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Kickstart This: A Reimagining of the Electrifying 1966 Power Struggle Between Jason Holliday and Shirley Clarke

Kickstart This: A Reimagining of the Electrifying 1966 Power Struggle Between Jason Holliday and Shirley Clarke

A landmark of non-fiction film, Shirley Clarke’s “Portrait Of Jason” (a film I first saw in a rare screening at in NYC 4+ years ago, from a not-so good print), was shot in Clarke’s apartment in the Chelsea Hotel during a 12-hour period, beginning on the evening of December 3, 1966. 

The feature film was recently brought back to life by Milestone Films and the Academy Film Archive, in a multi-year endeavor that included a late 2012 Kickstarter campaign that raised over $26,000, that resulted in a beautifully-restored print of a film that the late Ingmar Bergman called “the most fascinating I’ve ever seen,” which would then be re-released in theaters in 2013, en route to a home video (blu-ray/DVD) release of the film late in 2014.

The film is, as the title suggests, a portrait of Jason Holliday (real name: Aaron Payne) – a flamboyant, charismatic cabaret performer. Filmed over the course of one night at the Chelsea Hotel, in New York City, Holliday dishes on a myriad of topics: racism, homophobia, parental abuse, show business, drugs, sex, prostitution, the law, and much more. As the night progresses, he pretty much tells the story of his life, gets increasingly intoxicated, and thus raw with his revelations, eventually ending up in quite an intensely emotionally vulnerable state.

It’s a fascinating, must-see “confessional,” if you will. And now a filmmaker named Stephen Winter is producing a fictionalized account of those real-life 12 hours between Holliday and Clarke in 1966. As director Winters says, his film “re-imagines the electrifying 1966 power struggle between Jason Holliday, a destitute, black middle-aged homosexual, and Jewish, wealthy, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Shirley Clarke over the 12-hour marathon filming session in the Chelsea Hotel which gave rise to Clarke’s iconic 1967 documentary ‘Portrait of Jason.'”

His motivations for making the film include his desire to “settle the 50-year ‘exploitation’ controversy that swirls around Shirley Clarke’s documentary and the consequent erasure of Jason Holliday as a powerful, and wholly relevant cultural figure.”

The film, titled “Jason and Shirley,” has actually already been shot. To finish it, he’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $45,000 for some post-production work, including, per the project’s Kickstarter page: “color correction (the film will look like a vintage postcard, an aged Polaroid and live-action-anime Crayola box!), sound mix/design (it will sound like 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf!), recording our film’s original score (by the brilliant and beautiful composer Drew Brody!) and output of the final product (print it!). The balance will help us create our final exhibition output in HDCam and BluRay, pay for the expenses of the festival circuit and secure distribution. With these monies we will meet with press reps, maintain our website with a “community” aspect, complete our trailer, poster and explore foreign sales.”

The campaign was actually launched weeks ago, but I’m only just being informed about it. The campaign ends on August 8, which is roughly 2 weeks from now, but, as of the time of this post, only $11,000 has been raised, leaving a balance of $34,000 to be met. It’ll be a challenge to raise that much money with 2 weeks to go, but not impossible… starting with this post alerting you to it.

Watch the filmmaker’s video pitch immediately below and if you’re sold, head over to the project’s Kickstarter page to make a contribution here: You can also watch a clip from the original Shirley Clarke documentary that’s out on home video, after the film’s pitch:

Here’s a clip from Shirley Clarke’s original documentary:

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