Help local filmmaker, Susan Kerns

posted Jul 29, 2013, 10:51 AM by MKE Short Film Fest
Susan wrote the screenplay for Little Red, which is currently winning awards on the festival circuit, and has produced numerous short films. She recently accepted a position as Assistant Professor at Columbia College Chicago in the Cinema + Science Department and previously was Education Director at the Milwaukee Film Festival. She is finishing her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, holds an MA from the University of Northern Iowa, and completed her undergraduate work at the University of Texas.
This film follows 93-year-old Merle Hayden, the last crusading devotee of aviation pioneer Alfred Lawson's movement, Lawsonomy.

Everyone who has driven I-94 between Chicago and Milwaukee has seen the “Study Natural Law” barn and wondered, “What is that place?” We decided to find out. Natural Law refers to the teachings of Alfred Lawson, inventor of the first U.S. passenger airliner. We know this because of Merle Hayden, Lawson’s last crusading follower.

Merle is the star of Last of the Lawsonomists. At age 93, he works tirelessly to educate the American people about Lawson’s Direct Credits book – an economic treatise that Merle feels will provide for all at the expense of none. Merle also acts as caretaker for Lawson’s legacy, overseeing a literal barn full of books, newsletters, photographs, and other information that has been written out of history. For 35 years, Merle has traveled to the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to discuss the Lawson Airliner and reach new audiences. For the past decade, he has been doing this essentially alone.

Last of the Lawsonomists is a documentary about Merle—an attempt to preserve both his legacy and that of his mentor, Alfred Lawson, and to understand Merle’s persistence. We have been traveling with him for four years. During this time, we have gotten to know his friends and sweetheart, Betty Kasch; we also have witnessed his determination firsthand. Merle’s story is one of dedication, loss, and the American Dream. He has seen the United States make the same financial mistakes repeatedly over the past 90 years, and he believes Lawson’s writings hold the answers to solving many of these problems. Few are listening, however, and time is running out.

We hope to finish this film within the next year so that we can meet major film festival deadlines and invite Merle to the film’s premiere. This Kickstarter will cover certain hard costs associated with the post-production phase of a documentary, including things like hard drives, computer equipment, and office space. Additionally, our incentives feature Alfred Lawson’s books. We are purchasing these from Merle, so part of the Kickstarter funds will go directly to him. Finally, the fees associated with a Kickstarter campaign amount to about 10% of funds raised.

The Incentives

All of the Benefactor newspapers and Alfred Lawson books, sheet music, and program books are 100% authentic and straight from the source. We are purchasing these items from Merle's personal collection so that our Kickstarter campaign additionally helps him.

The Benefactors

Here are some images, headlines, and illustrations from Benefactor newspapers. Benefactors be chosen at random for our supporters.






Risks and challenges

The key challenge we face is telling Merle’s personal story, including its ups and downs, without breaching his trust. Since Merle is a private person, and since historically people have not necessarily been kind to Lawson’s story or to the Lawsonomists in general, we are cognizant of this challenge and treating it respectfully. It seems to be working out well.

Another challenge of making this film is balancing how much archival information to include. We have an overwhelming amount of historical information that we are trying to use, help preserve, and make available to the public. This includes not just photos, slides, VHS tapes, and audio recordings but also books, plays, sheet music, newsletters, correspondence, and FBI files. Several interns have helped digitize and archive this information, but it is a rabbit hole, to be sure, if we want to go down it. We are trying to help find homes (like historical societies) for some of the Lawsonomy ephemera, but we must consider how much we should help manage the future of Merle’s collection. We have considered creating a website or app to feature more of these documents, but we feel it is important to finish the film first.

Hit the Link to help: