Features and Columns

Fund This Film: Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time Will Be the Definitive Documentary on the Author

By  · Published on February 10th, 2015

Kickstarter / Whyaduck Productions / 9.14 Pictures

Kickstarter / Whyaduck Productions / 9.14 Pictures

One of the first things I ever did when I discovered the Internet in the mid 1990s was to subscribe to a Kurt Vonnegut newsgroup. It was there that I first learned of Robert B. Weide, who was then a few years away from receiving an Academy Award nomination for his documentary Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth. He was a regular in the forum (alt.books.kurt-vonnegut) as a fan but also his first project involving Vonnegut, the 1996 adaptation of Mother Night, was about to be released. He’d regularly give updates on how he was next adapting Vonnegut’s “Sirens of Titan” for the big screen and was working on a feature-length documentary about the author, too.

Almost 20 years later, there’s sadly still no sign of a “Sirens” movie, but that documentary, titled Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time, is at last almost finished and now crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Never mind that in 1996, Weide claimed it was only two years from being done. Its origins go all the way back to 1982, following his work on The Marx Brothers in a Nutshell. Still, since the mid 1990s, Weide has not only earned that Oscar nod but he was a main creative element of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, created the British series Mr. Sloane, made the two-part Woody Allen: A Documentary, directed How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and episodes of Parks and Recreation and Marry Me and co-wrote the screenplay to last year’s The Giver. Meanwhile, Vonnegut passed away in 2007. So it goes.

Weide’s 33-year journey in getting Unstuck in Time made is now almost as interesting as Vonnegut’s life, and it seems both are receiving equal address in the documentary. Because along the way the filmmaker became pals with the author and the project could no longer be objective, Weide has taken on a directorial partner in Don Argott, who happens to be one of my favorite documentarians (I especially recommend The Art of the Steal and Last Days Here), to assist in shaping the “meta” making-of narrative while Weide focuses on the primary subject.

And as you’ll see in the Kickstarter campaign video below, the material for that primary part is quite extensive. Any Vonnegut fan is going to love all this unseen footage of the icon, especially now after he’s been dead for almost a decade. Whether or not you’re interested in contributing to the budget (and getting a Woody Allen-autographed poster or a t-shirt or an invite to the premiere), if you too cherish “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Breakfast of Champions,” etc., you should look forward to the movie being completed at last. Going by dates listed for pledge perk delivery, it appears they’re hoping for a January 2016 premiere, maybe at Sundance. I can’t wait.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.