Monday, November 12, 2012

Premiere Press

Premiere Press — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

We were delighted to see The Day Carl Sandburg Died open to great reviews and national press back in September. Tom Brinkmoeller from TV Worth Watching explored the many facets of Sandburg in his piece while the New York Daily News gave the film four out of five stars, plus other mentions in the Mountain Xpress, Galesburg Register-Mail, The State Journal Register and more. In radio and television, Paul was interviewed by Bob Edwards on his Sirius XM show and featured as "Person of the Week" on Asheville's WLOS-TV. Thanks for all the support! If you're interested in the film please head over to Shop PBS and pick up a copy.    
The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Monday, September 10, 2012

Studs Terkel on Sandburg

Studs Terkel on Sandburg — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Check out the exclusive "American Masters" extra with Studs Terkel. In it the late Terkel discusses Sandburg's 300 page masterpiece poem, The People, Yes. Terkel was an American author, historian, actor and broadcaster best known for his oral histories and long-running radio show in Chicago. Studs Terkel: Sandburg Packs a Wallop Don't forget to tune into The Day Carl Sandburg Died Monday, Sept.24 @ 10 p.m. And keep checking the website for more extras and commentary!
The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Monday, August 06, 2012

Carl Sandburg sings America!

Carl Sandburg sings America! — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

We have two new exciting developments to The Day Carl Sandburg Died: First, the pre-order link to purchase the DVD is up. Head over to Shop PBS  for your official copy. DVD's will ship Tuesday, September 25 after Monday's broadcast. They are $24.99 and full of never before seen cast interviews and special features. Secondly, our friends at American Masters posted a fine tribute to Sandburg's American Songbag on Friday. It is complemented with a Spotify playlist of Sandburg singing everything 'America,' from the mountains to the boll weevil. Take a listen!      
The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Film to air on PBS Sept.24 @ 10 p.m.

Film to air on PBS Sept.24 @ 10 p.m. — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

We are pleased to announce that the The Day Carl Sandburg Died will see its official broadcast on PBS's "American Masters" Monday, September 24 at 10 p.m. The Bonesteel team is excited to witness the culmination of years of hard work. The ultimate goal since the beginning of this journey, more than seven years ago, has been to have the opportunity to tell Sandburg's story to a national audience. More thanks are in order, but in the meantime we'd like to thank those at PBS and WNET and our many partners and contributors, all who have helped the story. We are buckling down for the next few hectic months of film publicity and promotion, but stay tuned to the website and our Facebook page, Bonesteel Films, for exclusive clips and insights into the broadcast.
The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Poetry Foundation to screen film on Jan. 6th & 7th in Chicago

It is with excitement we announce the culmination of our film festival and special screenings of The Day Carl Sandburg Died with two presentations of the film at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago on the anniversary of Carl Sandburg's birthday on Friday, January 6th at 7:00 pm and and Saturday January 7th, 2012 at 3:00 pm.  These screenings help celebrate the centennial celebration of Poetry Magazine, the publication that rocketed Carl Sandburg to the forefront of American poetry in 1914.  Both screenings are free and open to the public but seating is limited.  The film's director, Paul Bonesteel will be present for both screenings along with Chicago poet Marc Kelly Smith, who appears in the film for a post screening discussion.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Friday, September 23, 2011

Back to Illinois & Remembrance Rock.

Back to Illinois & Remembrance Rock. — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Director Paul Bonesteel presenting the film at the Black Earth Film Festival, Galesburg Ill.  With three screening last week, we continue to share The Day Carl Sandburg Died, this time in Sandburg's hometown of Galesburg Illinois. First at the Black Earth Film Festival and then the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urban.  In the audience were some folks who had known Sandburg, and others who have studied his life and work for years and younger students who were learning about Sandburg for the first time which made these screenings and Q&A a lot of fun.  A frequent conversation is about the how Sandburg's work and his messages are so needed today.  Back south, we screened the film at Wofford College in Spartanburg SC, much thanks to Sandburg scholar and classical guitarist Jhon Akers, who has supported the film since we began.

Presenting the film at the Black Earth Film Festival, Galesburg Ill.  While I was there I got to visit with poet/historian Robin Metz and talk about the film, it's six year journey and projects to come.  I stopped by the Sandburg State Historic Site and paid my respect to Remembrance Rock, the place where Carl and Paula's ashes were places.

