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The great untold story of American comedy - when the birth of modern improvisational theater met the tumult of the 1960's.

The Film: A feature length documentary that chronicles The Committee, a San Francisco-based improvisational theater company that took America by storm in the 1960’s. The Committee was a launching pad for many successful careers and their output led to multiple studio albums, a Broadway run, regular appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, and a full decade of live political satire. Our film will feature interviews by cast-members, other performers from the time, and rare archival footage, giving viewers a hilarious and informative look at a theater, a city, and an era that forever transformed American culture.

Barbara Bosson at The Committee Theater, 622 Broadway, SF.
Barbara Bosson at The Committee Theater, 622 Broadway, SF.

Why This Film Matters: When we look back on the course of modern comedy, much of the story of how we got where we are is the story of improvisation. Most of the casts & writers of SNL, 30 Rock, and most of our favorite comedy shows and movies are full of improvisors who cut their teeth in the tradition that The Committee helped form. In their early use of drug humor, the portrayal of openly gay characters on stage, and their relentless pursuit of political & social satire, The Committee both pushed boundaries and broke new ground for comedians who came after as well as birthing the forms that many of today's improvisors train in.

As we continue to unpack the meaning and influence of the 1960's, the story of The Committee offers us a new take on that decade, and an examination of the birth of unfettered topical and political commentary through comedy. From the Free Speech movement, to Civil Rights and Vietnam, to the heady drug humor & music scene of the late sixties and early seventies, the comedy of The Committee provided a much needed antidote to the chaos of the age.

Mario Savio in Free Speech Movement protest at UC Berkeley
Mario Savio in Free Speech Movement protest at UC Berkeley

Why This Film Matters (for improv, comedy and theater nerds): The Committee is the "missing link" in the history of improvisational theater, whose work was a crucial evolutionary step in a lineage that includes The Compass, The Second City, The Groundlings, iO, and The Upright Citizens Brigade. The ubiquitous longform improv structure known as ‘Harold’ was born in Committee workshops. Their performances, like their Second City siblings, consisted mostly of sketches that were developed out of improvisation, and reflected the most turbulent decade in recent American history. Our documentary will also include an in-depth look at the female performers of The Committee, who experienced the stage and limelight before, during, and after the rise of the women's movement.

The story of The Committee is one of the last untold narratives in the history of modern American humor. While some light has been shed through the work of Jeffrey Sweet, Jeff Griggs, Tony Hendra, and Kim "Howard" Johnson, our documentary will focus entirely on The Committee and construct a never-before seen picture of this foundational theater company.

What We Have Done So Far: This documentary film project really began in 2010, when The San Francisco Improv Festival hosted a panel discussion on The Committee, with Kim "Howard" Johnson moderating a panel with Committee founder Alan Myerson and cast members Larry Hankin, Carl Gottlieb, Allaudin Mathieu, and Jim Cranna. In 2011 the festival honored Committee cast member Jim Cranna for his outstanding contribution to the improv community. In 2012 the festival produced Larry Hankin's one-man show Street Stories at The Marsh in San Francisco and co-produced an improv workshop for women with Committee cast member Julie Payne. This Spring, the festival convened the cast, crew and friends of The Committee for a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of their founding. At this celebration, an early version of our trailer was enthusiastically received. Through the relationships that we’ve cultivated, we have already been able to get some significant interviews in the can with Committee members. We are so grateful to have their full support.

Why We Need You: We have a lot of work to do and need your help. To comprehensively document the story of this pioneering collective, we will strive to interview every living cast member, in addition to producers, crew, students and influential friends and fans. We want to tell the whole story. This company was active in the '60s, so it's been 40 years since they closed up shop and some of the folks that we want to get on film are well into their '90s. We need to get these interviews done now! 

With your help we can pay for basic production costs: flights, hotels, and the expense of a professional crew for each shoot. We hope to significantly exceed our Kickstarter goal to make all this happen. Once we have all of our interview subjects on film, we'll look to other funding sources in order to secure the rights for other material like television appearances, studio recordings, photos, etc. We expect to have this film completed in time for the 2015 festival season.

The Kickstarter goal that we have set is conservative and we believe we can exceed it with your support. If we get to 150% of goal, we can extend our interviews beyond the immediate cast & crew to deepen the story. If we get to 250% of goal, we can hire a grant writer for the next phase of the project, cover the cost of additional production days in LA, Chicago, and Austin, and start to pay for the rights to include essential copyrighted materials. 

And if you were wondering, we've named all the contribution levels after scenes, elements, and some classic lines from The Committee. We hope you enjoy what we have for you, and we're looking forward to having you along on this journey...!

Be a part of telling the whole story of American comedy by bringing The Committee to life again.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

We have access to the cast of The Committee and they are excited about this project, but we need to get our interviews done immediately in order to tell their story as comprehensively as possible.

After basic production is completed, we need to raise additional funds, perhaps the bulk of our budget, to secure rights to necessary footage, ranging from television appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, The Tonight Show, The Flip Wilson Show, Music Scene, and The Midnight Special, film appearances in A Session With The Committee, Billy Jack, Funnyman, and Steelyard Blues, audio recordings on The Committee, and The Wide World of War. We also will need additional rights to contextual footage, and music.

We are confident we can proceed expeditiously with interviews. If we exceed our Kickstarter goal, we can employ a grant writer to add to existing fundraising resources and secure additional financing. We are confident that there is a huge market and interest in the story of The Committee.

Our production team is also uniquely positioned to tell this story. Together we have 13 years experience running a successful media production business, over ten years experience producing an improv festival, and personal connections with every major improvisational theater in the country.

We have the improv knowledge, production resources, and relationships in place to tell this story, and the time is now. Come join us.

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- (45 days)