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A 1900s coal mining folktale inspired by filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer's maternal ancestors.
A 1900s coal mining folktale inspired by filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer's maternal ancestors.
A 1900s coal mining folktale inspired by filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer's maternal ancestors.
168 backers pledged $10,723 to help bring this project to life.

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Black Canaries - UIowa MFA Thesis Film

$10,723

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Support University of Iowa graduate student Jesse Kreitzer's MFA thesis film Black Canaries.

All Kickstarter pledges are 100% tax-deductible via the film's fiscal sponsor Central Productions, a Cambridge, MA-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting films and filmmakers operating outside of the mainstream.

This fundraising campaign is all-or-nothing.  Review the pledge tiers and get some great perks, including festival passes, film credits, digital downloads,  limited-edition DVDs/BluRays, posters, and more.  Above all else, you're supporting a noble endeavor.

1) How Independent Films Get Made
2) Online World Premiere - Soul of Ashes (Ode to Ruth)
3) Your Name Here (16 Good Reasons to Support Black Canaries)
4) Canaries Named a Kickstarter Staff Pick + Meet the Cast
5) A Collection of Photographs from the Ancestral Archives
6) Mining Cinema - "A Castle Out of Nothing"
7) A Bit of Magic - Relics from the Coal Camps
8) A Return Home (Land of My Ancestors)
9) Exclusive Sneak Peek
10) The 25th Hour (Kickstarter Wrap Up)

In 1907, the Maple coalmine collapsed and blinded the Lockwood family’s youngest boy and killed the hauling mule. To keep his surviving family warm against the winds of the vacant prairie, Father has no choice but to continue drudging the depths and extract coal from the ruinous mine.

As his pickaxe wails far below earth’s surface, he discovers a rare mineral coveted by a secret society of the town’s miners. When distilled above flame, the mineral releases an intoxicating spirit that gives men brief reprieve from their hellish lives. Father’s induction into the inner circle breeds a consuming desire to exhume the family mine for its riches, as his wife and children witness the destructive bond between people and the land they are captive to.

Inspired by filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer’s maternal ancestors, Black Canaries is a folktale about the coal miner's plight against a land gone rogue.

Two and a half years ago, during my trek to the Midwest with my belongings in tow, I knew that I would make this film.  My time in Iowa would be limited, so if for nothing else, this project would enable me to explore my maternal ancestry, of which I knew little about.  I've spent the last two years connecting with extended family who have welcomed me with open arms (imagine an estranged 29-year-old cousin showing up on your doorstep). We've shared oral histories, visited ancestral lands since reclaimed by nature, and drudged through state archives to track down remnants of my family's past.

My great grandfather Thomas Clarence Chapman, referred to as T.C. or "Chappy" by his fellow laborers, spent his childhood as a coal miner in Albia, Iowa.  T.C. went on to operate the Maple coal mine (an uncanny coincidence given my Vermont roots), a drift mine that birthed a small town which soon dried up along with the coal. He would become the State Mining Inspector and a close ally to John Lewis, a pioneering figure in the organized labor movement. Most native Iowans are unaware that the State had a bustling coal industry at one time, so don't be embarrassed that you didn't think Iowa and coal went hand-in-hand. Unlike the foothills of Appalachia, the largest vein of coal you'd find in Iowa was four feet high, so local miner's wailed their pickaxes on shoulder-and-knee, causing what they describe as "the miner's stoop".

Today, the culmination of my efforts has become Black Canaries.  While this story remains an ode to T.C. and the labors of my mother's family, the project has since transcended my own ancestral ties.  It's the story of rural peoples dependent on the land, a relationship brimming with simultaneous harmony and discord.  It's the story the impoverished, and the collective fears and desires to escape their cyclical existence.  Despite being a period film of a bygone era, Black Canaries is a story of today. 

In all humility, I ask for your help to bring this film to life.  I cannot do it without you.

With Heart,

Jesse Kreitzer
jesse.kreitzer@gmail.com
319-333-1891
vimeo I facebook I newsletter I linkedin

To learn more about Black Canaries, have a look at some of the production materials:

Black Canaries Production Packet
Features film synopsis, crew/advisor biographies, budget overview, timeline, etc.

Black Canaries Reference/Source Material
Character, Location and Visual Key

Black Canaries Soundtrack
A collection of rarities, gospel hymns and folk ballads that inspired the film.

Black Canaries Mailing List
Sign up to receive updates, behind-the-scenes content, videos and more.

Second from right: Thomas Clarence "TC" Chapman (1881 - 1963).  Born in Marion, Iowa.  Filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer's Great Grandfather. 

