About this project
Thanks to our amazing group of backers, we’ve surpassed our goal with nine days to spare—and you kept giving! You are awesome! Because of your support we’ve gained visibility for the project, and already the attention has resulted in some exciting opportunities to consider. We cannot wait to get working so that we can complete this documentary by next year!
Her name may not ring a bell, but you’ve probably heard of A Raisin in the Sun. Perhaps you know Nina Simone's song “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” which was inspired by Hansberry and her words. Or maybe you are like me, and have been empowered by her story for most of your life.
A groundbreaking artist and a committed activist during her short life (1930–1965), Hansberry has not received the recognition that she deserves. For the past nine years, between other jobs and projects, I have worked to advance a documentary about her life with my husband and producing partner Randall MacLowry and executive producer Chiz Schultz. Last year filmmaker Jamila Wignot officially joined the team.
With your generous support, we can do this. We already have raised $500K from the National Endowment for the Humanities of a $1,160,000 total budget. We do not receive that money until we raise the balance. You can help us get there and bring the story of this complex, trailblazing, and inspirational woman to screens large and small.
LORRAINE HANSBERRY'S STORY. Our documentary takes you on a journey through Lorraine Hansberry’s intense and eventful life to tell a story of one woman who, from a young age, was compelled to fight against injustice of all kinds, ultimately choosing art—the theater specifically—as her chief vehicle. For Hansberry, art contained the “energy which could change things.” Her overnight success transformed the face of American theater and catapulted her into the spotlight.
Her impassioned and courageous voice drew from the worlds she knew—the struggling, yet fiercely determined community in Chicago's South Side, the vibrant and radical street corners of Harlem, and the boundary-defying milieu of bohemian Greenwich Village. While publicly outspoken, Hansberry also was racked with many fears, loneliness, self-doubt, and conflicts about her sexual identity. She struggled to write amid the commotion of sudden celebrity and, like many African-American artists of the period, to juggle the needs of her craft and personal choices, while serving as a civil rights spokesperson.
After witnessing the intense violence against civil rights activists, Hansberry concluded near the end of her life that words and talking may not be enough to change society. She died at age 34, just six years after A Raisin in the Sun’s premiere. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn't attend Hansberry's funeral and sent a condolence message that was read aloud:
PROGRESS SO FAR. We have searched 59 public and private archives and libraries to locate documents and materials to guide our storytelling and help visually present Hansberry’s journey. We also have read new and old histories of the times in which she lived and biographies of the people she knew, sought information on her life and art and analyses of both in books, articles, scholarly journals, magazines, and newspapers and from individuals who knew Hansberry and scholars who study her.
Due to the age of Lorraine Hansberry’s contemporaries, we decided to record interviews with key figures as soon as schedules and funds would allow. I have interviewed 19 individuals about Lorraine Hansberry including: Mamie Hansberry, sister • Shauneille Perry, first-cousin/theater director • Ruby Dee, original A Raisin in the Sun actress • Sidney Poitier, original A Raisin in the Sun actor • Harry Belafonte, entertainer and original A Raisin in the Sun investor • Louis Gossett Jr., original A Raisin in the Sun actor • Glynn Turman, original A Raisin in the Sun actor • Douglas Turner Ward, friend/original A Raisin in the Sun actor/playwright • Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), poet/dramaticist • Lloyd Richards, original A Raisin in the Sun director • Philip Rose, original A Raisin in the Sun producer.
In the meantime, view more interview excerpts that will be released during this Kickstarter campaign.
PRODUCING TEAM. We are filmmakers with experience producing historical and biographical documentaries. Here are some highlights of our credits:
Jamila Wignot, co-director/co-producer. Jamila directed and produced two documentaries for the Peabody Award-winning, six-part PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates. Town Hall, her independent documentary, recently broadcast on the PBS series America Reframed. “Triangle Fire,” which she produced and directed for American Experience, with its beautiful and effective dramatic re-enactments, won her a Peabody Award. Her work as producer and co-director for the series’s “Walt Whitman” documentary resulted in an Emmy nomination.
