Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Please Help "Mister Rogers & Me"

I first met "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" creator Fred Rogers at his summer home in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in September 2001. My mother rented the cottage next door, so Mister Rogers really was my neighbor.

My brother and I have been working on our documentary, "Mister Rogers & Me" every since.

Eight years, 4600 miles, and nearly $30,000 later, we're in the home stretch. But we need your help to make it across the finish line. We're endeavoring to raise at least $10,000 in the next 30 days to polish our rough edit into a film festival-worthy version.

What's left to do, you ask? The film currently runs 75-minutes. The structure is nearly complete, but still has gaps. Like a puzzle; we have most of the pieces, but they're not all in place. So we still have to a) secure a few more pieces of footage b) create some graphics to represent data (ex: rise in children's advertising spending) and c) place all of the rights-managed footage, b-roll, and photographs to fill in all of those holes. There's more v.o. and music to record and license, and we even plan to shoot a few more interviews.

After three years of after-hours, weekend and spare-time production, we've finally booked two weeks of steady post-production at a professional facility. By the end of the month, we expect to have an edit worthy of submission to Tribecca, Nantucket, and Aspen Film Festivals. Your contribution will fund all of the above.

You, Dear Reader, recall the back story:

On the afternoon of our first meeting, Mister Rogers asked me about my job as an MTV producer. Though I'm absolutely certain he didn't intend it, the inquiry felt like an indictment coming from one of PBS' founding fathers. At the end of our conversation, he said, "I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than complex."

The following summer, I told him how I'd thought all year about what he said.

"Spread the message, Benjamin," He said. "Spread the message."

It was only after his death in February 2003, though, that it dawned on me how to do so. Armed with an HDV camera, my brother and I set out to meet some of Mister Rogers' neighbors to find out more about the man himself, what he meant by "deep and simple," and where in our junk food culture that ethos still survives.

Our travels led us to "Meet The Press" host Tim Russert; "All Things Considered" anchor Susan Stamberg; "This American Life" contributor Davy Rothbart; "Arthur" creator Marc Brown; "Nick News" host Linda Ellerbee; mystic, author and activist, Bo Lozoff; authors Amy Hollingsworth and Tim Madigan; photographer Beverly Hall.

Three weeks ago, PBS announced that "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" airings will be reduced from daily to once a week. Now more than ever, Fred's deep and simple message must be spread.

Please help us tell the story of "Mister Rogers & Me" by contributing to our fundraiser today. There are some terrific incentives like film credits, signed Nantucket photo prints, custom songs, and an exclusive screening for your friends and family. The best incentive, though, will be knowing that you helped this most well-intended and genuine project make its way to the screen.

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