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The Winding Stream - The Carter & Cash music documentary's video poster

This feature-length documentary is the epic story of the dynasty at the heart of American roots music - The Carter and Cash families. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on December 30, 2010.

This feature-length documentary is the epic story of the dynasty at the heart of American roots music - The Carter and Cash families.

About this project

We've met our goal but still hope to raise funds for some of the other elements of the project! Editing, sound design, music and footage rights, animation, graphics and titles all still need to be paid for. With your help we can make an even bigger dent in this film than we'd imagined! And your donation is tax deductible (minus the value of your reward). Thanks!


My name is Beth Harrington, and I've been a documentary filmmaker for more than 30 years. I'm also a former musician - a singer in the band Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers. So there you have it, my two loves - music and documentary film.

A few years ago, I successfully combined these loves on a film called "Welcome to the Club - The Woman of Rockabilly." It was really well-received, so much so that it got nominated for a Grammy Award. Needless to say, this encouraged me to move ahead on my next music documentary, "The Winding Stream" which has the subtitle "The Carters, the Cashes and the Course of Country Music."

I'd been aware of the Original Carter Family - the biggest "old-timey" music act of their day - and their musical legacy for a long time. But working on "Welcome to the Club" and meeting Rosanne Cash (who narrated that film) made me think it was time to do a film about this music dynasty that stretched from the 1920s to the present. I wanted to explore how the Carters practically "invented" country music and how legions of musicians - from Woody Guthrie to Elvis to Johnny Cash to Joan Baez to Jeff Tweedy, to name a few - all feel a debt of gratitude to them. And, as a result, how the tradition instituted by the Original Carters has carried on in their family and in the culture at large.

And I realized that, even though small parts of this family's epic story had been told before, no one had presented this big picture. No one had shown the connection to the Carter Sisters, to Johnny Cash, to the folk movement and to the Americana movement. And no one had told the story using both original recordings AND contemporary roots music artists performing (and discussing) the music.

I started shooting "The Winding Stream" in 2003 and, with Rosanne Cash's help, one of the first interviews I did was with her dad, Johnny Cash. Sadly, it was to be one of his last interviews; he passed away only three weeks after we'd spoken with him. This forced the realization that I needed to step up production because we were losing some of the key players in this story. I felt a real urgency to get these interviews on tape. I spent a lot of my own money doing so. And I'm very glad I did. But I knew I would need more.

Though I've raised some money in recent years, not a lot of funding from major sources has been forthcoming for this project. Part of the reason is that traditional film funding is drying up or changing radically. In the past, it was common to receive distribution deals or pre-sales to get a film like this funded. Granting organizations are hard hit and are giving out fewer and fewer grants. Broadcasters are interested but say, "We'd love to see it when it's done" assuming that this film can be completed with just a digital camera and Final Cut Pro (not taking into account the travel expenses and enormous archival footage and music costs attached to a film like this). In truth, a film like this should cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just to get through production and post will cost $150,000 and that doesn't include the rights I mentioned.

But partly the sticking point is "audience." Youth audiences are very important to media companies. And I've heard from television programmers and media companies that they think young people don't care about the Carters and Johnny Cash. They think no one wants to hear a story about country music. But when I go to roots music festivals and gigs, I see young musicians and music lovers who have been profoundly influenced by this music. Now I am convinced there is a lot of interest for this film. Not just old-school folkies and country fans but a broad base of support among younger roots music followers. I think the people calling the shots are wrong about the audience. They really seem to be underestimating how much grassroots support there is for the music of the Carter Family and Johnny Cash -- support that cuts across generations.

So that's why I came to Kickstarter. I think the support for this film is here.

"The Winding Stream" - which is in rough cut stage - already has some heavyweights in it. Besides Rosanne and Johnny Cash, it features people like Americana and country artists like Jim Lauderdale, Joe Ely, John Prine, Mike Seeger, George Jones, Sheryl Crow, Murry Hammond of the Old 97s, Randy Scruggs, John Doe, and Jay Farrar from Son Volt. But we have more to shoot. Groups like The Carolina Chocolate Drops (and some other possible participants I can't yet announce) have agreed to perform in the film. But I need to raise the money to get their interviews and performances "in the can." With the money I raise here I can do that.

Of course, if we raise more, that would be awesome. It could be applied to post-production on the film (editing, animation, etc.). And so you know, once the film is done, I can assure you it will have widespread distribution. Because of my long track record in filmmaking (all of my films have been on television and at numerous festivals), I'm confident that "The Winding Stream" will find a home on national and international television as well as receive proper film festival and DVD distribution.

I've tried every which way to get this film funded and I'll persevere because I've never abandoned a film - ever. Every film I've said I was making I've completed (see my website: Take this as proof of my commitment to seeing this through. Your donation will be well spent.

I'm hoping you'll tell your friends about this project, too. Post it on your Facebook page, your blog or your website. Help me get the word out to all of the Carter and Cash fans out there. Share our website with others ( Ask them to donate or at least follow this project here on Kickstarter. I'll be posting updates regularly including clips (Johnny Cash footage and more) and the latest news about the film.

So that's my pitch. I hope you'll support the project. I'd be deeply grateful. Your donation (minus the cost of your reward) is tax deductible. And it doesn't have to be a lot! If even a small fraction of the Carter and Cash fans out there gave just $10, we'd be golden. So give if you can.

Consider it a signal to "the powers that be" that you care about America's roots music heritage.

That'll surprise 'em. And thanks!


Every bit helps and I am grateful for your interest in the project in any case! Please spread the word!

PLEASE NOTE: The Winding Stream is being made in conjunction with a non-profit organization, so all donations are tax deductible (less the value of the reward you receive!)


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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    31 backers

    A Winding Stream souvenir guitar pick.

  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    32 backers

    A Winding Stream postcard and a souvenir guitar pick.

  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    26 backers

    A Winding Stream grocery tote bag, postcard and guitar pick.

  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    32 backers

    All of the above plus a DVD copy of Beth Harrington's "Welcome to the Club - The Women of Rockabilly."

  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    0 backers

    All of the above plus a CD copy of "The Carter Family III."

  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    1 backer

    All of the above plus a copy of Rosanne Cash's new book, "Composed."

  • You selected
    Pledge $1,500 or more

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    All of the above plus the entire 287-song Carter Family boxed set, "In the Shadow of Clinch Mountain."

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    Pledge $5,000 or more

    0 backers

    All of the above plus two tickets to the film's premiere and afterparty [NOTE: Travel and accommodations not included].

Funding period

- (45 days)