JESSE KREITZER is a Boston/NE Emmy® award-winning filmmaker from Vermont whose creative interests include rural storytelling, ancestry and acts of compassion.  Kreitzer’s fascination with rural cinema stems from his upbringing in the country, where root structures of fallen trees became mythic kingdoms and laws of nature wove their own spirited tales.  As a child, Kreitzer possessed an inherent bond to image-making, inspired by his grandfather Abraham Kreitzer who devoted a lifetime to 35mm landscape photography. 

From 2001-2003, Kreitzer studied at the Center for Digital Art in Brattleboro, Vermont under the mentorship of video artist Michel Moyse, a frequent collaborator with Brian De Palma, Jonathan Demme and Woody Allen.  In 2007, Kreitzer received his Bachelor’s degree in Visual and Media Arts from Emerson College, magna cum laude, and was the recipient of the Graduate Award for Outstanding Achievement in Photography for his frame-by-frame restoration of an 8mm family film.  He was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship Grant in Film/Video the same year.

Filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer
Filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer

Working in narrative and documentary modes of cinema, Kreitzer’s interest in rural filmmaking derives from a personal desire to reconnect his fractured ties with the land.  Amidst the ever-increasing rapidity of daily life, rural stories have been eclipsed by cinema’s inherent link to the modern world. Kreitzer's films aim to restore deteriorating bonds between people and nature, honor and preserve the ways of our ancestors and champion a collective cultural heritage.

Kreitzer’s short films have screened at the Museum of the Moving Image, IFFBoston, Ashland Independent Film Festival, Little Rock Film Festival, Chicago International Music and Movie Festival, Berkshire Independent Film Festival, and the Crossroads Film Festival, among others.  

Kreitzer is currently an MFA candidate and instructor in the Department of Cinematic Arts at the University of Iowa.  He is also the former Executive Director of the Bijou Film Board, an 43-year-old Iowa City-based nonprofit cinema dedicated to exhibiting independent, documentary and foreign film.

To view some of his previous film work, visit his Vimeo page.

Jesse McLean, Jim Snitzer, Jason Livingston, Jim Snitzer, Steve Choe, Central Productions
Jesse McLean, Jim Snitzer, Jason Livingston, Jim Snitzer, Steve Choe, Central Productions

JESSE MCLEAN is a media artist whose research is motivated by a deep curiosity about human behavior and relationships, and is concerned with both the power and the failure of the mediated experience to bring people together. She has presented her work at museums, galleries, and film festivals worldwide, including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Venice Film Festival, Transmediale, Berlin;  CPH:DOX, Copenhagen, Ann Arbor and Images Festival, amongst others.  She recently received the International Critics’ Prize (FIPRESCI Prize) at Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen.

JIM SNITZER is a photographer and professor who has shown nationally and internationally. Selected exhibitions include: Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Keio University, Tokyo, Japan; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;  He is the recipient of an NEA grant and was an Artist in Residence at Yosemite National Park. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Yosemite Museum, Yosemite National Park, California.

JASON LIVINGSTON is a film and video maker from Upstate New York. His work has been programmed at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, Ann Arbor and more. His interests include political documentary, avant-garde history, indigenous media, left history and eco-poetics.

STEVE CHOE received his PhD at UC Berkeley and teaches courses and researches on German cinema, Korean cinema, and topics in film theory, philosophy, and phenomenology. He has particular interest in Weimar film and culture, and is currently working on a manuscript entitled Afterlives: Film and Philosophy in Early Weimar Germany.

CENTRAL PRODUCTIONS is a 501c3 Cambridge, MA-based nonprofit that has been supporting films and filmmakers operating outside of the mainstream for over a decade.  Through community building, education, production support and fiscal sponsorship, Central Productions champions work that puts story, craft and artistry above commercial success.  For more information, visit centralproductions.org.

In 2013, during his first year enrolled in University of Iowa's graduate film program, Jesse Kreitzer wrote, produced and directed Lomax, a spirited reimagining of folklorist Alan Lomax's 1941 journey across the Mississippi Delta to record an oral history of the Blues. 

The film received an official endorsement from the Association for Cultural Equity, Lomax's founding organization, and has been an official selection at over sixteen top-tier film festivals around the world, including the Raindance Film Festival (London, UK), the Museum of the Moving Image (NYC), IFFBoston, Berkshire International (MA), and many more.

A collection of Jesse Kreitzer's short documentary and narrative films, available for online streaming: 

SOUL OF ASHES (2014)
A personal documentary honoring the life and death of Ruth Ruckert, whose spirit appeared in a photograph captured during the spreading of her ashes.

LOMAX (2014)
In 1941, folklorist Alan Lomax ventured across nameless roads of the Mississippi Delta to record an oral history of the Blues.  He discovered the most beautiful and harrowing songs ever sung. 

NERA LAIKO (NO TIME) (2011)
In the Lithuanian countryside, two neighbors fear an impending storm may change the order of all things.

OT TVARKA (GOOD GRIEF) (2011)
An elderly woman confronts the changing landscape, drawing comparisons to her own impending mortality.

