Category Archives: News

Ars Longa and all that…

We’ve heard through the grapevine that some people in Calumet are surprised to learn that we’re still working on the film. What can we say? Ars longa vita brevis and all that. After a few false starts and detours — to be expected in a project like ours, with 300 hours of original material to edit, no script, no dull voiceover, and two directors — we are now well into our edit of a rough cut of the film. We’ve got between 50-60 minutes of the 80 minute film roughed in. And we’re still piecing together the money to keep our edit going. We’ve just applied for a post-production grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (a NYSCA grant helped us complete production) and we continue to seek out new sources of funding. It’s a long road. But now we can see the film starting to emerge and we know it will be worth all the hard work and time we’ve put into it. Stay tuned, keep in touch, and please support us!

A Labor Day Greeting

For Labor Day, we put together a page for all our hardworking friends. Check it out at this link. And don’t forget to click the big button to show your support.

Please give if you can. Labor Day 07 kicks off round 1 of our micro-financing campaign. To participate, simply make a tax-deductible contribution to the Center for Independent Documentary (CID) today. We want to use the power of the Internet and the power of you to gather 400 individual contributions of 25, 50, 100 & 250 dollars (or more!) by December 24th, 2007, the anniversary of the Italian Hall disaster. That’s 100 contributions per month, from now until December. So be sure to pass this link along to as many people as you can: friends who love Woody Guthrie’s music, or who have an interest in independent film, people who have roots in the de-industrialized towns of the American Midwest, or other friends and associates who just know and appreciate the value of doing good work in the world.

Michigan’s Economy, Then and Now

Having finished a rough cut of Act 1, we are embarking on our most ambitious fundraising plan to date, so that we can raise enough to edit the whole film in the next 12 months or so. In the meantime, the Calumet story continues to resonate, in ways we never expected or imagined when we began this project. For example, in response to an op-ed by Michigan economist David L. Littman in the April 7th edition of the Wall Street Journal, I wrote the following letter, which appeared on April 14th.

If the type here is too small to read, you may download a pdf copy of the letter here.

Another Christmas…

Editing and fundraising. With a cut of Act One well underway, we continue to raise funds, search for new grants, and promote the film at every opportunity. Many thanks to John Beck and colleagues for inviting us to talk about and show some of the evolving film at Michigan State University. Our December 1st presentation was part of an ongoing series called Our Daily Work / Our Daily Lives, a cooperative project at the Michigan State University Museum that focuses on the cultural traditions of workers, workplaces as contexts for the expression of workers culture, and the diversity of historical and artistic presentations of workers’ lives. John’s hospitality and the lively conversation that followed the presentation made braving the snow and wind and the delayed flights seem easy. (If you’d like to invite us to talk about the film to your classroom, school, group, or organization, please contact us.)

300 hours later…

Now that we’ve completed principal photography and started editing the 300 odd hours of material we’ve gathered, it’s all about fundraising and fundraising and more fundraising. We shot the film on a shoestring budget; but now it’s time to tell the story, and we’re doing everything we can to raise the money we need to edit and complete a great film.

So we were overjoyed when we got word last week that the Woody Guthrie Foundation has awarded 1913 Massacre a grant in support of our post-production work. The Foundation has been an enthusiastic supporter of our project from day one, in every imaginable way. We’re grateful to the board for seeing and understanding the promise of our film.

And we also owe a debt of gratitude to the labor organizations who continue to support our work because they want the story of 1913 and the story of UP labor told.

If you or your organization would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to our film, now you can simply click on the DONATE button below and you’ll be taken to the contribution page for our fiscal sponsor, the Center for Independent Documentary.

Make sure you specify that your donation is earmarked for the 1913 Massacre Film Project. You can do so by toggling the “Purpose of Your Donation” button and scrolling through the choices to 1913 Massacre . Thanks for your support!

Thanks to the Puffin Foundation

This month, a word of thanks to the Puffin Foundation for its continued support of 1913 Massacre, and to the labor organizations that have made contributions to our post-production fundraising efforts.

Snow, And A Musical Conversation

It’s been a busy winter, and this update is long overdue.

We returned to the UP in late February, in search of snow and to complete principal photography on the Calumet story. We’dd been to Calumet in December, but everybody there told us that if we really wanted to see Calumet in the snow, we’d have to come in February. Over 300 inches had fallen already this winter, and on the first few days of our trip we were sure that we were in for it. It snowed and it blew; it was cold and everything was white. But by the time we met up with Joe Chevalier and his crew, who took us out on snow removal duty around town, the weather had turned surprisingly mild — getting up into the teens most days.

Just to remind everybody that winter is not over, Lake Superior dumped nearly 40 inches of snow on Calumet just the other day. Unfortunately, we’d returned to the east coast by then. Still, we managed to see a side of Calumet that we hadn’t seen.

We started our trip in Marquette, where it was snowing hard (but not really snowing, or at least not really hard, according to our friends in Calumet). Jack Deo invited us to work with his great collection of archival photographs at Superior View. The next day, we kicked off our post-production fundraising drive with a presentation about the film at the annual meeting of the Marquette County Labor Council. What better audience for our film than a UP labor audience? We’re indebted to Kathy Carlson for all her hard work putting the day together, and to Shana Harvala and the Labor Council for having us.

