The $80,000 goal for the feature documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin is now totally achieved, and there are still some 30 days before the campaign ends. For Arwen Curry this is “something truly phenomenal” and a sign of the interest in the documentary started in 2009.
Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin is a feature documentary that explores the remarkable life and legacy of the groundbreaking author. For the past seven years, says Arwen Curry “I’ve had the tremendous honor of filming dozens of hours with Ms. Le Guin, now 86.” On the Summer of 2015 the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin a prestigious production grant, which represents “an enormous push towards”, but, as Arwin Curry says, there’s a catch: “The NEH won’t release those funds until the entire production budget has been raised.” That’s when the filmmaker decided to use Kickstarter to raise $80,000. With the film’s research phase, most interviews, photographs and other materials mostly complete, the money raised will support paying an editor, licensing archival material, closed captioning for the hearing impaired and bankrolling the film’s musical score.
Well, apparently all that is covered now, in practically a couple of days, meaning that Kickstarter still works for feature documentaries, when the general public feels the subject is interesting. Apparently, Ursula K. Le Guin goes within the category, as a little more than 1,200 persons funded the project in two days. And the campaign is just starting, really, so we can expect more funding for the project. It will be interesting to see the numbers a month from now.
For Arwin Curry it is a dream come true. The filmmaker remembers that “as a kid I was blessed with parents who loved books, and especially lucky that Ursula K. Le Guin was one of the names on the shelf. I spent hours immersed in the legendary author’s fantastical worlds. Le Guin’s work remained important to me as I grew up into a documentary filmmaker who was challenged, in my work, to explore the other worlds we brush past every day. I kept coming back to the story of that great writer-magician who first set me on the path.”
I fully understand her passion, because, and that’s what attracted me on the Kickstarter campaign, I am familiar with the writer’s name. My youth, since I discovered science-fiction, was full with multiple authors: Heinlein, Simak, Clark, Bradbury, Pohl, Sturgeon, Dick, Anderson, McCaffrey, Asimov, Zelazny and others. Ursula K. Le Guin made part of that list, with titles as Planet of Exile or The Left Hand of Darkness. In the 1970’s I read the available Earthsea series books, along with titles as The Word for World is Forest or The Eye of the Heron.
I read Le Guin in Portuguese, French and Danish, as I moved around different places in Europe. From 1982 onwards my wife discovered my collection of books and became an avid SF reader, while we kept buying some more books. Ursula K. Le Guin books were/are amongst her favorites. My two sons, born in the early 1990’s, also read Le Guin, through the Earthsea series, published in Portugal in 2000 in a special edition for young people. We still have – some – my original books and those from the kids, so, it was with some emotion I found (we found) that a documentary about the author is about to become a reality.
In the film, says Arwin Curry, “we’ll accompany Le Guin on an intimate journey of self-discovery as she comes into her own as a major feminist author, inspiring generations of women and other marginalized writers along the way. To tell this story, the film reaches into the past as well as the future – to a childhood steeped in the myths and stories of disappeared Native peoples Le Guin absorbed as the daughter of prominent California anthropologist Alfred Kroeber and author Theodora Kroeber.”
Le Guin’s story, continues the filmmaker, “allows audiences to reflect on science fiction’s unique role in American culture, as a conduit for our utopian dreams, apocalyptic fears, and tempestuous romance with technology. More than ever, we need to perform the kinds of thought experiments that Le Guin pioneered, to ask how we should behave as our technologies transform us beyond the wildest dreams of our grandparents.”
Arwen Curry expects the “enduring, thoughtful, and gorgeous documentary” to be ready by the middle of 2017. The hour-long documentary is aimed for broad public television, web, DVD, and educational distribution. The team chosen for the project includes post-production supervisor Camille Servan-Schreiber (The Rape of Europa), cinematographer Andrew Black (Fahrenheit 911, Weather Underground), and consulting producer Jason Cohn, co-director of the Peabody Award-winning American Masters film EAMES: The Architect and the Painter.
As for Arwen Curry, the producer and director of Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, she was the Associate Producer and Archivist of the PBS American Masters film EAMES: The Architect and the Painter (2011), and associate-produced both American Jerusalem: Jews and the Making of San Francisco (2013), and the acclaimed HBO film Regarding Susan Sontag (2014).
Arwen Curry has also associate-produced five 30-minute science and technology documentaries for the PBS station KQED between 2012 and 2014, on subjects ranging from reawakening extinct species to the new era of space exploration. Curry’s short documentary, Stuffed, took viewers into the lives and homes of compulsive hoarders to better understand our connection to the things we own. She is an SF Bay Area native and a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where she studied documentary film with Jon Else (The Day After Trinity). Curry was editor of the punk magazine Maximum Rock’n’Roll from 1998 to 2006. She has written for magazines, radio, and film.