What if old walls could talk...
You drive by one every day. Old factory buildings. Dilapidated. Boarded-up. Infested. Ready for the wrecking ball. Or are they...
Have you ever wondered what secrets that old building holds? Who lived, worked, died, dreamed, fell in love, got murdered, performed, made art, had tough times and the best times their lives there? What was it like in its heyday? And what will become of it?
Is it an eyesore ready to be knocked down? Or is it a factory of dreams?
From director Gorman Bechard (Pizza, A Love Story) and producer, Bill Kraus, comes FACTORY, a new feature-length documentary about the many varied and crazy lives of the New Haven Clock Company factory.
What is it about this place…
Over the centuries, a bewildering diversity of passionate, creative people have been attracted to and inspired by the Clock Factory’s aura and energy – from visionary captains of industry, distinguished U.S. senators and generations of hard-working immigrants to famous rock, R&B, hardcore, heavy metal and LGBTQ performers, a mime troupe that took up residence there, avant garde artists and world-renowned intellectuals, as well as different types of people, creatives in their own right, such as the Bad Ass White Boys Motorcycle Club, the brilliant 1990s strip club owner who created Club International, dubbed the “Adult Disneyland” complete with a glass swimming pool hanging from the ceiling for his dancers, and even the homeless man who lived in an abandoned boat in the courtyard.
The Clock Factory has inspired passion in us, too, which is why we’ve spent the last ten years digging deeply into its stories and ultimately tracking down the people who lived them 10, 20, 30 to over 60 years ago and brought them back into the building to be interviewed in the spaces in which their stories occurred before the building gets cleaned out and renovated.
You’ll find some of these stories hard to believe. We couldn’t believe some of them either at first. So, to make it into the film, the stories have to have some back-up, corroborating evidence like markings, physical traces, artifacts, artwork, publications found in the building. And/or contemporaneous photographs, video, ads, articles, fliers and police reports discovered in remote archives or graciously provided by the interviewees themselves.
"You built an eight-foot-high halfpipe threaded among the rafters and columns while you lived there in the early 1990s? Really?" There’s video on YouTube shot by someone from Thrasher Magazine. "Cornell West and bell hooks danced at the R&B club while they collaborated on their scholarly work, you say?" It’s in Mr. West’s memoir. "When you were booking hardcore shows at the Brick N Wood, you actually brought Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson there to perform together for the first time in the 1980s?" Well, we got it on tape.
A little Clock Company history...
The New Haven Clock Company had its origins in the clock manufactory of Chauncey Jerome, an important figure in the early 19th-century development of the US clock industry, whose legacy is complicated by the fact that he died penniless after an ill-fated merger with legendary showman P.T. Barnum’s Bridgeport clock company put both men and their companies into bankruptcy.
We see Chauncey as an ingenious visionary, under-appreciated by history, whose main flaw was being too trusting and naïve in business and whose career would have been seen much more favorably if he had lived and achieved similarly today. He was a precursor to geniuses like Edwin Land and Steve Jobs.
After a vision came to him in a dream during the depths of the great depression of 1837, he went on to make his vision a reality and by the early 1850s he was producing over 50% of all the clocks made in the US and exporting them throughout the country and around the world. At its peak, in the early 1900s, the New Haven Clock Company employed nearly 2,000 people who produced over three million clocks and watches a year.
As the New Haven Clock Company grew, so did the factory. It’s actually many buildings built and rebuilt between 1842 to 1937.
A Swiss firm bought out New Haven Clock in the 1950s. You’d think the Swiss would know how to run a clock company, but they ran it into the ground.
The factory closed in 1960 and thus began the building's long, slow physical decline even as new life sprouted and blossomed amongst its ruins.
After decades of decay, fires, 1960s ‘urban renewal’ and everything else that’s happened to and in the factory, it’s almost a miracle any of it is still standing today. But now, thankfully, the factory has found new life and is being redeveloped as affordable apartments and affordable live/work lofts for artists, musicians, and creatives.
But clocks were hardly the only product the factory produced...