(If you’d like to find out how we can make a presentation about the film to your organization, or to make a tax-deductible contribution to the project, please contact us .)

On this trip we also spent time with attorney and author Steve Lehto, who has recently completed a book about the Italian Hall disaster entitled Death’s Door (forthcoming from Momentum Books). We visited the Italian Hall site together, then retreated to the warmth of Tom Tikkanen’s real estate office for a sit down interview, where we talked about the goings on in the Hall on Christmas Eve, 1913, the purloined film of the Italian Hall funeral, and the mournful Cornish chants sung by grieving miners in the funeral procession.

The snow at the arch was pretty deep. And everything in Calumet in February is different: the light is different, and especially beautiful at sunset; there’s a kind of late winter mood in the town, where people have been coping for months with the snow and the cold. Tim Bies and Jeannie Grathoff told us ghost stories; in the Antenna Store on Oak Street, we talked with Gerry Mantel and Pete Oikarinen about how the town’s changed, and about our sense that in Calumet there are still traces of an America that has nearly vanished. Pete’s beautiful black and white photographs of Calumet people perfectly illustrated the point.

The winter sun cast a warm light through the kitchen window shades when we sat down again with John Perona and Randy Seppala to play some music with the concertina and the bones and spoons and to talk about the tradition of Finnish, Cornish, Italian and Croatian music in the area.

Johnny even treated us to a few tunes on the mandolin, and showed us his remarkable collection of UP butterflies and moths, which he’s been capturing and mounting since the late 1930s.

We continued the musical conversation when we visited Oren Tikkanen, who told us stories about UP music and played his mandolins. Even now we can’t get Oren’s rendition of “Mary’s Mazurka” out of our heads. Mary’s Mazurka

Great News from the Great Lakes: 1913 Massacre receives IHC Grant

Recognizing the significance of the Calumet story for the entire Great Lakes region, the Illinois Humanities Council has awarded 1913 Massacre a major grant.

NYSCA grant, and a fifth shooting trip to Calumet

This update is long overdue, but we’ve been traveling and shooting and writing grants, so there hasn’t been much time for the website in the past few months. Time to catch up.

On the fundraising front, we’ve just gotten great news: 1913 Massacre has been awarded a grant from NYSCA, the New York State Council on the Arts. The grant will allow us to finish shooting the film and keep working to raise funds for post-production.

In late June and early July, we took a fifth shooting trip to Calumet, where we continued our interviews about the tearing down of Italian Hall. We met Dale Koski and Joe Johnson of the Operating Engineers at the Italian Hall arch. After the interview, we retired to Dale’s RV to look at some pictures from the day they tore down the Hall and to hear some more stories.

We picked up the conversation again with Dale and Joe a few days later at Joe’s place out near Misery Bay.

The highlight of our very busy trip was probably the time we spent filming and recording traditional music with Oren Tikkanen and his friends. Oren introduced us to the very accomplished bones and spoons player Johnny Perona, his apprentice Randy Seppala, fiddle player Helmer Toyras, lumberjack harmonica player Les Ross, Sr., and members of the Finn Hall Band, who were in town from Minneapolis for the Finnish American Music Festival.

Here’s a sample, with Les Ross on harmonica and Johnny Perona on bones. Les Ross and John Perona

Back in New York, we spent a memorable afternoon talking with radio personality and musician Oscar Brand about Woody Guthrie and his music, and we got a lesson in the history of the song “Union Maid.”

A few days later, we made our way out to Chicago to talk with Studs Terkel about Woody and the WPA. After an amazing interview, we had to ask for a snapshot with Studs.

Studs started the monkey business by jerking his thumb at us and saying, These are the guys. We responded by pointing back at him: This is the guy.

Not too long after we returned from Chicago, we met up with Minneapolis-based singer / songwriter Charlie Maguire in Croton, New York. Charlie sang some songs, including The Ballad of Augie March, about a survivor of the Italian Hall disaster, and he told us a great story about sneaking into the Italian Hall by climbing a snowdrift and hoisting himself in through an upstairs window. There were Christmas decorations on the stage and around the ballroom, as if a Christmas party had been interrupted long ago and no one had returned.

The rest of the summer is going to be spent on grants and fundraising. But be sure to check back in the fall, as we take the production toward the completion of the shooting phase, and into post-production… And if you’d like to make a contribution toward our post-production fund, please contact us.

In Memory of Tom Katona

We mourn the passing of Tom Katona, union organizer and activist, avid amateur historian, descendant of an Italian Hall survivor, and guardian angel of our endeavor. Tom was only 49 years old when he died suddenly and unexpectedly of a stroke in May. We never met Tom in person — he lived and worked in Cornell, Michigan — but our conversations and correspondence with him inspired us and kept us going when it counted most —when it was hard to keep going. We have decided to dedicate 1913 Massacre to him. Rest In Peace, Tom.