THE RESTORATION PROJECT (2011)
A personal documentary detailing filmmaker Jesse Kreitzer's painstaking frame-by-frame restoration of a decayed 8mm family film.

A selection of Black Canaries production storyboards by illustrator Benjamin Mackey (www.benjaminmackey.com)

Have a look at some of the incentives for supporting Black Canaries, just a small token of my gratitude:

Kreitzer receives hometown marquee top billing at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro, VT
Kreitzer receives hometown marquee top billing at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro, VT
  

In Summer 2014, Jesse Kreitzer embarked on The Black Canaries Film Tour, a grassroots screening series spanning three states and eight screens.

With stops in Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa, the tour featured a collection of rare coal mining footage, Kreitzer's short documentary and narrative films (many of which have never been screened publicly before), and a sneak peek of Black CanariesThe tour was named a "best bet event" by The Boston Globe and garnered some great publicity along the way.  Have a read:

The Black Canaries Sing - Daily Iowan
Driven to Tell Stories - The Commons
Canaries in a Cinematic Coalmine - Seven Days
Marlboro Native Sets Screening - Brattleboro Reformer

Have a look at the tour in pictures here.

The Black Canaries Film Tour was one of the most challenging and rewarding ventures of my creative life. In the true nature of independent filmmaking, none of it would not have been possible without the generosity of so many.  Thank you to all of the hosts, sponsors, patrons, friends and family who supported this humble film tour.  It was a great joy to share my work with you all.

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about Black Canaries.  Please review the pledge tiers in the top-right column and make a 100% tax-deductible pledge today.  No amount is too small or too much.  If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to contact me.  My info is listed below. 

Let's make a film that we can all be proud of.

Sincerely,

Jesse Kreitzer
jesse.kreitzer@gmail.com
319-333-1891
vimeo I facebook I newsletter I linkedin

Risks and challenges

Principal photography for Black Canaries begins November 2014. A rough cut of the film is required by the University of Iowa's Graduate College in December 2014. A final cut is required in May 2015.

Black Canaries' greatest challenge is producing an ambitious 35mm period film on a shoestring budget. The success of Black Canaries is largely dependent upon our ability to raise the necessary funds, which will ensure that we're able to pay for equipment, production insurance, food, housing, transportation, etc.

The story requires sizable production elements, including the construction of the interior and exterior of a coal mine. Acquiring a proper budget will help to ensure that the film is realized to its fullest potential.

Iowa's weather and cast/crew logistics always present challenges, but the intensive preproduction phase will safeguard the production team from unforeseen delays and make for a highly-organized, responsive and adaptable production.

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    BREAKER – Web Thank You • Unreleased storyboard from illustrator Benjamin Mackey • Miner's Circle updates

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    DRILLER - Black Canaries and Lomax digital downloads • Web Thank You • Unreleased storyboard from illustrator Benjamin Mackey • Miner's Circle updates

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    CAGER - Limited-edition Lanterna DVD featuring Lomax, Pearlswig, The Restoration Project, and more • Black Canaries and Lomax digital downloads • Web Thank You • Unreleased storyboard from illustrator Benjamin Mackey • Miner's Circle updates

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    LOADER - Film Credit Thank You • Lanterna DVD or BluRay featuring Lomax, Pearlswig, The Restoration Project, and more • Black Canaries and Lomax digital downloads • Unreleased storyboard from illustrator Benjamin Mackey • Miner's Circle updates

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    DIGGER - Two tickets to film festival screening & reception • Film Credit Special Thank You • Lanterna Film or BluRay featuring Lomax, Pearlswig, The Restoration Project, and more • Black Canaries digital download • Black Canaries 100+ page Digital Storybook • Miner's Circle updates

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    MINER - Advanced WIP Screenings • Two tickets to film festival screening & reception • Film Credit Special Thank You • Limited-edition 100+ page Black Canaries Hardcover Storybook • Lanterna DVD or BluRay featuring Lomax, Pearlswig, The Restoration Project, and more • Black Canaries digital download • Miner's Circle updates

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    MASON - Two All Access Film Festival Passes • Associate Producer Film Credit • Black Canaries Digital Download • Limited Edition Black Canaries Poster or 100+ page Black Canaries Storybook • Lanterna DVD or BluRay featuring Lomax, Pearlswig, The Restoration Project, and more

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    ENGINEER - Four All Access Film Festival Passes • Producer Film Credit • WIP Screenings/Creative Consult • Framed & Signed Black Canaries Poster, Shooting Script & Limited-Edition Hardcover Black Canaries Storybook

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    INSPECTOR - Unlimited All Access Film Festival Passes • Executive Producer Film Credit • WIP Screenings/Creative Consult • Framed & Signed Black Canaries Poster, Shooting Script & Limited-edition hardcover Black Canaries Storybook

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Funding period

- (31 days)