Paying respects to Carl and Paula Sandburg's resting place, Galesburg Ill.

Remembrance Rock  Along the pathway surrounding the rock are quotes of Sandburg's and one that I had not seen before struck me as particularly fitting; It said "After the sunsets on the prairie there are only the stars.  The stars stand alone."  Indeed the prairie can be a lonely place but as Sandburg said in The People, Yes, its "a shovel of stars for keeps"... and I'm thankful for the people that helped make this film and helped to make the screenings possible.  I was surrounded by friends in remembering Sandburg at all these screenings.

Screening at University of Illinois Library, September 2011

Next the film will screen at Aperture Theater, Winston Salem, NC October 2rd 2011
Next stop, the film goes back to Winston Salem where it premiered in April and a special screening at Aperture Cinema on October 2nd.  Penelope Niven and I will both be in attendance.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Monday, August 29, 2011

More festivals and screenings scheduled!

More festivals and screenings scheduled! — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Since the film's premiere in April, thousands of people have seen documentary at festivals and screenings. Late this summer and into the fall we are excited to continue sharing the film at some exciting events.  They include; Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, September 8 Black Earth film festival in Galesburg Ill.,  Sept 15th Univ. Of Ill. Champaign-Urbana, Sept 16th Wofford College, Spartanburg SC, Sept. 19th Aperture Cinema, Winston Salem, NC Sunday, Oct. 2nd Southern Appalachian International Film Festival-Oct. 27 The Flat Rock premiere on July 26th was a phenomenal event, raising money for the Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara and sharing the film with more than 500 folks, across the street from Sandburg's final home.  Thank you to everyone who made the event such a success. [caption id="attachment_362" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The audience enters the Flat Rock Playhouse"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_363" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Director Paul Bonesteel and Carl Sandburg Home Superintendant Connie Backlund"][/caption]
The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Friday, July 22, 2011

Flat Rock Playhouse screening nearly sold out!

Flat Rock Playhouse screening nearly sold out! — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

We're happy to report that there will be tickets for the Flat Rock Playhouse screening of the film are selling and selling fast! The screening is a benefit for The Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara, they're a fantastic non-profit and were integral in supporting the making of the film. If you aren't already, please join us on Tuesday, July 26th at the Flat Rock Playhouse for a reception and screening, but you better get those tickets soon! Also, check out this great article by Carol Rifkin of the Asheville Citizen-Times!  
The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Friday, July 08, 2011

July screenings of The Day Carl Sandburg Died recall the poet's life

July screenings of The Day Carl Sandburg Died recall the poet's life — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Two major screenings of the film surround the anniversary of Carl Sandburg's death (which occurred on July 22nd 1967) to audiences that are closely linked to the story of Sandburg. First in Chicago on July 23rd, The Day Carl Sandburg Died will screen in the city where Sandburg emerged as a ground-breaking poet and journalist in the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival.  And then on Tuesdsay, July 26th the film will screen at the Flat Rock Playhouse across the street from his final home in Flat Rock, N.C. which became a National Historic Site celebrating his life.  This screening is a fundraising event for The Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara, a group dedicating in supporting the National Historic Site and Sandburg's legacy. Director Paul Bonesteel will be at both events and will conduct a Q&A session after each screening.
The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Asheville WordFest screening a big success

Asheville WordFest screening a big success — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

A big thanks to everyone who helped make the Asheville, North Carolina premiere of The Day Carl Sandburg Died such a success, screening before more than four hundred people. Thank you Neal Reed (Fine Arts Theatre), Laura Hope-Gill (of Wordfest), Neeley Dawson (Bonesteel Films) for working so hard to make it happen. Both audiences were great, and it reminded me of why I do this... when lights go down and the story unfolds on screen, for me that's where the magic of filmmaking really happens. The comments and questions after about Sandburg and the film encourage me that the film has a powerful relevance to today's social and political climate. I've felt for some time that Sandburg's story and work would resonate with people today and it's great to see and hear that happen.  Check back here often to see news about future screenings and other press! [caption id="attachment_329" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Asheville WordFest Premiere of The Day Carl Sandburg Died"][/caption]  
The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sandburg doc and Winston-Salem's RiverRun festival reviewed online

Sandburg doc and Winston-Salem's RiverRun festival reviewed online — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Winston Salem's RiverRun International Film Festival's line up, including The Day Carl Sandburg Died documentary was reviewed by Winston Salem's Yes Weekly, with a flattering little nugget about the film, "masterfully constructed and inspirational visual essay on the legendary poet, writer and folk singer"... This precedes the world premiere on, April 15th, 16th and 17th!

