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The amazing true story of Joe Engressia Jr., a blind telephone hacker genius, who legally changed his name to Joybubbles.
The amazing true story of Joe Engressia Jr., a blind telephone hacker genius, who legally changed his name to Joybubbles.
The amazing true story of Joe Engressia Jr., a blind telephone hacker genius, who legally changed his name to Joybubbles.
242 backers pledged $16,564 to help bring this project to life.

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Joybubbles: The Documentary Film

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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.

UPDATE #11: Joybubbles and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood

UPDATE #10: The History of the Telephone

UPDATE #9: It's Joybubbles Time!

UPDATE #8: Whistler Arrested

UPDATE #7: The Pioneer Press Bulletin Board

UPDATE #6: Our Interview with Phamous Phone Phreak Captain Crunch

UPDATE #5: The Whistler Gets Caught

UPDATE #4: Giving Thanks

UPDATE #3: iWoz a Phone Phreak: Our Interview with Steve Wozniak

UPDATE #2: Joybubbles in the Press! + Fun Links!

UPDATE #1: Calling Joybubbles

THE STORY

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:

  • Editing 
  • Licensing Fees for Archival News Footage and Music
  • Original Music Score
  • Graphics
  • 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.

JOYBUBBLES REWARDS

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!

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OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP

You can still help in a BIG way by spreading the word. 

Join us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER

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 joybubblesthemovie@gmail.com

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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.  

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TRAILER CREDITS

Director & Producer - Rachael Morrison

Editor - David Hopper and Rachael Morrison 

Cinematographer - Michael Belcher

Additional Photography -  Hiroshi Hara and Ashley Conner

Sound Recordist - Thomas John Martinez and Jesse Hulcher

Starring - in order of appearance - Jennifer Nelson & Jessica Danielzuk, Gene Collier, Paula HallerPhil 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

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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!

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    THANK YOU. You will receive updates on our progress plus the joy of knowing you helped to bring Joybubbles' amazing life story to the screen!

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    THANK YOU ON SCREEN. You will see your name on the big screen when we thank you in the film credits! You will receive updates on our progress plus the joy of knowing you helped to bring Joybubbles' amazing life story to the screen!

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    JOYBUBBLES POSTCARD. You will receive a special postcard of Joybubbles surrounded by telephones and stuffed animals. The postcard will contain a special note from the Director and will be sent directly to you in the mail. + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    BE A PHONE PHREAK. You will receive your very own SpoofCard, allowing you to fake the caller ID of a telephone call, disguise your voice as male or female, and record calls! Spoofcard is totally private, fun, and legal. + THANK YOU ON SCREEN.

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    A CONVERSATION WITH JOYBUBBLES. You will receive a rare copy of John Fail and Chris Strunk's magazine 'Used To,' featuring their famous 1998 interview with Joybubbles. Read about Joybubbles' obsession with the telephone, eternal childhood, and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood! + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    Pledge $55 or more About $55

    EXPLODING THE PHONE. You will receive your very own copy of this seminal book by phone phreak historian Phil Lapsley. 'Exploding the Phone' details the fascinating history of the phone phreaks (telephone hackers), and includes an entire chapter dedicated to Joe Engressia Jr. (later named Joybubbles). + BE A PHONE PHREAK + POSTCARD + THANK YOU ON SCREEN.

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    Pledge $55 or more About $55

