About this project
ABOUT THE FILM
JOYBUBBLES is a feature length documentary film about Joe Engressia, Jr. (1949-2007), a blind telephone hacker, who legally changed his name to Joybubbles after declaring himself "the age of five forever."
JOYBUBBLES celebrates the bizarre, imaginative, and wonderfully eccentric life of Joybubbles, and the pioneering contributions he made to the history and tradition of technology hacking.
JOYBUBBLES features exclusive interviews, rare archival footage, never-before-heard audio recordings, newspaper articles, and photographs.
Joe Engressia, Jr. was born blind in 1949 in Richmond, Virginia. At an early age, he developed an interest in the communicative power of the telephone. Gifted with perfect pitch, he realized that if he whistled the exact tone of 2600Hz into the telephone receiver, he could make free phone calls and explore the inner workings of the telephone network. His incredible skill for hacking the network eventually awarded him the nickname "The Whistler," and he became famous among a group of underground telephone hackers who called themselves phone phreaks. The phone phreaks were mainly active in the 1960s and 1970s, when the telephone network was based on a system of tones.
The phone phreaks were the first real technology hackers, and Joe Engressia, Jr. was at the center of their network. In 1968, he got in trouble for making free long distance telephone calls for fellow students at the University of South Florida. The incident gained national media attention and exposed the vulnerability of the telephone system. In 1971, Engressia was arrested for conducting "phone pranks" in Memphis, Tennessee, and was let go with a suspended sentence. A few months later, Engressia was featured in an Esquire Magazine article, "Secrets of the Little Blue Box," by Ron Rosenbaum. The article detailed the exploits of the phone phreaks and influenced future innovators, like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who credits Engressia as being one of his all-time heroes.
In 1988, at the biological age of thirty-nine, Engressia declared himself the age of five forever. His decision was largely based on a childhood incident where he was sexually abused by a nun at a school for the blind. He also felt his mother had robbed him of his childhood, by focusing on his high I.Q. and activities centered on learning, not playing. Three years after "turning five" he legally changed his name to Joybubbles, created The Church of Eternal Childhood, and surrounded himself with stuffed animals and a cast of imaginary friends in his Minneapolis apartment. Joybubbles loved reading children's books and listening to episodes of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. In 1998, he traveled to Pittsburgh for a month, where he listened to hundreds of hours of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood at the University of Pittsburgh Library. The trip was financed with a job he took smelling pig manure for scientific research.
This is a story about overcoming loneliness and disability through the telephone lines. The telephone provided Joybubbles with a means of escape, and a way to travel around the world without having to leave the safety of his home. Friends, communities of like-minded people, and an audience to which he could broadcast his thoughts, were always just a phone call away. During the last thirteen years of his life, before passing away from congestive heart failure in the summer of 2007, Joybubbles hosted a radio program called 'Stories and Stuff,' on an answering machine service. He updated the show weekly, and made the recording available to anyone who called the number +1 206-FEELING. Joybubbles loved to tell stories about his imaginary friends, telephones, eternal childhood, and sensual pleasures he enjoyed, like the smell of chlorinated swimming pools, eating gooey angel food cake, and listening to the sound of venetian blinds fluttering in the wind.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
OUR GOAL IS TO FINISH THE FILM IN 2015!
We have all of the ingredients we need. Now we need your help to raise money for post-production costs. These costs include:
- Licensing Fees for Archival News Footage and Music
- Original Music Score
- Color Correction + Audio Mix
- Audio Description + Closed Captioning
Once the film is completed in 2015 we will begin the process of applying to film festivals, with the ultimate goal of getting the film distributed worldwide.
WHAT WE HAVE
Since 2012, we have been traveling around the United States conducting interviews with Joybubbles' friends, historians, librarians, journalists, telephone experts, etc. in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Northern California, New York City, Pittsburgh, and Tucson.
We have also amassed a HUGE collection of archival materials - television news programs featuring Joe Engressia, Jr. in the 1960s and 1970s, and television news programs featuring Joybubbles in the 1990s, along with other archival footage, 100s of hours of audio of Joybubbles narrating his life story and telling stories, family photographs, newspaper articles, documents related to his name change, his old telephones, etc.
We are offering some AMAZING REWARDS in exchange for your donation!
Don't miss out on this special opportunity to get some rare Joybubbles and phone phreak items!
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
You can still help in a BIG way by spreading the word.
Post this KICKSTARTER PAGE on social media, and share with your friends, family, and colleagues.
If you would prefer to MAKE A TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION you can do so through our fiscal sponsor, San Francisco Film Society. Visit our SFFS Page to make a donation by credit card or check.
DID YOU KNOW JOE ENGRESSIA JR., LATER JOYBUBBLES? Do you have recordings, photographs, or other items to share? If so, we would love hear from you! Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE JOYBUBBLES TEAM
Director/Producer Rachael Morrison is a documentary filmmaker and archivist. Her artwork, writing, and curatorial projects have been featured in New York Magazine, Art das Kunstmagazin, Bookforum, the MoMA/PS1 Blog, Paris-LA Magazine, META Magazine, and on the BBC1. She was formerly a Librarian at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where she curated exhibitions of artists' books and magazines. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
Editor David Hopper has cut several award winning projects across many genres including music videos, documentaries, features, shorts and webisodes. His most recent credits include the cult classic, 'God Bless America' written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival; the SXSW award winning film, 'Kelly and Cal' starring Juliette Lewis and Johnny Weston; and 'In Between Songs,' a documentary about the plight of the Aboriginals narrated by Oscar Nominee James Cromwell. David lives in Santa Monica, CA with his wife and their two daughters and an ever-growing menagerie of animals.
Cinematographer Michael Belcher studied experimental film at Ithaca College. He has travelled the world shooting features, shorts, commercials, and music videos, with collaborators like Bob Dylan, Versace, Funny or Die, and Busta Rhymes. Awards include TIME Magazine's Best Music Video of 2013, and the MTV Best Music Video of 2013 Woodie Award.
Audio Engineer Thomas John Martinez is a musician, artist, and programmer. He has performed and exhibited work at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Shanghai Biennial 2012, Harvestworks, and Microscope Gallery.
Director & Producer - Rachael Morrison
Editor - David Hopper and Rachael Morrison
Cinematographer - Michael Belcher
Starring - in order of appearance - Jennifer Nelson & Jessica Danielzuk, Gene Collier, Paula Haller, Phil Lapsley, Steven Gibb, Steve Wozniak, Cynthia Bend, Robert Feinstein, Kath Hammerseng, Larry Jacobson, Elizabeth Mahoney, and Patricia Graham
Music - "Telephone Travel" by Bradien
"She's Engaged" by Marcos D'Cruze and Christian Henson
"Gamma Ray 2" by Spaceships are Cool
A Very Special Thank You to Jesse Hulcher
CONNECT WITH US
Risks and challenges
We are overjoyed that you have taken an interest in this film!
We have spent 4 solid years working on this project - conducting research, and talking to individuals whose lives have been touched by Joe Engressia Jr., later Joybubbles. We feel incredibly passionate about the film and are dedicated to see it through to completion.
The most common challenge we might face is that additional funding will be needed to complete the film. This can happen for many reasons, including the need to shoot additional footage, delays in the editing process, and the high cost of licensing archival footage and music.
However, we have put together a great team to help us with this process and we feel confident that the film will be completed soon.
It’s going to be an amazing film and we can't wait for you to see it!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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