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Dear America
From Patriotism to Participation

Chomsky visits Arizona (Feb 2012)

  • Noam Chomsky

Phoenix Comic Con (May 2011)

  • Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks), Zombie Apocalypse books
  • Aaron Douglas, Battlestar Galactica
  • Alien Warrior Comedian
  • Tim Vigil, comic artist (Faust, '68)

Shooting Tour #2 (July 30 - August 5, 2010)

Nico, Gary Bennett, Jason Ryan, and colleagues attended the 2010 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy in San Francisco. In addition to filming the whole conference, we conducted many one-on-one interviews:
  • David Altman, scholar (Chile/Uruguay)
  • Mike Arno, petitioner
  • Ned Crosby, Jefferson Center
  • Tim Eyman, petitioner and initiative sponsor
  • Sen. Mike Gravel
  • Jane Hamsher, journalist, producer Natural Born Killers
  • Brandon Holmes, Citizens in Charge
  • Dwayne Hunn, People's Lobby
  • Paul Jacob, Citizens in Charge
  • Krist Novoselic, Chairman of Fairvote.org, former Nirvana bassist
  • Bruno Kaufmann, I&R Institute Europe
  • Michael Kearns, CO Congressional candidate, Ex-Intelligence officer
  • George Kokkas, Greece
  • Joe Mathews, journalist
  • John Matsusaka, I&R Institute (USA)
  • Lynne Mosier, activist
  • Evan Ravitz, activist, founder/owner of Vote.org
  • Tyrone Reitman, Health Democracy Oregon
  • Peter Gesela, activist
  • Bob Stern, political scholar
DV tapes$129.47
press pass$4.52
Per diem allowance$720
HD gear rental$200

Total cost: $2704

Shooting Tour #1 (May 11 - May 17)

We interviewed:

  • Bob Crane, former ambassador under Nixon
  • Jeff Green, Professor of Political Science at Penn
  • Mohktar Kamel, activist for democracy in Egypt (fatwaa against him)
  • Norm Kurland, Center for Economic Justice, former US economic advisor
  • Ahmed Monsour, former IMF offical
  • David Swanson, activist/blogger
Our executive producer wrote in with his recollection:

After more than a year from the idea to make a film promoting the NI4D to planning, recruiting, fundraising, budgetting, gathering speakers and scheduling, we were ready to undertake the first leg of shooting Dear America. With me were my ambitious skeleton crew: long time friend and film compadre Gary Bennett, of Texas, and frenetic newcomer, producer Anna Sobczyk-Barron, of Magna Productions in Iowa.

We met at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday night, May 11, and drove to Gary's friend Barbara's house in Rockville, MD, which was to be our ad-hoc basecamp for our East Coast trip. In fact, because of the tightness of our budget, we could not afford to stay in hotels, so we tapped quite a few friends along the East Coast to "bum overnights."

Wednesday morning we left for Senator Mike Gravel's house. The idea was to take an hour or so to set up lighting, camera angles, etc, while I prepared my questions for Mike. Due to several surprise elements--primarily the quickly changing light outside (bright sunlight to gray drizzle within 10 minutes seemed to be the pattern throughout our 6 day sojourn!)--our set up time was delayed. Due to the Senator's understanding and patience, our next two interview subjects were invited to the Gravel household, so as to cut down on travel and re-set time. These interviewees were two of the most wonderful people I'd ever met, let alone interviewed: Bob Crane, the stoic, worldly ambassador serving under Nixon and Reagan, and Norm Kurland, the super-economist and attorney who was, to me, as vivacious and sharp as Crane was mild and laconic. It was an amazing, electric atmosphere. As we were packing up, we overheard one of our speakers say to Mike, "Do you feel that? We just made history." The headaches of this long day were clearly worth it.

But we didn't have the luxury of sitting on our laurels, driving to the basecamp in Maryland to sleep just yet. Up next were Dr Mokhtar Khamel, an ex officer of the IMF, and Dr. Ahmed Monsour, a scholar whose life story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. There were some teary eyes toward the end of our interview time with them. Amazing stories, amazing hosts. We hated to leave after such a brief time with them, but it had become an 18-hour day, and our gracious host Barbara had Maryland crabcakes waiting for us several hours longer than we'd forecast.

