Robert Weide is the Academy Award nominated and Emmy winning director best known for his work with Larry David on the fan favorite HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm and directing documentaries on Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, and The Marx Brothers. Over the last 30 years, Weide has been working on a documentary about his idol, author Kurt Vonnegut, writer of bestsellers including Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, Mother Night, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater and more. Weide first rolled camera on Vonnegut in 1982 and didn’t stop until Vonnegut’s death almost eight years ago. Weide has self-financed for most of that journey and has now taken to Kickstarter to finally complete post-production on his film Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time.
We spoke with Weide about why, after thirty-some years, he’s not been able to let this one go. He began by answering the most simple question, Why Vonnegut? “Why Vonnegut is why my Marx Brothers film, my W.C. Fields film, my Woody Allen film, my Lenny Bruce film, these were all my cultural influences, admittedly, since adolescence… Vonnegut I discovered in high school.” When Weide read Breakfast of Champions the director recalls thinking, “I found my author,” and continued by saying, “I just connected with him so completely.”
After Weide wrote Vonnegut a letter and the two met, it wasn’t long before the wheels were in motion to begin the documentary. Weide explained, “He agreed in ’82 to make this film. It was ’88 before I got any seed money to do any filming but between ’82 and ’88 we would hang out! [T]he friendlier we got the more open he was to me.” He continued, saying, “I just kept filming him on and off until shortly before his death and I’ve had all of this footage all this time.”
“There was simply no financing,” he told me. “To this day I don’t quite understand it. I’ve pitched it all over and nobody’s picked it up. The other thing is that now the film had gone on so long that it was the 21st century and now most of the footage was vintage film that I’d shot in the late 80’s, mid-90’s which was literally shot on film, which looks great, by the way… you see him getting older in the film and it raises a question, ‘Why did it take so long?’ and that has to be addressed in the film.”
The good news is, once the cut is completed, there is a future for the project. “We’ve got people who are interested in the film. Selling it, marketing it, doing all of that but we need to make a cut first so they can see it and have something to sell. Again, because I’ve gone as far as I can go out of my own pocket that’s when we decided to do the Kickstarter.”
What’s special about Unstuck In Time is that the film was being made with Vonnegut’s complete cooperation. So much so that Weide wondered if he should get anything in writing when the late author was still alive. He told me, “I wrote to Kurt and said, ‘Maybe we should put something on paper? Just to immortalize that we do have an understanding, that we do have a deal,’ and he said fine so we did a simple two page deal memo back then that we both signed off on and so that’s got me covered for using excerpts from his work and using his artwork and stuff like that.”
Because of Weide’s close relationship with Vonnegut’s family, the rewards on this Kickstarter are truly one of a kind. They include everything from a handwritten copy of a syllabus of books Vonnegut thinks everyone should read to a one year membership to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library to pieces of original Vonnegut art signed by Vonnegut himself and numbered. Weide has even called on his good friend Larry David to throw in a favor or two including tickets to David’s sold out Broadway show A Fish In The Dark and a visit with David backstage after the show. WOW!
The Kickstarter campaign has less than two weeks to go. To contribute to Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time, click here!