Monday, April 8, 2013

Searching a little bit of history that fell from the stars...


Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by the intriguing Marc Hermann to talk about his documentary The Lost Torah.  Thank you for joining us today Marc!

Glad to be here James. Thank you for inviting me to Kickstarter Conversation and allowing me to talk to you about the space shuttle and a little known story associated with it.

As a NASA man myself it is always interesting to run into those with interesting stories and different points of view of my daily job.  In this case you’ve brought up an interesting angle on the Columbia tragedy, would you tell us more about The Lost Torah and this Kickstarter project in particular?  

I am doing two things with my project. Primarily I am making a documentary film To inform the public about this little known subject. The first Israeli Astronaut, Ilan Ramon was aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. Few people know that he had brought with him a Torah and other items to conduct Friday night religious services for the sabbath. This Torah was never recovered after the loss of Columbia. Only 40 percent of this Orbiter was ever recovered the rest is still out there spread across the country. Most think everything burned up on reentry but this is far from the case. The crew cabin was not breached and depressurised until after it was already in the atmosphere and did not actually burn. Many paper documents and astronauts notes were recovered in the following weeks after the tragedy. The Torah is inside a still missing crew locker. I am putting together a team to go and search for this lost crew locker containing the Torah.

One of my coworkers sent me a story of the history of this little Torah you’re looking for, it’s quite a story all on it’s own! Will you go through the history of the Torah as setup for the rest of the film?  

This particular Torah’s age is unknown. What we do know is that during WWII it had been miraculously smuggled in to the concentration camp, Bergen Belsen in Germany. It was at a time where the Nazi’s were destroying anything Jewish. The Rabbi who was protecting and hiding the Torah inside the camp knew that he was not going to survive. After the Rabbi Bar Mitzvahed a 13 year old boy. He entrusted the now young man to keep and protect this Little 6 inch tall Torah. This young man was able to survive the camp with the Torah. Later this man took the Torah with him to live in Israel.



What kind of pre-production have you already accomplished for this film?  Besides gaining access to interview NASA employees such as myself?  

There is always a lot of research that goes in to any documentary. I have recently discovered that unlike Shuttle Orbiter Challenger,  Columbia was not buried in old missile silos. Every bit of Shuttle Columbia is kept locked up in a secure room inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC. I am trying to gain access to film and interview inside this room. I have been inside the VAB before filming Space Shuttle Atlantis. I have found a Rabbi that was invited to view and bless the final launch of Columbia. I am also talking with other Rabbis, my local Jewish Community Center, and the Holocaust center.


What prior work have you done in the area?  I understand this isn’t the only shuttle related project you’re working on?

In October of 2012 I was one of the last people allowed to climb aboard Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis and film inside before the door was permanently locked closed. Atlantis was the last Shuttle to be turned over to private hands and is located at the Kennedy Visitor Center.

Currently I am in the editing stage nearing post production on a new documentary about the Space Shuttle Challenger. I have discovered new evidence and information in the loss of this Space Shuttle. People at NASA have been very helpful. Some did not realise that they each knew one small piece of a much larger puzzle that had been overlooked and not been put together, shedding a new light on the incident. This new information will cause the scientists and engineers to take a whole new look in to  this accident.

I noticed your Kickstarter video features a Rabbi but not you.  Why is that?  

The Rabbi is a willing frontman to tell a the story for the video. Where this is my project, I am person behind the scenes doing the tough, hard work that no one ever sees. When you go to a concert, see a movie, or watch a show on TV. You only see the key people up front telling the story. Behind the scenes there are normally hundreds and sometimes thousands of people working hard to make what you see happen. I am the guy that makes it happen. The large amounts of labor is why movies cost hundreds of millions to produce.

You are asking for $75,000 where is all that money going?  

Equipment and travel. Anyone who has gone on vacation traveling across the country knows it can be expensive. I will need to go to several locations across the country to film.

Equipment is not cheap. I need audio equipment, cameras, lights, computers and computer programs. I need a staff and people to help with the search in the Texas swamps. I will need equipment for the search. I will be interviewing people. I need a narrator to help tell the story. in the relative world of filmmaking, this is an extremely low budget film that I intend to be a high quality product.

I didn’t notice any digital only rewards, why is that?  Wouldn’t an all digital reward tier help for those overseas backers who don’t want to bother with international shipping?  

I didn’t want anyone to feel cheated or that they gave to the project and they never heard about it again. I wanted even the lowest contributor to feel involved in the project. I have built a website just for everyone who donated to my project to follow along as I make my movie in real time. This way people can feel involved in the process as much or as little as they like. I am not forcing or making them feel obligated to digitally follow up. It will be there for everyone at their leisure because we all have busy lives.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

I stumbled on a newscast about Crowdfunding. Kick Starter seemed to be the most popular for people to remember and donate to. I had not intended to even do a project, until this unknown story about Columbia was brought to my attention.


A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

I mentioned earlier about the website. I want my backers to feel apart of the process. When I am ready to go out and search for the lost Torah, my backers will know about it.  I will be welcoming anyone who wants and is able to come out and help in the search and potentially be seen in my movie. If you donate to my film, you have the real possibility to be in it!


What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

I have set up a facebook page and posted my video on youtube. I printed up flyers and asked shops in popular areas to post them in their store windows. I have also sent out e-mails to groups that might be interested in my subject matter.


Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Have a popular subject and do as much for your work in advance before launching.


Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

There is so much more to the space programs then we actually know. For the one story of a launch and landing, there is so much more that goes on and missed by the general public. You hear they launched this satellite, maybe you here they did this experiment. It is the thousands of little stories that you do not hear about that happen during the days, weeks, and on the international space station months. Some are very important like when the one toilet broke in space. Some are small like having a christmas tree and attempting to decorate it without the ornaments floating away. Then there are the everyday products we use that affect our everyday lives that are developed every year out of the space program. NASA holds over 7,000 patents and puts out a book every year of new inventions and products.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Thank you very much for having me and helping me get the word out. My project is spread out over many different areas of interest and so many do not know about this story that they already have an interest in.