Tracy Heather Strain, co-director/producer. I produced, wrote and directed two one-hour documentaries for Blackside’s 1999 Peabody Award-winning, six-part PBS series I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts. The films profiled Paul Robeson, Augusta Savage, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, James Baldwin, black ballet dancers in the 1950s and 1960s, and a segment about Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. In 2004 I braved the Canadian Rockies and Yukon Territory to produce and direct “Building the Alaska Highway” for American Experience.
Randall MacLowry, producer/post-production supervisor. Randall, who has won two Writers Guild of America Awards for recent documentaries, also works as an editor as well as producer and director. His most recent producing and directing credits are “The Rise and Fall of Penn Station” and “Silicon Valley,” both for American Experience. Among his many editing credits is “Reconstruction: America’s Second Civil War” for American Experience.
Chiz Schultz, executive producer. Chiz's many credits include serving as one of the original producers of the play To Be Young, Gifted and Black based on Hansberry’s writings, and producer of the first television production of A Raisin in the Sun for PBS's American Playhouse, starring Danny Glover. He was a producer on the Oscar-nominated feature film A Soldier’s Story, horror classic Ganja and Hess, and for American Masters he produced “Paul Robeson: Here I Stand.”
OUR MINIMUM GOAL IS $100,000. These funds will allow me to bring together our team and talented collaborators to start working on the film full-time. If we start this summer, we can finish by next year.
HOW YOUR MONEY WILL HELP. We've gotten this far in the process because Randall and I gradually added over $120,000 of our own money to what we were able to raise. Your money will be used to
- film our final interviews with Hansberry contemporaries and scholars
- convert earlier standard definition interviews to high definition digital files
- start editing an assembly of the film using interviews and archival materials
- plan filming of dramatic re-enactments
KICKSTARTER IS AN ALL OR NOTHING PROPOSITION. If we do not reach our $100,000 minimum goal, we do not receive any money. If we don’t meet our goal, your credit card will not be charged, and this project will stall again. We don’t want that to happen, so please donate! Meeting our goal means your credit card will be charged at the end of the campaign period, we'll get working on the film and send out our exclusive rewards to you!
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) $500,000 production grant. The news of receiving this highly competitive award made our day! However, we need to raise our total completion budget of $1,160,000 before the NEH releases the money to us. We are submitting proposals to potential funding organizations, if instead we can get all the remaining money we need from Kickstarter, we can start working on this film this summer and not stop until it's finished.
Making historical documentaries is expensive. Our budget to secure the rights to materials like archival photographs and film, movie clips, and music alone is $300,000. I am asking Hansberry supporters to embrace what are known as stretch goals. Reaching these goals would send an indisputable message to a skeptical industry that Lorraine Hansberry matters to a lot of us, and serve as a testament to her historical importance and cultural influence. I would like you to take Hansberry’s call to "embrace the stars," her rousing idea of collective possibility to heart, so that we can make this documentary a reality together!
Stretch Goal #1 - $212,000: There are not enough visuals to tell Hansberry’s story with just archival photographs, film and documents. If we meet Stretch Goal #1, we can film our re-enactments (this includes actors, crew, camera and lighting gear, wardrobe, props, location fees, insurance and travel expenses), and continue the editing process.
Stretch Goal #2 - $324,000: This will allow us to move our project to rough cut edit and start work on photo animation and design elements. At this stage advisors, project collaborators and consultants screen the film to provide feedback.
Stretch Goal #3 - $436,000: This goal supports any final pick-up shooting, completing editing, continuing graphics animation, and composing the musical score.
Stretch Goal #4 - $548,000: This stretch goal allows us to complete the soundtrack, hire a narrator, record narration, and hire a sound designer/mixer to add sound effects and combine all the sound elements in the final film.
Stretch Goal #5 - $660,000: This final goal covers final photo animation, archival masters, online and color correction sessions, and the legal and business affairs required to finish.
