In November, when we announced our decision to pursue this crazy idea, we were met with nearly universal support. And that continues. When we tell people what we’re doing, they inevitably respond with surprise and a faraway look in their eyes. Some are envious and wish they could come; others are happy for us, but glad it’s us and not them. A small handful don’t disguise the fact they think we’re idiots. They could be right. We may be tilting at windmills.
It has been quite a journey already. We sat in the Los Angeles office of a major Hollywood star’s production company in January, where documentary filmmakers shared an almost giddy excitement about the possibility of following us and shooting our project. We have visited with thoughtful people in the serious halls of academe, where officials from two different universities feverishly discussed the possibilities of granting us titles, office space, and administrative support. We have shared countless drinks, lunches, and dinners with community leaders, nonprofit executives, entrepreneurs, attorneys, accountants, musicians, artists, journalists, photographers, grant-writers, media specialists, comedians, and DJs. Every single one of them has been an encouragement and an inspiration to us. The meetings begin with a curiosity that builds to an excitement that is revealed by increases in vocal rate, pitch, and volume – nonverbals that are difficult to mask – suggesting an authentic interest in what we’re doing.
In every case, the Big Partnership just never quite comes together. The film producers can’t find a buyer for their idea; the universities are gun-shy from past experiences, or fearful we won’t raise enough money; and in many cases, we just lack the legal infrastructure and resources to take on such a big project. Through it all, the silly smiles and wistful looks don’t subside; but the tangible support does.
So, this week we made a decision: We’re going it alone. We’re done writing proposals, having meetings, and spending countless hours designing scenarios that depend on the variables someone else brings to the table. We’re going to do this ourselves…at first, anyway.
Some of you have marveled at the chances we’re taking. Let’s be clear, there is a risk, but it’s not as dramatic as it may appear. A lot of things have come together nicely, allowing us to do this in the first place. Betsy was already planning to retire in May and begin drawing her state teacher pension this summer. We have been homeowners for 25 years. We had recently paid off our house, which we sold in September. We had not started building our new house yet (almost, but not quite), and we’re selling a lot of our stuff; so that’s making it possible for us to purchase our traveling rig and prepare for the journey. We won’t have much, but we’ll have enough to get by.
We have a lot to do before we leave. We’ve set our launch date as May 31st, and we don’t know if we can get everything done in the 10 weeks between now and then. It’s freeing and frightening to think that we are doing this all by ourselves.
But we’re not really. The mission and message are bigger than us. As friends and strangers continue to confirm for us, we won’t ever be alone in this journey. From the 85+ people who have committed to hosting us along the way, to the friends and colleagues who talk of patching together a network of collaborators to bring some kind of indie film idea to life, to the folks we meet every day who share a consensus of concern about the future of our country.
We will soon be announcing a crowdfunding effort. We won’t be asking for help funding our trip – we’re doing our best to take care of ourselves – we’ll be asking for the kind of help that will allow us to access the resources and pay the people who are helping us with filming, editing, design, and all other forms of technical assistance where we lack the expertise or time to do it ourselves.
So, we won’t truly be going it alone. Not really. We can’t. None of us can. We go with each other, whether we like it or not.
Up next: We reveal our itinerary!