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A progressive movement is emerging in one Chicago neighborhood — but Illinois' establishment isn't going down without a fight.
A progressive movement is emerging in one Chicago neighborhood — but Illinois' establishment isn't going down without a fight.
194 backers pledged $15,700 to help bring this project to life.
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The 39th: One community against Chicago’s political machine

$15,700

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A short documentary film exploring the power of political participation at its most basic level.

Note: This film project is not affiliated with any campaign or candidate, and donations to the film will not be used to support the election of any candidate for public office.

We've hit $10,000! But we're reaching for our stretch goal now, so we can bring The 39th to more viewers and make it the best film it can be.

CHICAGO: December 2014. In one of the coldest, most brutal Chicago winters on record, 26-year-old Will Guzzardi is trudging from door to door, hour after hour, to introduce himself to the residents of Illinois' 39th District, a Latino majority area on Chicago's northwest side — and to ask for their vote in the upcoming Democratic primary for the Illinois House.

Illinois is notorious for being one of the most mismanaged states in the union: Four of the state's last seven governors have ended up in jail. The state continues to lurch from one budget crisis to another — in fact, we’re in the midst of one right now. Schools are underfunded, public welfare organizations can't pay their bills, and nothing seems to get done in Springfield. And the Chicago political machine has long had an iron grip on state politics, strong-arming legislators into falling in line, placing friends and family in positions of power, and failing time and again to fix the state's financial crisis.

Enter Will Guzzardi. He first ran for this seat in 2012 at the age of 24, and lost by just 125 votes. And in 2014, he wanted a rematch. Will was pushing for a more progressive agenda — and ultimately, to inspire more young progressives like himself to take on the establishment.

As residents of the 39th district and political junkies, we were really excited to tell the story of a local, grassroots campaign — and the neighborhood was buzzing with excitement about the race. 

But no one could have expected how far Illinois' establishment would go to hold on to power, as Will’s own party ran an unprecedented smear campaign to keep him out of office — and we were right there to capture it. The 39th tells the personal story of a young politician trying to hold on to his integrity in the face of this harsh reality — and of what can happen when a neighborhood bands together to take back the political process.

This story is personal for us.

We first became friends and colleagues working together on the Obama campaign in 2012 - where we lived and breathed the critical importance of engaging voters one on one. We wanted to show what makes door to door campaigns special — building relationships and respect with everyday people, and never taking their stories or their struggles for granted.

We live in Logan Square, in the 39th District. This race was about who would represent us in Springfield. And so we cared a lot about capturing this unique story, and its potential for building a culture of participation and ownership of Illinois' political process.

Laura Wilson, Director, is a documentary filmmaker and impact producer with Kindling Group in Chicago. She studied international relations, but her hometown of Chicago was always calling — and she moved back in 2012 to write emails for President Obama's re-election campaign. She loves nothing more than bringing online organizing and compelling storytelling together to inspire change.

Adam Wisneski, Director of Photography and Producer, is the co-founder and Creative Director of Hardpin Media. As the the Obama-Biden campaign's cinematographer, Adam spent 2012 by President Obama’s side. Backstage before a rally, every stop at an Ohio diner, every jump shot the President took, Adam was there to catch the revealing and raw moments that would help re-elect the President.

Josh Kanipe, Editor, is a six time Telly award winning editor and producer with 15 years of experience crafting video projects for clients diverse as major motion picture studios to national political campaigns to local non-profit organizations — including this and this for Obama 2012.

And all photo credits to the amazing, talented Chris Dilts.

Obama 2012 digital staffers
Obama 2012 digital staffers

This story is personal for Will, too. As the race unfolded, it became one of the dirtiest in Illinois' recent memory. Will, who is young and has big hopes for moving progressive change forward, has to grapple with extremely personal, vitriolic attacks against his character — and the reality of what it might be like to work within this same system tearing him down. Over 45 attack ads were mailed out to the district in just a few weeks — sent by his own party. So, he has a steep hill to climb in Springfield — and it remains to be seen how effective an outsider progressive can actually be in Illinois' current political climate.

Just a few of the ads run during the campaign:

 This is a story about a young person, and our state at large, grappling with tough political realities. But we hope that the story of one small campaign can help motivate and inspire more people to get involved, get registered, vote, and volunteer — because that is first and foremost where change of any kind can begin.

This is a passion project for us, and to date we've incurred very few costs! It helped that we could just walk down the block to film with our subject. But now that we're sprinting to finish the film, we know there are some hard costs coming up we need to plan for. We've set our goal at $10,000, with a stretch goal of $15,000, so that we can pay for: 

  • Music Licensing ~ $3000 
  • Sound mix ~ $2000 
  • Color correction ~ $1500
  • Insurance ~ $2500 
  • Additional Production/Post-Production ~ $500 and beyond!
The 39th is a co-production between Hardpin Media and Kindling Group, a 501(c)(3) organization. A portion of your donation may be tax deductible.

We have some really fun rewards to offer all of you political junkies out there! 

  • For $25 or more you'll receive a personal link to stream the final film, so you can see the fruits of your donation firsthand! 
  • You can pledge for buttons, bumper stickers, and a film poster, courtesy of our very talented pal Dan Carson.
  • For $75 or more you'll receive a free VIP ticket to our Chicago premiere screening!
  • For higher dollar donors, we've got some super cool stuff — including the chance to receive a "produced by" credit on the film

And our favorite reward, for $100 or more, you'll receive a personalized mailer, modeled off of the attack ads sent during The 39th's filming, lovingly handcrafted by Laura and Adam. Here's an example of what you may find in your mailbox ... we hope you enjoy our hatchet photoshop job!

The Original:

What could be waiting in your mailbox:

Thanks so much for your support for our team, our project, and important stories shedding light on the state of politics in the Land of Lincoln.

Risks and challenges

Thankfully, we've already shot nearly all of the film and have overcome a lot of obstacles in doing so. Moving forward, some challenges will be time (as all of the collaborators are committed to other day jobs) and securing distribution. We're confident that the film will do well on the festival circuit, and will try for a TV broadcast once the film has premiered.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    YOU'RE A VOTER!
    Thanks for getting out there. We'll add your name to the public record on our website's Thank You wall!

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    YOU'RE A VOLUNTEER!
    + Be the first to see The 39th - we'll send you a link to stream the film when it premieres!

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    52 backers
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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    YOU'RE A CANVASSER!
    All that + We'll send you a special pack of 39th-themed buttons to show off your support.

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    YOU'RE A COMMUNITY ACTIVIST!
    All that + Your name will appear in "special thanks" in the film's credits.

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    45 backers
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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    YOU'RE A POLLWATCHER!
    All that + A free VIP ticket to see The 39th's Chicago premiere!

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    11 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    YOU'RE A ROBOCALL!
    All that + You'll receive your very own, personalized "attack ad" in your mailbox, lovingly hand-crafted by Adam and Laura

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    26 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    YOU'RE A CANVASS CAPTAIN!
    All that + We'll throw in a 39th t-shirt and bumper sticker

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    8 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    YOU'RE A CAMPAIGN INTERN!
    All that + A limited edition 39th DVD, including outtakes and behind the scenes footage.

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    11 backers
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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    YOU'RE A POLITICAL OPERATIVE!
    All that + A specially designed, limited edition 39th film poster

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    2 backers
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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    YOU'RE A CANDIDATE!
    All that + A "produced by" credit on the film!

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    2 backers
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Funding period

- (30 days)