    WIZZYWIG GRAPHIC NOVEL SIGNED. Get your very own signed hardcover copy of this famous out-of-print graphic novel by comic artist Ed Piskor. Wizzywig is the saga of Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, a composite character of many phone phreaks and hackers including Joybubbles. Follow the beautifully illustrated story of Kevin as he attempts to whistle a long distance call, and moves through life from precocious kid to federally wanted fugitive. + BE A PHONE PHREAK + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    CAPTAIN CRUNCH WHISTLE. You will receive one of the toy plastic whistles made famous by phone phreak Captain Crunch. Whistle and listen to the sound of 2600Hz, used by phone phreaks to hack into the telephone system back in the day. + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    JOYBUBBLES CD: MOTIVATIONAL SPEECH. You will receive your very own copy of the first motivational speech given by Joe Engressia, Jr. (later Joybubbles) in Memphis in 1972. Humorous, touching, and informative, Engressia speaks about being blind, his fascination with the phone, and loving life. Special bonus track Q&A. + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    ALPHA ONE LABS MAKERSPACE CLASS PASS. You will receive a pass for 1 class at Alpha One Labs in Brooklyn, NY. This awesome Makerspace offers classes on Robotics, Rhino, Raspberry Pi, Lasercutting, Arduino, and more! You pick! (classes take place in Brooklyn, NY, USA only) + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    BRAÏ JEWELLERY BRACELET. You will receive a unique silver bracelet made by French jewelry designers Claire Naa and Delphine Pariente. This bracelet has a charm that reads "Toucher" in braille, which is French for "Touch." + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    BRAÏ JEWELLERY NECKLACE. You will receive a unique silver necklace made by French jewelry designers Claire Naa and Delphine Pariente. The necklace has a charm that reads "Toucher" in braille, which is French for "Touch." + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    JOYBUBBLES' INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE IN BRAILLE. You will receive an inspirational quote by Joybubbles, typed in braille on handmade paper. This limited edition is made by Joybubbles' close friend Robert Feinstein, who is featured in the film. + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    ALPHA ONE LABS DEDICATED DESK SPACE. Make your awesome projects come to life with 1 month of dedicated desk space at Alpha One Labs, a Makerspace in Brooklyn, NY. Membership grants you 24 hour access to Alpha One Labs + Tool Access + Tech supplies + Member t-shirt + Individual Desk + Swivel Chair. (space is in Brooklyn, NY, USA only) + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    PRIVATE 16MM FILM WORKSHOP. Learn the craft of analog filmmaking on 16mm film! In this private workshop you'll work one on one with the Brooklyn based cinema arts non-profit MONO NO AWARE's Founder/Director Steve Cossman to learn how to shoot your very own film with a Bolex Rex5 camera. You'll learn the ins and outs of the camera, edit on a Steenbeck flatbed editing table, and project your final film on film! Workshop includes 8 hours of instruction, 200 feet of ORWO Black and White reversal 16mm film, lab processing, access to editing equipment, and an HD transfer of your film provided by DiJiFi. (class is offered in Brooklyn, NY and Los Angeles, CA ONLY) + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    JOYBUBBLES MEGA PACK : REWARDS #2, #3, #4, #5, AND #6! You will receive a Thank You on Screen + Joybubbles Postcard + 'Exploding the Phone' Book + Used To Magazine with Joybubbles Interview + Joybubbles Motivational Speech CD + Limited Edition Joybubbles' Inspirational Quote in Braille!

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    RARE SIGNED COPY OF 'EXPLODING THE PHONE.' This incredibly rare copy of the book is signed by author PHIL LAPSLEY, contributor and Apple Computer co-founder STEVE WOZNIAK, and famous phone phreaks BILL FROM NEW YORK, CAPTAIN CRUNCH, DAVID CONDON and MARK BERNAY!!! This seminal book details the fascinating history of the phone phreaks (telephone hackers), and includes an entire chapter dedicated to Joe Engressia, Jr. (later Joybubbles). + THANK YOU ON SCREEN

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    TELEPHONE CALL FROM DIRECTOR. The Director of the film, Rachael Morrison, will personally call you on the day the film is finished in 2015! She will share this momentous occasion, and you can chat away about the story of Joybubbles' life and the process of making this documentary film. + JOYBUBBLES MEGA PACK

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    PRODUCER. You will see your name in big letters on screen as a Producer of this film! We will be eternally grateful to you for your contribution! + JOYBUBBLES MEGA PACK

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    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER. You will see your name in big letters on screen as an Executive Producer of this film AND you will be invited to the U.S. premiere of the film!!! (travel and accommodations not included) We will be eternally grateful to you for your major contribution! + JOYBUBBLES MEGA PACK

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Funding period

- (30 days)