The next morning we were off to Philadelphia, by way of Gettysburg, a dream visit for Civil War enthusiasts like Gary and myself. It was drizzly and grey, and a bit chilly, unlike the days of the war almost exactly 147 years prior. We shot lots of B-roll there; somehow I felt the parallels between our own current divisions (rich/poor, left/right, etc) and those during the Civil War days had to be emphasized in our documentary. Anna and I walked the same route as Pickett's men on that fateful day of July 3rd, 1863.

We arrived at my friend Peter Walski's place in Old Town Philadelphia, walking distance to a number of historical landmarks, among them Betsy Ross's house, Ben Franklin's office/first US printing press, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Elfreth's Alley, the nation's longest still-used street. Amazing B-roll, to be sure.

In the two days we were in Philadelphia (an all-nighter being the grey divider between them, due to anxiousness and sheer workload), we caught up with Dr. Jeff Green, Professor of Political Science at Penn. An admitted pessimist in terms of the political climate, but he nevertheless played along with us, and sincerely hoped that the NI4D (of which he was unfamiliar until I briefed him as best I could, answering some of his tough, pointed questions) would be enacted.

Then on Friday, it was off to NYC. None of the three of us knew the city well, so I called upon my friend Mike Schaff to play the efficient and cheery tourguide. This was to be a day of shooting exclusively B-roll, unless we happened upon some public figure, be it an elected official, celebrity, or disgraced banker/CEO. We ran into none. Who we did run into were private security personnel and police who shooed us away from getting footage of locales such as the World Trade Center and some strangely signage-less buildings like the NY Federal Reserve and Goldman Sachs. Some sneaky devil even took a snapshot of me as he walked past and I was hoisting the camera to get a shot of the Fed. But I got a snap of him, too. Haha. Lastly, in Times Square, I was harrassed for shooting the Newscorp building. One of the suits even looked a bit like Rupert Murdoch. But we got all the footage of these places in the end.

But the entire NYC shoot wasn't all "shoot-or-be-shot-or-chased-despite-our-having-certified-and-visible-press-passes." We enjoyed the sites, sounds and smells of most of what downtown had to offer, including a free ferry ride past Staten Island.

From there we drove back to Philadelphia to pick up more B-Roll, then onto D.C. to interview blog guru and organizer David Swanson, who earnestly supports the NI4D. There were a number of massive protests all along the pulsing streets of the capital. A wide cross section of people showed their contempt for current government, and we could feel it. The footage we have of these protests, and the shots we have of the White House (ironically next door to the Treasury and Bank of America buildings), the Capitol, Washington Monument, et al, should hit home with our audience.

Then, in the seemingly everpresent rain and haste that plagued us for the past 6 days, we hurried to the airport, to leave for our respective homes across the country, and to begin organizing our next leg of this once-in-several-lifetimes' adventure.

Aye, there was the usual array of film production problems--broken gear, lighting snafus, changing schedules, etc., but also arguable parking tickets, severe sleep deprivation and dehydration, surprise health issues, et al, on a daily basis that we shan't get into here (perhaps we'll revisit some of them on the DVD bonus features, haha). But we did it. We pulled it all off, thanks to old friends and new along the way.

Yours in earnest,
Nico Holthaus
Executive Producer

With an apology to Norm Kurland for taking his comments somewhat out of context. The trailer was put together hastily. We promise to provide more background on economic justice in the full documentary. Interested readers may learn more at http://www.americanrevolutionaryparty.us/.

Overweight baggage$100
Car rental$193.22
Parking violations$61
Subway and Bus pass$54.75
Lodgingfree (*)
Per diem allowance$450
DV tapes$30
hard drive$72

Total cost: $1703

(*) The team managed to stay with friends to avoid hotel expenses.

About 20 hours of footage was shot.


We hope to arrange another east coast tour to pick up some interviews we couldn't get the first time around. If funding permits then we will also tour Midwest America.
  • Pete Seeger
  • Thomas Hartmann (Unequal Protection)
  • Gary Davis, World Citizen founder
  • Richard Dreyfuss
  • Colleen Rowley
  • Ralph Nader
  • Jon Perkins (Confessions of an Economic Hitman)
  • Steve Earle, politically minded (ahem) rock star
  • Paul Hawken (unconfirmed)
  • Rabbi Michael Lerner (unconfirmed)
  • Richard Stallman (unconfirmed)

Business Model

The film will be distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

Proceeds from the film will go to pay back production costs. After that, proceeds will be donated to The Democracy Foundation to advance NI4D.
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