I expect to contribute something on Kickstarter, to advance this project. Perhaps some of you will as well? This is Bernard Avishai’s pitch:
I am writing to ask your help in bringing an important documentary film project to conclusion.
J Street is the most compelling story in contemporary American Jewish life and promises to be among the most transformative regarding American Middle East policy. J Street: The Documentary seeks to tell it fully—and from the inside.
For the past three years, film-makers Ben Avishai and Ken Winikur have enjoyed extraordinary access to J Street internal meetings, national conventions, and local community debates, many fraught with controversy. They’ve also conducted searching interviews with J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami, as well as with such players and observers as Ehud Olmert, Amy Ayalon, Tom Friedman, Lawrence Wilkerson, and Alan Dershowitz. In all, they’ve filmed over 200 hours, at the national office in Washington, D.C., in local chapters around the US and in Israel. You can see a trailer, and a full explanation of the film’s intention, by following this link: http://www.jstreetdoc.com/.
To be clear, this is an independent production, which I have had the privilege of advising closely. Our intention is to air the film as a national television broadcast, in the US and abroad. Ben and Ken have been making hour-long documentary films for fifteen years, producing nationally televised documentaries on subjects as diverse as “The Spear of Christ” and crime boss Whitey Bulger, all broadcast on Investigation Discovery and The History Channel; they collaborated on producing all of the films for the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Illinois. (Yes, Ben is my son.)
Ben and Ken presented J Street: The Documentary to the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam. Israel’s YES docu cable service has provisionally committed to running the final result, while other public television networks, from Norway to Japan, have expressed strong interest in the finished product. Ben and Ken need a rough cut to present to television programs on American and Canadian public TV, HBO, etc., a number of which have also expressed interest.
Which brings me back to this appeal. Obviously, films are expensive propositions. Ben and Ken have had to raise their funds thus far from film foundations and private philanthropists. They now require $35,000 to finish the rough cut. Ultimately, they’ll need an additional $125,000 to finish: buy archival footage, licenses, color correction, sound mix—all the costs of completion, usually subsidized in part by the media outlets that buy the film’s rights.
Ben and Ken have therefore decided to raise their remaining funds through Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/
projects/1922576882/j-street- the-documentary ), a novel web-based site, that allows diverse people to support the film as a kind syndicate, all making relatively small donations: $25, $100, $250—whatever a supporter can afford.
The virtue of Kickstarter for Ben and Ken is obvious: it provides a way to source their remaining funds from widening circles of progressive voices supporters who may not have a great deal of money, but who understand the importance of the J Street story and want the film’s producers to maintain journalistic independence.
The virtue of Kickstarter for supporters is the knowledge that our pledges will not actually be charged to our credit cards (or Paypal accounts) unless Ben and Ken meet their base goal of $35,000. In other words, your contribution will help bring this project to its culmination—or there will be no contribution.
So please click this link to the film’s Kickstarter page now, watch the short trailer, read the treatment—and contribute all you can. Ben and Ken have only one month to raise their $35,000 goal. So do contribute right away. Also, please send this email immediately to anyone you think would be interested in kicking in. And by all means put it on your Facebook page or your blog.
It is our hope to reach the primary goal in a few days. We also hope to raise additional funds to bring this cut to the level of refinement public television and other media outlets require. You can track how well we are doing on the same Kickstarter site where your contribution is made.
My best, and thanks,