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Three Sold Out Screenings at RiverRun Int. Film Festival!

Three Sold Out Screenings at RiverRun Int. Film Festival! — The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Three sold out screenings and a wonderful response from the audience made the world premiere of The Day Carl Sandburg Died at the RiverRun International Film Festival a fantastic experience.  The festival was extremely well organized by the festival staff and volunteers.  The venues at A/perture and the N.C. School of the Arts were excellent.

It was especially rewarding to have Penelope Niven, Sandburg's biographer and vital contributor to our film, attend the festival and participate in the Q&A after the screenings.  Most exciting was the numerous comments about how relevant the film was in today's social and political environment.

[Director Paul Bonesteel and Author/Biographer Penelope Niven on the red carpet before the Saturday screening]

People told me over and over again how much they feel this film needs to be seen. Thank you Riverrun for an amazing world premiere.
"A delightful and uplifting amalgam of archival footage, commentary, spoken word performance and songbook selections, the film is a worthy edifice to a monumental American." -Christopher Holmes, Riverrun International Film Festival 

The Day Carl Sandburg Died

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

World Premiere!

The world premiere of The Day Carl Sandburg Died documentary film has been set for RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston Salem, North Carolina, April 15,16,17, 2011.

Carl Sandburg died in July of 1967, but director Paul Bonesteel finds his life story and his creative legacy as relevant and provocative as it was in 1916 when his "Chicago Poems" changed American poetry. “Labor unrest, global wars, socialism, immigration and race issues… this was the subject matter that fueled Sandburg for much of his poetry and writing that shocked the world.” comments Bonesteel. “The intensity of his work was over simplified later in his life. He was both an anarchist and a deeply patriotic American.”

The Day Carl Sandburg Died was more than six years in the making with a cast of more than twenty notable scholars, performers and Sandburg family members. Sandburg’s daughter Helga Sandburg Crile, Pete Seeger, Norman Corwin and the late Studs Terkel contribute to the film along with contemporary poets Marc Smith, Ted Kooser and others. Also contributing significantly to the film is Sandburg Biographer and Winston Salem resident Penelope Niven.

Both Director Bonesteel and Niven will be present at the RiverRun screenings for Q&A. Tickets are available at

Sunday, February 06, 2011

The Day Carl Sandburg Died, Trailer!

We are excited to say that The Day Carl Sandburg Died will have its world premiere in April at a prestigious festival. More news on that as soon as we can announce it. Until then enjoy the trailer!

The Day Carl Sandburg Died documentary film trailer from Paul Bonesteel on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"the man committed to total anarchy"

"Outstanding! Beautiful! You were able to pull the man committed to total anarchy into the man who was a poet, musician, and family man. I am so happy that you showed him to be a revolutionary." -John Steichen (Sandburg's grandson, pictured above)

As we await responses from twenty or so film festivals we've entered I've been getting very meaningful responses from people who have screened the film, including many of the participants and interviewees. Many of these people have lived inside the story, knowing Sandburg closely.

John Steichen described Helga, his mother and lone surviving daughter of Sandburg, as "delighted and totally captivated" by the film.

Norman Corwin, (pictured below having breakfast with Sandburg in the late '50's) declared; "You have done a noble service to the memory of Sandburg and to his of readers in the making of this film".

I have high expectations for the film, but none higher than to be true to the story, and comments like these help me to already consider it a success. Stay tuned for updates as we get news from some of the major festivals that will be announcing soon, and in addition we are working towards a number of events here in North Carolina, Illinois, New York and Nebraska.

PS: The film's trailer is coming soon!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Sounds of Sandburg

What a film sounds like is one of the important subtleties of film making. It was important to me that The Day Carl Sandburg Died had both an emotional and inventive score. The primary creator of this 'soundscape' is a brilliant composer and performer named Zoe Keating. Zoe plays the cello and composes while looping layers of her instrument. A few years ago our editor at Bonesteel Films, Evan Schafer heard an episode of WNYC's Radiolab featuring Zoe and he encouraged me to give her a listen. Her music is an evocative combination of classical cello and modern sounds, leaving room for the listener's imagination. I experimented with the music under the work-in-progress film and the combination was perfect. Check out her web page for samples of her music, especially her newest release "Into The Trees". We were also fortunate to be able to include Sufjan Stevens anthemic "Chicago" bring a modern background score to the section of the film that dives into the story of one of Carl Sandburg's most well known poems by the same name.