Question: What do the following have in common, Chauncey Jerome; Walter Camp, the father of American football; P.T. Barnum; hard-working immigrants; the Bad Ass White Boy Motorcycle Club; a pot grow house that was busted by the DEA; Bobby Brown; Run-DMC; a troupe of mimes; Rita Hayworth; Nina Hartley; Ron Jeremy; a US Senator; one of the nation's hottest strip clubs with a glass swimming pool hanging from the ceiling; GG Alin; the Village People; GUAR; Cornel West; bell Hooks; a Molotov Cocktail; a haunted house; 1970s avant guard artists; homeless squatters; MTV; Michael Bolton; and the Yale School of Architecture's esteemed dean Vincent Scully? Answer: The New Haven Clock Company factory.
From the Industrial Revolution to post-industrial devololution to restoration and rebirth, this evocative historic factory has been on an epic journey. This building is a survivor. And in it thrived energy, creativity, ingenuity, and self expression like few have ever seen before.
About the documentary...
For those of you who have seen Pizza, A Love Story, or any of Gorman Bechard's other 7 feature documentaries, you know the work speaks for itself. This film will be fast, funny, informative, and just generally rock your world, making you hit replay the moment it is over.
In addition to a decade of research, we’ve already completed about 50% of the interviews. We’ve taped 29 subjects totaling about 75 hours of film and we made the cool preview trailer you just saw. The interviews have turned out even better than expected and we’re excited to do more!
Why We Are Making This Film...
A combination of personal passion and popular demand has propelled us through this work.
In addition to loving old buildings in a gee-whiz, kid-in-a-candy-store, punch-in-the-gut kind of way, discovering gold down all these different rabbit holes over the years has been endlessly fascinating, surprising and rewarding leaving us wanting to learn more.
Since most of these stories are not the type typically found in history books and occurred long before everything was online and on social media, getting all this information wasn't easy. Starting with someone’s vague third-person memory or some curious abandoned space or relic found in the building, we uncovered the building’s secrets through a lot of creative and persistent sleuthing.
And it’s been especially wonderful meeting and getting to know all the different people we’ve interviewed. We’re so grateful and honored they’ve decided to share their stories with us, total strangers who came to them out of the blue, so we can share them with you. Happily, they, likewise, are pleased we're documenting these meaningful times in their lives.
On the popular demand side, literally hundreds of people from all walks of life have told us wide eyed after hearing the stories and seeing the artifacts while touring the building for one reason or another, “You HAVE to do something with these stories! You’ve GOT to write a book or make a movie!”
Who Are We?
Director Gorman Bechard, co-owner of What Were We Thinking Films, has numerous feature-length documentaries and narrative features to his credit.
Gorman most recently directed the documentary, Pizza, A Love Story, looks at the history behind the three greatest pizza places in the world, New Haven's own Pepe's, Sally's, and Modern.
Gorman is also the director of Color Me Obsessed, a film about The Replacements, which Rolling Stone called one of “The Seven Best New Music Documentaries of the Year,” as well as four other rock-docs: What Did You Expect? The Archers of Loaf live at Cat's Cradle; Every Everything: the music, life & times of Grant Hart; Who is Lydia Loveless?; and What it Takes: film en douze tableaux, his look at the recording of the last album from Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, and the animal welfare documentary, A Dog Named Gucci, for which he was awarded the ASPCA Media Excellence Award 2015 for his work on that film. His narrative features include the award-winning Friends (With Benefits), You Are Alone, and Broken Side of Time, and the horror cult classics Psychos in Love and Disconnected, both of which were recently released in deluxe bluray editions from Vinegar Syndrome.
You can read an interview with Gorman Bechard in FilmMaker Magazine here. He is also co-founder of the NHdocs: the New Haven Documentary Film Festival, held every June at Yale. This year the 11-day event screened over 110 films and featured the first ever tribute to filmmaker Michael Moore.
Gorman's full bio can be found here.
Our company, the micro-studio What Were We Thinking Films, founded in 2004, has a proven track record, with over 30 years of experience making feature films.
Producer Bill Kraus started gathering, researching and telling the Clock Factory’s stories during his 10-year effort to save and redevelop the factory as affordable live/work lofts for artists, performers, musicians, makers and creatives of all types.
He is a mission-driven preservationist, real estate development consultant and creative placemaker who specializes in redeveloping endangered historic buildings for urban revitalization. Over the last 20 years, his projects in Norwalk, Bridgeport, New Haven and New London have been the catalysts for cultural and economic revivals. In his prior life, Mr. Kraus was a corporate commercial real estate banker. He holds an MBA with honors from NYU and studied architecture at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York City. He is the son of Robert Kraus, the New Yorker cartoonist and cover artist, children’s book author, illustrator and publisher, and Pamela Kraus a classical pianist, illustrator and co-founder of The Ridgefield Preservation Trust in the 1970s. At the age of 10, Bill switched from collecting Hot Wheels to loving old buildings.
