower, Molly Ivins and the ACLU of Texas over the last 20 years has given her a wide knowledge of and contact with many luminaries, journalists & progressive populist organizations.
Betsy was Molly Ivins’ “Chief of Stuff” during the final six years of Molly’s life. As Molly’s researcher, scheduler and executive & personal assistant, she was liaison with Ivins' lecture agency & newspaper syndicate, public interest groups, other reporters, media outlets, journalism groups, universities, personal friends, the public, fans, medical advisors and supplicants of every sort. She researched for and helped Molly produce several syndicated columns a week, countless magazine articles and three books; Bushwhacked, Who Let the Dogs In? and Bill of Wrongs. The connections she has established in the last two decades are invaluable as a resource for RAISE HELL.
We are thrilled to accept any of the following in lieu of a cash donation:
- MILEAGE TO FLY
- LODGING ON SHOOTS
- CAR USAGE
- OUTREACH/PROMO SUPPORT
- RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT SUPPORT
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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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