Another critical element in the sound of the film is the narrator, and we are really fortunate to have found a wonderful storyteller names Davis Bates. Davis' voice helps tell the story with an intensity and subtlety that makes for wonderful mix with Zoe's music. There is an abundance of other 'sounds' in the film with Sandburg's voice reading portions of his autobiography, poetry and a number of songs from his "American Songbag". And finally, Asheville composer and sound designer Bruce Sales crafted together the finished mix. All this and much more coming to a film festival, theater and PBS in the coming year! As always, say hello and stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What is in the name?

The Day Carl Sandburg Died might strike some as a bit of a strange title for a film. I chose it to both pique curiosity and to make clear that this is not a standard biographical film. Its designed to bring Sandburg into the present. Its a film that challenges the viewer to think about the creative forces that were at work in Sandburg and how he was shaped by the volatile times he lived through, but more importantly, the modern relevance and reasons Sandburg is being rediscovered today.

The actual day he died, July 22, 1967 was an otherwise normal July day in Flat Rock, North Carolina. But his death marked the end of one of the most creative, prolific, expressive and influential lives yet lived by an American.

The Day Carl Sandburg Died is an 84 minute film that is almost finished. It will be officially released in early 2011 and I look forward to sharing it with you. Stay tuned to this blog for more news.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Illustrating Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories

Sometimes when you're making a film you gotta swing for the fences. Pick some 'best case' option and go for it. That's pretty much what I did with the artist David Cowles. I knew I wanted to illustrate/animate one of Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories for our film "The Day Carl Sandburg Died" so I took a look at some animation that I really liked on-line and loved what he had done for the band They Might Be Giants but I really didn't think he would be available or affordable. So I sent him an e-mail and the next thing I knew (much to his credit) he was working on it. Sometimes you just gotta ask.

Telling the fascinating story of Sandburg writing his wonderfully ahead of its time children's fiction (shortly after almost being arrested for espionage!) was always an important part of the film, but it had to have images as wacky and bizarre as the stories themselves... Thanks to David and his friend and animator Jeremy Galante, and even David's daughter's band "The Girls" contributing a fantastic yukalaylee song they marvelously created Sandburg's village of liver and onions from his Rootabaga Stories. Its a wonderful journey into the surreal portion of Carl Sandburg's brain. I can't wait for everyone to see it when the film premiers.

Thanks again David, Jeremy and Alison.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Where to? What Next? And the importance of asking that question

A significant question that gets asked in our film is when Studs Terkel echos Carl Sandburg's famous line from The People, Yes, "Where to? What Next?". Studs asks; "What other question can we ask today?" And in asking this he reminds the viewer of how eternal that question is, for us a individuals and for the United States as a nation.

Sandburg's original question and Studs' modern reference to it is really what this film is about. A window into the work and current relevance of Sandburg. Studs Terkel died on this day, October 31st, 2008, but his vast body of work and his contribution to our film will be enjoyed for many years into the future. He opened his doors and his mind to our project, and for that I am extremely grateful.

As we move towards finishing the film this month, entering it in countless film festivals and negotiating distribution possibilities this blog will change. Very frequently I am going to be celebrating some of the important people and moment that appear in the film. Please become a 'follower' of this blog and join the journey as we being to share the film with the world.

On November 2nd, the Asheville paper wrote a nice article about our status, thanks to Jason Sandford for that coverage. Take a look here.

Thank you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sandburg and Nixon

The image is compelling. Carl Sandburg speaking to a joint session of US Congress in 1959 with Richard Nixon sitting behind him as Vice President. Sandburg reads;
"Men and women. This country has always had them in crisis. Men and women who understand that where ever there is freedom, there have been those who have fought, toiled and sacrificed for it."
Of course, Sandburg could not have known how Nixon would fail to be one of those defenders of freedom, and fall in disgrace. But what Sandburg did know was that he'd seen his type before. In his day and in the history of Lincoln. He could see the turmoil the nation was facing and that it was ripe with opportunity for leadership or failure.

