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Algren will spotlight the hard-knock life and creative legacy of Chicago writer Nelson Algren, champion of the underdog.

Algren will spotlight the hard-knock life and creative legacy of Chicago writer Nelson Algren, champion of the underdog. Read More
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Funding Unsuccessful

This project's funding goal was not reached on July 11, 2011.

About this project





A Film in 13 Chapters

“…Mr. Algren can hit with both hands and move around and he will kill you if you are not awfully careful…Mr. Algren, boy, are you good.”

                                                                                    Ernest Hemingway 

Algren is the first feature length documentary that spotlights the creative legacy of one of the most underrated American writers of the twentieth century, Nelson Algren;  recipient of the first National Book Award for Man With a Golden Arm (1950), Simone de Beauvior’s “Chicago Bohemian” lover, a Beat writer before the Beats, a forerunner of the Gonzo movement.  Through interviews with internationally known artists, writers, musicians and filmmakers, Algren will reestablish Algren’s huge impact on countless literary and artistic champions, while defining American urban fiction.

Algren is America’s Dostoevsky and Chicago’s Dickens, filling the pages of his novels, short stories and essays with the observations of his city and the world around him.  He lured his naturalistic characters out from the ramshackle tenements, grimy taverns, cluttered police departments and prison cells of the Chicago neighborhoods he visited and often called home. 

Without Algren’s works, modern literature might never have dared to explore so honestly the souls of drunks and gamblers, who are willing to bet their souls and lives for that next swig of whisky.  We might never have cared about prizefighters slugging out their demons to no one’s applause.  Who would have chronicled those miscreants and marginalized masses that inhabit American cities?  His is a body of work that carries a punch that reverberates to this day!

The film will explore how and why Algren has become the under-celebrated voice of America’s voiceless.  It will show how Algren is still an artist whose compassion for humanity, for the underdogs whom he saw as “true” Americans, echoes today.

Algren’s life and work will be explored in thirteen chapters, moving from autobiographical elements through his literary works.  The backdrop for this film will be the hundreds of photographs of Algren, provided to us by Chicago photographers, Art Shay and Stephen Deutch, both of whom were personal friends of Algren.  Newly uncovered audio recordings of Algren will be brought to light.  Lastly, rarely viewed private collages created by Algren, which reflect his life, loves and interests, are part of this film.  Many of his admirers, including William Friedkin, Philip Kaufman, Barry Gifford, Wayne Kramer, John Sayles and others, will be heard discussing the movies, music and art they have created through the spark ignited by their love and understanding of Algren’s work. 

Furthermore, with a great documentary as a foundation, Algren will explore critical Transmedia story elements that serve the core narrative.  We can explore role-playing games that reflect the Algren persona, or view art exhibits depicting American life during specific periods of his writing, integrate fictional renditions of his life to film, or develop webisodic pieces that focus on Algren’s writings that have influenced both media and culture at large.  Our Facebook Page will feature unique elements and will invite the Algren aficionados and newbie’s to participate in the core narrative, as well as give people an opportunity to become “micro producers”, receive credits and win special incentives such as an Art Shay photograph.  As the Algren narrative builds, the intention is to allow these stories to develop into new media properties that then evolve into TV shows, graphic novels or collaborative art shows.  Because Algren will show just how influential Algren the writer was, we believe that we have a mechanism for demonstrating this influence and make these stories into experiences that can be adopted and shared by a wide range of people.

The filmmakers are director/writer Michael Caplan, whose biography is over to the right and lower side of the page.  The producers are Gail H. Sonnenfeld and Nicole Bernardi-Reis. Our transmedia producer is Gunther Sonnenfeld.  We are very excited to share this project with you!

In order to complete Nelson's story, we need your help.  Your donation will enable us to finishing shooting essential interviews and begin post production.  Additional funds will enable us to edit the picture, mix the sound and acquire music rights so that the film can be released by the spring of 2012.  Your generosity will help to preserve the boundless contributions made by Nelson Algren to American culture.

Additional information is available at Facebook and Montrose Pictures:


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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10 USD

    You will have all our thanks, and we will show it by listing you on our website!

    15 backers
  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25 USD

    You'll receive a Digital Download of the film when it is completed. 2012 is the plan.

    46 backers
  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40 USD

    You'll receive a hard-copy DVD of the film when it’s completed along with our appreciation! 2012 is the plan.

    36 backers
  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75 USD

    Show your support in style with your own Nelson Algren limited edition T-shirt! You will receive one T-shirt with your choice of either the Pulp Cover of Algren’s classic Never Comes Morning or one of 3 Art Shay iconic photo-images: Algren with Simone, Algren with his typewriter, or Algren with a punching bag. You will also get a Digital Download of the completed movie.

    16 backers
  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $125 or more About $125 USD

    Wear it. Read it. Watch it. You will get one of our limited edition T-shirts, a signed copy of Art Shay’s book Nelson Algren’s Chicago and a DVD of the completed film.

    17 backers
  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000 USD

    Along with our gratitude you will receive all of the above, along with two tickets to our opening night premiere, and exclusive project updates and glimpses of the project as we edit it, via email.

    0 backers
  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500 USD

    You will receive all of the above, along with an Associate Producer credit on the film, and an invitation to the Chicago premiere after party, along with our deepest thanks!

    1 backer
  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000 USD

    Along with our gratefulness you will receive one of each of the items listed above plus a never released, exclusive, signed Art Shay Photo print of Nelson Algren.

    0 backers

Funding period

- (35 days)