Why a film on Calvin Coolidge?

"Things of the Spirit" is the first fully researched film ever made on Calvin Coolidge and the political and economic issues of the 1920's – a period of peace, prosperity and unprecedented national growth. Following his death in 1933, historians and journalists hijacked Coolidge from serious consideration by the American people. They continue to hold him hostage to ridicule. As a result, the public seldom questions the prevailing view that Coolidge was a do-nothing "capitalist tool" whose presidency served only as a prelude to disaster. "Things of the Spirit" invites viewers to give open-minded consideration to the political beliefs, moral character and spiritual values of perhaps our most misunderstood president.


Who cares about the 1920's?

History may not always repeat itself, but it usually rhymes. Both the story edit and preview of "Things of the Spirit" reveal how the public issues and private concerns of the 1920's resonate in today's world. Times change, but the human condition and the American political dilemma remain the same.


When will the film be finished?

Once completion funds are in place, "Things of the Spirit" will be finished in a year. Preproduction began in May 1992. The three-hour story edit was finished in February 1997. Since then, efforts have been directed solely toward completion fundraising and, as funding allows, remastering the archival film scenes needed to illustrate the already finished story edit.


How long is the film?

"Things of the Spirit" was conceived as a 90 minute film. It doubled in length during edit. It did so in response to the strength and historical significance of the material gathered by producer John Karol and his crew. By analogy, Karol's Academy Award nominated "Ben's Mill" doubled in length from its original plan. Ken Burns's "The Civil War" grew from five hours to eleven hours during edit. Audience response at preview screenings of confirms Karol's decision to yield to his material.


What is the cost of "Things of the Spirit"?

The cost of the three-hour film is $2.15 million. Of that, $1.4 million has already been raised, carrying the film through preproduction, production and story edit. In proportion to the film's length, its initial production budget remains unchanged, adjusted only for inflation. A detailed finishing budget is available upon request.


Who have been the major contributors to date?

The major contributors to date have been the Woodstock Foundation, The John W. Kluge Foundation, The Dillon Fund, Kevin B. Kimberlin and the late Paul Mellon. Many other individuals and organizations also have given generously.


What keeps the project going?

More recently, producer John Karol has been moving ahead largely through deferred compensation and personal loans to the project. He needs just one person willing to match his own contribution – or two people willing to contribute half that much. At this time, a tax-deductible contribution of $150,000 would fund the remastering of the remaining archival film scenes and still photographs needed to "lock picture" – a major step toward completion.


How much archival film are you using?

Archival motion picture footage will fill over half the film's three-hour running time. This unforgettable material brings history to life. Preview audiences are "amazed" by the archival scenes rescued to date, calling them "stunning" and "priceless." Much of our completion budget is directed toward restoring, remastering and incorporating these irreplaceable scenes of Coolidge's life and time. Unless rescued now from decomposing nitrate film, this window to the Coolidge era will close forever.


What is Vermont Public Television's role?

Vermont Public Television serves as development partner and non-profit fiscal agent for the completion phase of the project, receiving pledges and tax-deductible gifts earmarked for the film. As the presenting station, Vermont Public Television will submit "Things of the Spirit" to PBS for network broadcast and will work jointly with the producer in promoting the film to PBS member stations nationwide.


What was the Coolidge Foundation's role?

The Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation served as arm's length fiscal agent during initial fundraising and development. The project could not have succeeded without it. However, the non-profit Foundation's direct connection with the film's subject was later deemed by PBS member stations to create a possible perception by viewers that editorial control might have been exercised by someone other than the producer. Accordingly, in order to maintain eligibility for PBS broadcast, Vermont Public Television assumed the role of fiscal agent for the completion phase of the project.


How will "Things of the Spirit" be distributed?

In addition to film and television broadcast, "Things of the Spirit" will be distributed on Digital Video Disc (DVD) and other consumer video formats. Once the film is on random access DVD, its episodic structure will lend itself ideally to educational use at both high school and college levels. Ultimately, it is the continuing educational use of "Things of the Spirit" on interactive DVD and related Web sites which will significantly change Calvin Coolidge's place in history.


Why Persistence Plus Productions?

Persistence of vision is not only how films are seen – it's how they are made. A recently completed film on baseball player Hank Greenberg took 13 years to make. "When We Were Kings," the 1996 Academy Award winner, took 22 years to produce. As advance praise attests, those who see Karol's story edit and preview are quick to recognize the historical and cinematic significance of "Things of the Spirit."


Whom can I contact about "Things of the Spirit"?

John Karol, Producer
Persistence Plus Productions
Main Street / P.O. Box 12
Orford, New Hampshire 03777

Tel: (603) 353-9067
Fax: (603) 353-4646
e-mail: karol@persistenceplus.com
Web site: www.persistenceplus.com


"The marvelous thing about Karol's documentary is that it unequivocally reestablishes the stature Coolidge enjoyed during his lifetime – making clear in a way that no one can dismiss or deny the reasons for his phenomenal popularity... The best part of this project is its unquestioned artistry – just as a work of documentary craft and heart... The piece is so even-handed that I believe it stands a real chance of winning awards – even Emmy awards, or an Oscar for best documentary feature... This superb film should be made available to every high school in America."


Michael Medved film and television critic, author of books on media and society.


John Karol, Producer
Persistence Plus Productions
Main Street
Orford, New Hampshire 03777

Tel.: (603) 353-9067
Fax: (603) 353-4646