I bring this kind of statement back to this blog discussion because our film, The Day Carl Sandburg Died is being made primarily to tell Sandburg's story, and to create the opportunity for people to think about Sandburg again. To think about his ideas and hear his poetry again. To try and remember the scope of his life and the huge impact he made on the 20th century.

We are finishing the film as I write this, finalizing permissions and countless other duties, but stay tuned. My blogging and my enthusiasm to share Sandburg with the world has never been stronger.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Fragile, Handle with Care"

"Filmmaker on edge"...

For those of you keeping score at home, we're into extra innings... there is still light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel has gotten longer. We've had delays with our distribution and funding which now present new problems and opportunities... One of Carl Sandburg's definitions of poetry seems to sum it up for me:

At times like this I have to think back on the journey, and it's really been amazing. Many people have encouraged and supported us, and we are very grateful for the hundreds of people who have let us know how much this film needs to be made.

Suffice to say, the filmmaker is hanging in, trying to find the funds and the patience to finish the film even when new obstacles arise. Stay tuned for a more news soon.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Light at the end of the tunnel

It is December 2009 and unbelievably we've been working on this film for more than five years. I could say a lot about the pains, delays and false hope that this project has weathered, but in this season of hope I'd rather think about the coming year. With determined effort we are making progress. I can pretty confidently say that one way or another, the film will be finished in 2010, screened and hopefully broadcast.

I happened on a classic photo of Sandburg and his brother-in-law Edward Steichen by Len Stechler and it beautifully captures the optimism they shared. Well into their eighties they were creating, dreaming and still working toward ideas that were not selfish. Ideas of understanding, like The Family of Man exhibit that took these two icons to what was then the Soviet Union in the midst of the Cold War. There they talked, they sang, they shared the ideas of common brotherhood of man.
Where are the Sandburgs and Steichens today? Who are the American icons of thought and courage in this time of global and national crisis to go beyond themselves?

I believe in this film and I believe that we must look to the past for some guidance through the storms of today. I wish you all the best this December and the courage to press on.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Critical moments in Carl Sandburg's youth

Making our fourth trip to Carl Sandburg's hometown, Galesburg Illinois, our production crew spent a few days shooting material for the film.

Click here is a nice write up with photos that appeared in the Galesburg newspaper

Sandburg worked hard as a boy. It was a different American that he grew up in, and yet driving the streets and farm roads around Galesburg you can sense some of the same things Sandburg must have felt. An urging. A desire in the eyes of the young folks there to jump a train and head east to Chicago or west to the huge unknown. When the time came Sandburg did both, but only after he had labored, read most every book he could get his hands on, played baseball, fell in love and learned what he needed to head out.

The critical moments in Sandburg's youth were many, but we re-created a few on the same streets and houses that Sandburg lived, and it felt 'real' it felt true.

The people and institutions of Galesburg (Knox College, The Sandburg Birthplace, Orpheum Theater just to name a few) have been great to us. The actors were wonderful, the costume and locations perfect. Thanks again for welcoming us and providing services and enthusiasm that is so important to making a film.

We are getting closer.

Filmmakers Evan Schafer, Neeley House and Paul Bonesteel at Sandburg's Birthplace in Galesburg Ill.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sandburg film gets NEA grant

Filmmaker Receives Coveted NEA Grant

Bonesteel Films of Asheville has been notified by the National Endowment for the Arts, that Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara, Inc. of Flat Rock, NC has been granted $25,000 to support post-production costs for a documentary film about writer Carl Sandburg. Intended for PBS's American Masters series, The Day Carl Sandburg Died examines the life and work of this Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

"It's a wonderful acknowledgment that Sandburg's work and amazing life story are of interest to the nation, as well as the years of work we've put into developing this project." Said the film's director, Paul Bonesteel

Since 2004 Bonesteel Films has been in planning and production on the film working while closely with Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara, the non-profit support group for the The Carl Sandburg Home, a National Historic Site in Flat Rock.

Bonesteel plans for completion of the film this year, but additional funding is still needed. "The costs associated with finishing a film like this are extraordinary. With an icon like Sandburg, archival rights fees and other expenses are high, and while this grant is good news, much more funding is needed" said Bonesteel.