You can read more about Bill’s background here.
And as usual, Gorman will have on board the crew that have made his films work of the past decade, including musician Dean Falcone, who will be scoring the film. Dean a fleet-fingered guitarist and eclectic pop/rock composer who’s been playing in bands since his pre-teens. He’s worked with filmmaker Gorman Bechard on several different projects, scoring FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), BROKEN SIDE OF TIME, A DOG NAMED GUCCI and WHO IS LYDIA LOVELESS. He is also the co-producer of the documentary COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS and of course PIZZA, A LOVE STORY. He’s helmed acts such as The Excerpts (w/Jon Brion), 100 Faces, Dean & the Dragsters, The Shellye Valauskas Experience, Tipsy in Chelsea and The Zambonis, among others. He has shared the stage and/or produced/recorded with: Aimee Mann, Eddie Vedder, Norah Jones, Brian May, Susanna Hoffs and many others. Dean is also the anything-goes impresario of the legendary “Vomitorium” extravaganza every Thanksgiving at Café Nine in New Haven, Connecticut.
Want to be a part of the film?
Did you ever stand in line to get into: Brick ‘n Wood? Brick ‘n Wood International Café? The Cleopatra Room? Tropical Retreat? Country Palace? Kurt’s? Everybodeez? La Dolce Vita? Club International?
Were you in the strip club when the DEA broke in with battery rams looking for an illegal pot growhouse, which they didn’t realize until too late that it was in another part of the building entirely?
Did you ever live in the factory or out in the courtyard?
Are you a Bad Ass White Boy?
Did you ever make and/or preform music, art, films, prints, paintings, photographs, video, dance, silkscreens – clocks in the factory?
Did you work for the New Haven Clock Company?
Do you have any old photos or video of the factory?
Can you make an introduction to Cornell West or bell hooks?
We know the dozens and dozens of noteworthy stories we’ve collected so far are only a tinly sampling of the thousands of stories the factory actually contains. So please let us know if you have stories to share. Send us an email or private message.
Where Your Money Goes...
The money raised for FACTORY will go toward additional filming and initial editing. The $16,500 is the minimum we need now to stay on track, but we’re hoping to raise much more than that so that we don’t have to come back for additional Kickstarter campaigns. We’re keeping the initial ask low because with Kickstarter if you don't reach your goal, you get nothing.
Additional funds raised over $16,500 will go toward post-production, insurance, a great sound mix, maybe some animation, an amazing score and soundtrack, and film festival fees.
Yes, making a full-length indy film is expensive. Our total budget will end up over $100,000. So, on this campaign let’s aim for $75,000 or more!
What Happens If We Don't Reach Our Goal?
If we fail to reach our funding goal, we get absolutely nothing. That means you keep any money you've pledged to donate. We only get that money (and your credit card is only charged) if and when we successfully fund our project. So please give what you can, because every little bit helps. And PLEASE share this page with others – it has something for just about everyone!
Follow Us On Facebook
Follow our Facebook page, where you can learn about what’s going on with Factory, as well as any updates, future screenings, and other noteworthy information.
Here are photos of some of the one-of-a-kind rewards being offered for this KickStarter campaign.
The hand-drawn Blu-Ray
Risks and challenges
You can feel confident supporting this project because we always finish our films – always. And they always get distribution, as well as acceptance into leading film festivals such as Big Sky, IFF Boston, Sidewalk, Woods Hole, NHdocs, and so many more. That is never an issue for us.
Our biggest challenge is raising the money fast enough to finish everything on time. Documentaries take on lives of their own, as this one did when we realized we have only a limited window of opportunity to conduct interviews in the building in its current, evocative condition before it’s cleaned out and fully renovated. Also, we’ve learned through past experience with prior films that the lives of the people we want to interview change over time – things happen, people move, develop health problems or even pass away. The time to complete this film is now.
Our goal is to premier the film at film festivals around the country in late 2020. But this isn't always a perfect world. So worst case, it may take a little longer than we expected to deliver the DVDs and other rewards. But you will definitely get them and the film will only be better for it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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