Documentary Production and Distribution News
Counting on support from the thousands of fans who have made Thomas Merton one of the bestselling spiritual writers of all time, director Ben Eisner has launched an ambitious IndieGoGo campaign that seeks to raise $2.2 million over the next 60 days to fund pre-production of his feature-length biopic, The Divine Comedy of Thomas Merton.
Widely recognized as one of the 20th century's most important spiritual teachers, Thomas Merton is perhaps best known for his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which turned the reclusive monk into an international celebrity when it was published in 1948. Since then Merton's writings have been translated into dozens of languages, selling millions of copies worldwide.
The Divine Comedy of Thomas Merton focuses on the last two years of Merton's life, during which he fell in love with a nurse half his age while in hospital for back surgery. Far from a sensationalist account of the monk's life, director Ben Eisner and co-writer Kevin Miller are committed to presenting an honest, accurate portrayal of Merton's struggle to remain true to his vocation.
"Thomas Merton was engaged in a perpetual search for wholeness and inner transformation," says Eisner. "He poignantly addressed not only the motives of the human heart, but the motives behind our motives, which drive us to construct our own illusory fortresses of protection from ideas or people groups whose perspectives don't align with our own. With this film, we hope to introduce the world to this vulnerable and very human side of Merton, inviting viewers to ask the deeper questions about their own vocation in a world that desperately needs unconditional love and indiscriminate compassion."
The film's script has already been welcomed by several members of the Merton community, including Jim Forest, who knew Merton personally. Well known Catholic writer and teacher Richard Rohr has called it "fully entertaining but profoundly true." Merton scholar Susan McCaslin says, "Through this riveting story, audiences will engage their own hidden longing for wholeness." Past president of the International Thomas Merton Society, Donald Grayston, has also given it his stamp of approval: "Ben Eisner and Kevin Miller have done a mighty work in wrestling with the very complex Merton legacy."
The $2.2 million Eisner is seeking to raise through the IndieGoGo campaign will cover development and pre-production costs. It represents just over 25% of the film's modest $8.3 million budget.
"Period pieces are notoriously expensive to film," says Eisner. "But with the help of line producer Stephen Marianaccio, we have created a budget that will enable us to tell this beautifully redemptive story at a fraction of the typical cost without compromising quality. I'm confident that the worldwide community of people who have had their hearts stirred by Merton's life and writings will band together and help us bring this story to the big screen."
The Divine Comedy of Thomas Merton is being produced through Eisner's own Knitted Heart Productions. He is aiming to complete the film in time for a 2015 release to coincide with worldwide celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of Merton's birth.
Official site: www.mertonmovie.com
IndieGoGo campaign: www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-divine-comedy-of-th...