February 17, 2015

Kurt Vonnegut documentarian turns to Kickstarter for funding


Kurt Vonnegut © Everett Collection / via Shutterstock

Kurt Vonnegut
© Everett Collection / via Shutterstock

Screenwriter/producer/director Robert B. Weide has been working on a documentary about Kurt Vonnegut for thirty-three years, and—still lacking the funding the make it happen—he’s turned to Kickstarter to raise the rest of what he needs, Don Steinberg reports for the Wall Street Journal.

Weide had the idea to make the movie in 1982, when he was only twenty-two, and a big fan of Vonnegut’s work. He wrote a letter to the author about it, apparently confident that he’d be able to raise the necessary funds without a problem. He quickly got a response with Vonnegut’s blessing, in a letter that read, “I don’t know how you make a film about an author, but you’re welcome to try.”

The financing for the documentary has been slow to come in, and Weide didn’t actually do any filming until 1988, when he recorded Vonnegut at home in Indianapolis. Since then, he went on to direct episode’s of the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as documentaries about Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce (the latter of which took thirteen years to make). Over the course of his career, he’s won three Emmys and a Golden Globe, and been nominated for an Oscar.

Steinberg writes that Weide was encouraged by crowdfunding success stories like the Veronica Mars movie, and a documentary about Joan Didion. He’s not looking for back pay on the money he’s already spent to make the movie, just to get what he needs to complete filming. “I’m so in the hole on this film already,” he told the Journal. “This allows us to physically make the film.”

The somewhat ironically titled Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time is now taking donations on Kickstarter. Donation levels range from $5 (which gets you the most basic reward of being apprised of the documentary’s progress) to $10,000 (which will get you a co-executive producer credit, as well as access to a premiere screening). Weide is giving away swag from his and Vonnegut’s other previous projects, too; for various donations, you can get a Curb Your Enthusiasm poster signed by the cast, a Vonnegut-autographed poster from the revival of his play Happy Birthday, Wanda June, and a DVD  of Weide’s Woody Allen documentary, signed by him and Allen.

Over the past several years, Weide has emerged as one of Allen’s biggest defenders, going so far as to publicly attack both Mia Farrow and her daughter Dylan, who had accused Allen of molesting her when she was a child. Weide’s loyalty to Allen will undoubtedly sit poorly with some potential donors (as will, perhaps, Allen’s involvement in the Kickstarter campaign).

Weide is looking for $250,000 from Kickstarter to fund the film. As of this weekend, the page had reached $93,400, and jumped up by about $7,000 over just a few hours. So it’s not quite setting Exploding Kittens-level records, but with 22 days left, it does look like it could be on track to meeting its goal.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.