In addition, the films website has recently been updated and revised with a full cast listing. Click here to take a look.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Carl Sandburg might have cried

If I were writing Mr. Obama's inaugural address I'd have him quote Sandburg. What line? It could be any one of thousands... there are so many that speak to the optimism of the moment that it simply comes down to personal preference. The grand events of Obama's inauguration remind me of Sandburg's optimism for America. An optimism that was authentic. An optimism that was based in the American ideal that we could be better than we've been, that we can reinvent ourselves when needed. If there ever was that need, I think we're there.

Carl Sandburg would have loved Barack Obama. Carl Sandburg would have campaigned for Obama. He would have written poems for him and I have little doubt he might have cried on this day. They would be tears for the obvious and simple fact (that we will all come to take as ordinary from this day forward) that any American can become President of the United States.

As to the likelihood that President Obama will quote Sandburg on the most optimistic day of the past 8 or even 45 years? I can only hope. But if not, I think it's only a matter of time. In our research for this documentary we've identified that every U.S. president since Roosevelt (with the exception of Eisenhower and surprisingly, Jimmy Carter) have quoted Sandburg while in office. Obama would do well to look at the Sandburg we are making a film about. The one who wrote much more about struggle, repression and greed than he did about fog or Chicago. The one who died with an optimism for American that saw him, and our country, through world wars, the great depression and the darkness and paranoia of the cold war. To die at age 89 with what he wanted... "a child heart". That is no easy task. Could we all be so lucky?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Major Progress for Carl Sandburg film

Some exciting events over the past few months have moved us much closer to being able to completing and broadcasting the Sandburg film. Back in June, I met with the creator and executive producer, Susan Lacy of WNET and the American Masters program initiating on-going communication that will hopefully lead to The Day Carl Sandburg Died airing on American Masters.

In September, I spent some quality time with John Carl Steichen, Sandburg's grandson, reviewing the families private collection of home movies and other archival material. John was kind with his time, running the projector as we explored film of Sandburg from the 1920's to the 1960's. The films include moments only seen by family members from the 1920's and remarkably humorous and insightful material that we have not seen before from other television shows and interviews from the 1950's.

Just last week we were notified that we will receive a much needed grant from the Nebraska Humanities Council. This makes the Humanities Councils of North Carolina, Illinois and Nebraska all contributors to our film. A recent presentation before the Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara prompted some local press, see the article at this link.

Next year is the bicentennial celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birth and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is coordinating and supporting a very exciting year of events, some of which have already begun. They are currently reviewing material about our film to (hopefully) certify it as an officially supported project of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. Sandburg's work on Lincoln was arguably his most influential, leading millions of Americans to a better understanding of Lincoln and the Civil War. A recent event was held in Washington DC presenting poetry by and about Lincoln, including Sandburg's "Cool Tombs".

We continue to edit, research material and re-draft the script while we negotiate additional funding and partnerships to finish the film asap. Hopefully in 2009.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Editing begins on Sandburg film

The material is now quite overwhelming. Interviews with Helga Sandburg, Pete Seeger, Studs Terkel, Norman Corwin, Yevgeny Yevtushenko and almost a dozen other historians, scholars and poets and who have published extensively. They all have a unique view of Sandburg and an understanding of the 20th century far better than most folks. And still left to be interviewed is Sandburg's most thorough and modern biographer, Penelope Niven. Ms. Niven's interview has been intentionally delayed until this stage in the production so that her knowledge can be best applied to the film that has been germinating for the past five years.

As I read the transcripts and prepare to begin editing the film the task is daunting, but exciting. The story lines and anecdotes are numerous and illuminating, but they must be wrangled into a thread that sustains the viewer and delivers an engaging experience. If I were a quilter (I've known a few in my days) I suppose it would be like having a pattern but walking into the best fabric shop you can imagine and trying to pick out the patterns, colors and textures from a vast selection. This is where the film begins to take shape. This is where the hard decisions get made, and this is where the excitement really begins. Wish me luck, decisiveness and patience.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Another voice and performance 'Recovering Carl Sandburg'

In recovering Sandburg as poet, we also recover ideals of American history forgotten or laid aside, both those famous folks and in the neglected people. That is why Sandburg wrote — so that American people and history would not be forgotten; so that he would inspire the people to make history happen.
-Kathryn N. Benzel

Another voice has risen in the effort to 'recover Sandburg' this time from Nebraska as Kathryn N. Benzel has written strongly about Sandburg and his work while also producing a show titled: Prayers of the People: Carl Sandburg’s Poetry and Songs.