EXCLUSIVE REWARDS. In addition to receiving a tax-donation, you can elect to receive rewards for backing our documentary. You can see some of the rewards we already have begun creating below. These designs are not final, but we expect them to look very much like what you see.
We are particularly excited about the rewards made by the teen artists at the Boston-based Artists for Humanity (AFH). With its mission of bridging economic, racial and social divisions by providing under-resourced youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in the arts, AFH is an organization we think Lorraine Hansberry would have loved.
Stickers & Social Media Badges. One sheet of four stickers will be mailed with your donation acknowledgment letter. Put them on your stuff, and post your badges on your social media sites to show everyone you’re a backer and help spread the word!
Hansberry at Home Painting Digital Mini-Poster & Full-Size Poster. An exclusive poster featuring Brooklyn-based artist Lauren Kaelin’s painting inspired by a David Mose Attie photograph of Lorraine Hansberry. Mini-poster PDF is 8.5” x11” and the full-size printed poster is 24” x36”. This painting was commissioned by project supporter VitaminW.
Hansberry at Home Photo Full-Size Poster. Another exclusive 24” x 36” poster. This time it's a high-resolution reproduction of David Mose Attie’s photograph of Lorraine Hansberry taken for a Vogue magazine assignment.
Hansberry Magnet. 2-1/4” photo of Lorraine for your fridge, work space or any other "magnetic" place.
Hansberry Mini-Journal. What better way to celebrate Lorraine Hansberry than to write! This pocket friendly 3.5” x 5” lined 32-page journal comes with a unique screen-printed cover depicting all things Hansberry.
Hansberry Doc T-Shirt. This t-shirt features a screenprinted image of Lorraine Hansberry created by an Artists for Humanity student in 1998. Students at the AFH Screen Printing Studio will craft this tee. This lightweight, heather grey v-neck shirt is 90% ring spun cotton/10% polyester.
Hansberry Wall Tile.This black and white portrait tile would be an inspiration in your room or office wall. The image is a reproduction of portrait painted by an Artists for Humanity student in 1998 as part of the outreach for Blackside's six-part PBS series I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts. These 6" x 6" tiles finished with a high gloss resin are made by Artist for Humanity student artists. The signature and photo of the student who made your tile will appear on the back.
Collage Wall Tiles. Exclusive pieces made by the young and gifted artists of Artists for Humanity at our request! Four separate 6”x 6" tiles depict a different aspect of Lorraine Hansberry’s life—Chicago’s South Side, Harlem, Greenwich Village, and A Raisin in the Sun. The signature and photo of the student who made yours will appear on the back. A South Side tile is shown below.
Signed 1959 A Raisin in the Sun Memorabilia. Sidney Poitier, Louis Gossett Jr. and Glynn Turman autographed original play programs in May 2014.
The Film Posse American Experience DVD Three-Set. This set includes documentaries made by Tracy Heather Strain & Randall MacLowry.
Hansberry Team American Experience DVD Five-Set. This collection of DVDs includes documentaries made by Jamila Wignot and Tracy Heather Strain & Randall MacLowry.
Hansberry Documentary Digital Downloads and DVDs. These rewards will be available near the time of the documentary's television broadcast.
If you want more of your contribution to benefit the project, select the "no reward" option when you pledge.
Thank you for your consideration.
Risks and challenges
Filmmaking is always a challenging and demanding undertaking. Our team has a strong, award-winning track record and is experienced in handling similarly-sized, complex historical documentaries for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and other series. In terms of risks, I have organized our processes in our offices and out on location to be efficient but thorough. We have completed and delivered all of our commissioned PBS documentaries on-time and on-budget, and we expect to do the same for this independent project.
The major challenge for me is to raise the money we need in spring 2014 to hire the collaborators and vendors we've identified and keep them on the project until the documentary is completed. You can help me meet this challenge by supporting the project financially with your donations, and by actively sharing this campaign with your friends, colleagues, family, clubs and organizations. Thanks again.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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