In March of 1982, PBS aired my first film, The Marx Brothers in a Nutshell. Soon after that broadcast, I wrote a letter to author Kurt Vonnegut in New York, telling him that I made the Marx Brothers film because I was a big fan of theirs. I told Vonnegut I was also a big fan of his, and wanted to make a film about him. I asked if he'd be interested.

He wrote back saying that he had seen my Marx film and loved it. He also said that since he was an author, his work was on the page and he didn't know how one could make a film about him, but he'd be happy to meet with me to discuss it. (Much of this is detailed in the article The Boys of Mother Night in the June 1997 issue of Written By magazine. Also touched on in The Morning after Mother Night, originally published in the Autumn, 1997 edition of The Realist.)

Soon after that correspondence we did meet, and it was the beginning of one of the most rewarding friendships of my life. It was a full six years before I actually started filming Kurt. In March of 1988 we traveled to Buffalo, New York, where a Unitarian church was performing the world premiere of a Humanist Requiem mass that Kurt had written. We boarded a train in Grand Central Station and I interviewed him during the eight hour journey upstate. Along the way we picked up his brother Bernard in Albany, so I was able to shoot the two Vonnegut boys laughing and reminiscing about old times. In Buffalo, I filmed Kurt's speech to a very large full house (full church, actually), as well as the performance of the Requiem by the Unitarian choir.

I've continued to follow Kurt around with a camera since that trip. As of this writing (January, 2001), I've been chronicling him on film for thirteen years. The documentary has been primarily self-financed, so I tend to do more filming whenever I have some spare time and money. Finally, I am cutting together a half-hour reel which I will then use to take around and raise the needed finances to complete production.

Over the years, I've filmed Vonnegut in a number of locations and venues, including the following:

  • His boyhood home in Indianapolis. This home was built by Kurt, Sr., a famed Indianapolis architect. It's poignant to see Kurt talking about his beloved sister Allie in her old bedroom. Kurt also sits on the bed in his boyhood bedroom to reflect on life in that same house seventy years earlier.
  • His grade school, PS 43 (James Whitcomb Riley School). Great fun seeing Kurt walk down the corridors and reminiscing about the trouble he used to get into there.
  • Shortridge High School, where Kurt wrote for the daily newspaper, The Echo, giving birth to his interest in writing.
  • Lake Maxincuckee in Culver, Indiana where Vonnegut's extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins) all had summer cabins. Vonnegut also spent his honeymoon here with his first wife Jane, soon after his return from the war. (See the beautiful piece Kurt wrote about Maxincuckee in Chapter IV in Fates Worse Than Death.)
  • The house in Williams Creek, Indiana where Kurt's mother committed suicide in 1943, when Kurt was home on a weekend pass from the army. It was Mother's Day.
  • Kurt's 60th high school reunion in Indianapolis -- Shortridge High Class of 1940, filmed in June of 2000.
  • Kurt working with artist Joe Petro in Lexington, Kentuky where Kurt puts the finishing touches on a number of his unique lithographs.
  • Kurt speaking to the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa in May, 1994. Kurt taught at the workshop in 1965 -'67 while working on a little book that would become Slaughterhouse-Five. One of his students at the time was John Irving who will also be interviewed in the film.
  • Kurt's old home and study in Barnstable, MA, where he penned his most famous books. Included are neighborhood locales that figure into his novels and provided inspiration for many of his short stories.
  • Kurt on the set of my film Mother Night (directed by Keith Gordon) filming his memorable cameo. Kurt also sat for a dual interview on the set with actor Nick Nolte.
  • Tons of other footage as well: Speaking engagements at several venues including Chapman College in Orange, CA and a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan on a publicity tour for his final novel, Timequake.

The film also contains beautiful black & white 16mm home movies of Kurt and his family, dating back to 1925 when Kurt was three years old. The Vonnegut and Adams families have also been gracious enough to open their family archives which include home movies from the Cape Cod house in the 1960's and family scrapbooks, chock full of vintage photos dating back to Kurt's infancy.

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UPDATE (May, 2017): After more than three decades of struggle to complete this film, I teamed up with director Don Argott, and in 2015 we launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to complete a final cut of the film. The Vonnegut fans came through, and we succeeded in reaching our fundraising goal. The Vonnegut doc is now a full-time concern, and we are gearing up for completion in late 2017, with the hope of a Sundance premiere in January 2018. For more info, visit our official website, and for ongoing updates, please LIKE our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @VonnegutDoc.

You can check out the film's press HERE

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