Benzel's article and more info about the event can be found at this link.

Kathryn N. Benzel is a professor in English at the University of Nebraska-Kearney with expertise in 20th Century American and British literature and specifically in modernism. Currently she is producing Prayers of the People: Carl Sandburg’s Poetry and Songs. She’s enlisted three Nebraska voices to perform — Ted Kooser, Charles Peek and Mike Adams. Their replication of Sandburg’s unique style of lecture-recital focuses on Sandburg’s prairie poems and his favorite Americana folk songs. A performance is scheduled at the Merryman Performing Arts Center in Kearney, Neb., Nov. 16, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sandburg status debated...

On October 5th in Flat Rock, North Carolina three prominent humanities scholars presented research and opinions on Carl Sandburg in a symposium called “Carl Sandburg: Contemporary Perspectives and Criticisms”.

Symposium participants included famed American historian and author Dr. Sean Wilentz of Princeton University, Temple University professor Dr. Philip Yannella, the author of "The Other Carl Sandburg" and Dr. Evert Villarreal of The University of Texas-Pan American, who recently completed his doctorate dissertation entitled “Recovering Carl Sandburg: Politics, Poetry, and Prose after 1920.”

The presentations were lively with one prominent point of debate being the exact nature of Sandburg's poetry, was it 'modernism' or not? If it was why did it change? Was his poetry less successful for it's propagandistic qualities? And if so, what's wrong with that? How this perception effected Sandburg's literary legacy is undeniable... and central to the evolution of Sandburg's 'recovery' if that is indeed happening.

Villarreal, Yannella were joined by Sarah Perschall of the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and participated in a panel discussion that I led that provided further insight into Sandburg’s work and public perception from a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds.

Along with each scholar touring Sandburg's home and archives and we conducted extensive interviews with each scholar. These have contributed greatly to the development of our film. This is one of the many ways we are working towards the completion of film while also bringing interactive poetry events to the public. Look for movies to be posted soon.

Ted McIrvine for the Hendersonville newspaper wrote an interesting summary, take a look.

The event was sponsored by The Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara, a non-profit support group to the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, with funding and support from the North Carolina Humanities Council, Blue Ridge Community College Division for Community Enrichment and Bonesteel Films.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Yevtushenko and other Sandburg documentary news

Yevtushenko at Connemara, Flat Rock NC

I'm not sure what was better, helping Yevgeny Yevtushenko finish a poem while driving down the interstate to his performance, or drinking a beer with him afterwards and discussing the decline of the American empire. In their own way, each were memorable moments, and yet again reminders of the remarkable journey making this film continues to be. The poem was a tribute to Sandburg and Steichen and he performed it to great effect.

In 1959, Yevtushenko was an emerging young Soviet poet who dared to write anti-Stalinist words in the heat of the Cold War. When Carl Sandburg and Edward Steichen visited Moscow for the famous exhibition of Steichen's 'The Family of Man' photo exhibit Sandburg and Steichen both spent time with the promising young poet. The day after his performance at Wofford College in Spartanburg South Carolina we interviewed Yevtushenko for our film, with him telling us how the time spent with these two iconic Americans significantly influenced his view of the world and his career. Look for a clip to be posted soon.
(Yev working on the poem)

Also in April we spent an intense and enthusiastic few days in Galesburg Illinois capturing an extensive interview with professor and poet Robin Metz, a debut performance by slam poet Marc Smith of his tribute to Carl Sandburg (along with an entertaining interview) and some of the sharpest slam poets in the country performing Sandburg poems in a bar packed with poetry fans and competitors. It was exciting and expanding material for the evolution of our documentary.

Finally even more good news. We've received a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, and with that we'll be able to afford to make another research and production trip back the the state of Sandburg's birth. And! we have just been awarded a North Carolina Humanities Council award which will enable us to host a number of Sandburg scholars in Flat Rock for interviews and public presentations early this fall.

Monday, April 16, 2007

New York buzzed with Carl Sandburg 'Modernist'

At least for a few hours on Wednesday April 4th New York City was talking Sandburg. Poems were read and comments made, Lukas Foss delicately played a segment of the Cantata Sandburg inspired him to write, and the poet’s character was sketched out before an attentive audience at New York University.

