Sign My Name To Freedom

Oakland, California | Film Feature

Documentary, Music

Focal Point Films

1 Campaigns | California, United States

16 days :04 hrs :50 mins

Until Deadline

342 supporters | followers

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$62,060

Goal: $60,000 for post-production

Many know Betty Reid Soskin as America’s oldest park ranger, but this film tells her hidden story as a musician who wrote haunting songs during the 60s and 70s about her experiences confronting segregation in California. Now she wants to share these songs and stories with you before it’s too late.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

Betty Reid Soskin is a living link to history from a period that still informs our present reality, and the racism and chauvinism she faced are still very present today. We want to connect folks to Betty’s history and empower them to reach a different conclusion about their own place in the world.

The Story


UPDATE: HELP US REACH OUR STRETCH GOALS!



Thank you everyone for helping us to get the Green Light on our campaign and getting us close to our initial goal of $60K! But that is just our baseline fundraising goal and won't get us to the finish line. Betty is now 102, and our ultimate goal is to complete the film while she's still around to see it, which is one of her dreams – and we still need your help to make that a reality.


Editing a feature-length documentary is an expensive and time consuming endeavor. Most features take 9 months or more to edit. We're lucky to have our Emmy-award winning editor on the project, but we need to hire him for the time needed to complete the film. That's why we have stretch goals for our campaign:


  • With $100K we can fund 5 months of editing and reach rough cut for the film


  • With $150K we can cover editing fees for the full film for both our editor and his assistant




For over 50 years, Betty Reid Soskin held a secret. Deep in her closet, she’d hidden a box of reel-to-reel tapes with dozens of stunning original songs that narrate her personal journey through the 1960s & 1970s. For decades, she’s been too afraid to confront the emotional baggage that went along with her music, so she buried it away. 


With no clear sense for what the future would hold, she decided to open the box and dive back into her songs. That sparked an autobiographical journey to re-explore the personal experiences behind her songs. 


Betty’s music is a haunting flashback to her family’s experiences confronting Jim Crow segregation in California. As the first African-Americans to integrate in an all-white suburb of San Francisco, her son survived being stoned by white children, and her family endured daily bigotry that left permanent scars. 


The film follows Betty’s journey from the first time she listens to her old tapes, through her collaborations with younger musicians, and culminates with her singing of one of her songs to a crowd of thousands backed by a full symphony orchestra and choir - but only after confronting the deep personal traumas that had kept her from her music for so long.



In collaboration with the next generation of Bay Area Musicians, Betty’s songs converge past & present through their exploration of race, identity, and what it means to be American. 







I first met Betty in 2016, and we became close friends through countless conversations without the camera rolling. This relationship has guided the film at every juncture, so that Betty’s voice and take on her life are authentically hers, rather than my interpretation of her story. Back in 2016, Betty hadn't listened to most of her music in decades, but she did have a homemade CD of a few songs she had dubbed from her reel-to-reel tapes years ago. Nobody had taken much notice of her music, including her. As she said, her songs would have gone to the trash heap when she passed away, but when she played a song for me, I was totally blown away. That moment changed both of our lives forever. She entrusted me with her music and her story and that's a responsibility that I take very seriously and promise to uphold. Over the past 7 years, I have helped connect Betty with musicians of many generations from across the Bay Area, and I have always made it a priority to listen to Betty and her family on how I can craft a story that's authentic to their lived experience. Betty, her children, her cousins, and her granddaughter have all given me input on how this story should be told. I hope you'll help me deliver on this promise & fulfill this family's dream.





Betty turned 102 on September 22, 2023. Her icon and mentor was her great-grandmother Leontine, who was born into slavery and passed away when she was 102. Betty's final wish is to see this film and her unreleased music out in the world before she dies. It's what continues to give her meaning now that she has retired from the National Park Service. But given her advanced age, the clock is ticking. That is why time is of the essence for this project.





Principle photography for SIGN MY NAME TO FREEDOM is complete! That means, ninety five percent of the real-life footage of Betty, her family members, and the Bay Area musicians that she worked with has already been recorded. Now we need your help to bring Betty's backstory to life through re-enactments, archival footage and the magic of editing! 


We've raised significant funding to get us through shooting and the early stages of editing through a mix of grants & donations from folks like The Berkeley Film Foundation, Rosie the Riveter Trust, California Humanities, Bay Area Video Coalition, Ms. Foundation for Women, & the International Brotherhood of Boilermaker, the labor union that was segregated during the WWII home front, making it impossible for Betty to work as a Rosie the Riveter, but that has since changed course dramatically. We have also received support from private individuals like yourself. But we need your help to get the film 100 percent finished and out into the world.


If we can raise our primary goal of $60K, we will use the funding to:


  • Hire our award-winning editor and his assistant for 3 months to get the film closer to completion.


  • Pay a fair wage to a post-production team of young working professionals.


  • Pay for the first dramatic re-enactments for key moments in Betty’s life that were never documented with photos or film. These funds will cover actors, sets and hiring crew. 


  • Restore and remaster Betty’s music so we can release an album of her unreleased songs along with our documentary. 


Thank you for making this film possible! We are grateful for any amount you can contribute! Your support makes you more than just a donor, it makes you a partner helping Betty realize her dream of to see her story on screen and her lost music into the world.


YOUR DONATION IS TAX-DEDUCTIBLE!


Your donation to this film is tax-deductible! Sign My Name To Freedom is a fiscally sponsored project of the International Documentary Association (IDA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions in support of Sign My Name To Freedom are payable to IDA and are tax-deductible, less the value of any goods or services received, as allowed by law. The value of goods and services offered is noted under each donation level. If you would like to deduct the entire donation, decline the incentive at checkout.


HOW TO DONATE BY CHECK


If you prefer to donate by check or through your IRA or Donor Advised Fund (DAF), that is possible too! To make a donation from your IRA or DAF, request that your fund administrator issue a check to the International Documentary Association and be sure that they include "Sign My Name to Freedom 4461" in the check's memo so the funds go to the Betty Reid Soskin documentary. Checks should be mailed to, "IDA, Attention: Fiscal Sponsorship, 3600 Wilshire Bivd., Suite 1810, Los Angeles, CA 90010-2622". If you have questions, please email the film team at [email protected].

Wishlist

Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Production Team

Costs $12,000

These funds will help pay our Directors, Producers, and Supervisors to work for the next 2-3 months.

Editing

Costs $35,000

These funds will allow us to work with our fantastic Editor & Asst Editor for 2 more months bringing us closer to a Rough Cut of the film.

Dramatic Re-enactment

Costs $10,000

Several key elements of Betty's backstory need to be told with Re-enactments. These funds will help cover costs for actors, sets & crew.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Audio Restoration

Costs $3,000

These funds will restore & remaster Betty's unreleased music.

About This Team


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Current Team

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