Amidst it all was a prevailing theme: Sandburg means something. Sandburg did something different. Sandburg contributed something unusual to the development of poetry and American history. Readers might be surprised to find this talked about as a “new idea”. But for many who were introduced to poetry years ago in grade school with his simple “Fog” he may be seen as a gentle, sentimental, and one-dimensional poet, if he is remembered at all. It’s a bit like a John Lennon being remembered only for a Nike commercial jingle.

What is even more interesting is that notable critics, writers and other poets have held this assumption. There are multiple reasons for this, including his celebrity status in his later years, academic bias’ for more ‘refined’ poetry, competition from contemporary writers (the first half of the twentieth century did produce a fantastic range of American poetry) and the all too common rebellion and rejection of the previous generation’s heroes and ideals.

The event, curated by writer, Paul Berman posed the question: “Sandburg, Modernist?”
The responses coming from the speakers seemed to be a resounding “yes.” Take a look at the attached clips from the event that will give you a better sense of the conversation.

Here is a clip from our interview with Geoffry OBrien the next day giving the discussion on Sandburg some addtional context.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Spring 2007

Spring slips back with a girl face calling always: "Any new songs for me? Any new songs?"
-Carl Sandburg, from Cornhuskers, 1918

April stands to be an exciting month for the Carl Sandburg documentary production as we plan on capturing some provocative and interesting people and events.

First, on April 4th we'll be in New York City to interview Author Paul Berman, editor of American Poets Project edition of "Carl Sandburg: Selected Poems" and capture a unique event at N.Y.U. “Carl Sandburg and His Modernism: Writers, Musicians, and Artists Look Back” including Berman, poets Edward Hirsch, Geoffrey O'Brien, Meghan O'Rourke, and Harvey Shapiro and historian Sean Wilentz, reading and commenting on Sandburg's work. Lukas Foss, recognized as one of America's major modernist composers, will perform a portion of his cantata "Prairie" (inspired by Sandburg) on piano, together with Greenwich Village Singers.

On April 19th and 20th, Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, The Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara, and Bonesteel Films will be bringing internationally known poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko to perform and be interviewed for the film. This exciting performer was influenced strongly by the American poet and met Sandburg and brother-in-law Edward Steichen in Moscow in 1959.

And finally, we'll attend the Sandburg Days Festival in Galesburg Ill. on April 26th-28th to capture noted 'slam poet' Marc Smith's performance of "Sandburg to Smith — Smith to Sandburg" a performance poetry event combining Sandburg and Smith's poetry with a live jazz. While in Galesburg additional research and interviews will be conducted with poet Robin Metz and others.

There will no doubt be some intesting pictures, stories and poems that come out of these events. Stay tuned...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Norman Corwin Interviewed

"I believe the announcement of the utter extinction of Carl Sandburg, beyond hope of rescue or resurrection, should be taken with a grain of salt: and I would recommend to the undertakers of academe that each of them take a few grains of Valium before delivering a funeral oration over any corpus of serious writing whose ink has hardly dried." -Norman Corwin

Los Angeles, California January 16, 2007

In May of 2007, Norman Corwin will turn 97 years old. His life is filled with more stories, adventures and accomplishments than perhaps anyone else we've interviewed for the Carl Sandburg documentary (see his bio link above). He was one of Sandburg's best friends and the poet thought of him as a Son.

The interview was conducted in his pleasant home in Los Angeles, amid shelves of books and ephemera collected through his lifetime. This longtime radio, book, stage and screenwriter told us stories about Ed Murrow, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and of course Sandburg. But there were more than anecdotes from Corwin about Sandburg. Corwin has written numerous articles defending the lambasting that Sandburg's literary reputation has taken over the years.

Backed by his significant reputation as a landmark communicator of the 20th Century, Mr. Corwin's thoughts on the lasting value of Sandburg challenge many of the harsher critic's views. From the war poems of Sandburg to his children's stories to "The People, Yes" Corwin gave credit to Sandburg's voice as a primary influence on his own accomplishments. The time I spent with Mr. Corwin has boosted my optimism that this film is evolving into one that can not only force the re-thinking Sandburg, but perhaps a fair bit more than that.

Director Paul Bonesteel talks with Norman Corwin, Photo by Evan Schafer