Here Comes the Crowdfunded Edward Snowden Biopic

A new film seeks to explain the psyche of the famous NSA whistle-blower.

National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
Jan. 3, 2014, 7:44 a.m.

There’s no ques­tion that Ed­ward Snowden’s life would make for a killer spy thrill­er, and in­de­pend­ent and Hol­ly­wood film­makers alike have been mulling over the idea since the first in­tel­li­gence leaks last sum­mer.

In June, a small com­pany called J.Shot spent $540 on a five-minute film about Snowden’s time in Hong Kong, be­fore the first re­ports about the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s secret sur­veil­lance pro­grams went pub­lic. This year, an­oth­er group is shelling out a little more cash on its own pro­ject about the whistle-blower.

Film­makers Jason Bourque and Trav­is Doer­ing — who are, in­ter­est­ingly enough, Ca­na­dian — are seek­ing to raise more than $1 mil­lion through crowd­fund­ing for their dra­mat­ic film, “Clas­si­fied: The Ed­ward Snowden Story.” In their video de­scrip­tion of the pro­ject, which you can watch here, the film­makers say “we’ll be an­swer­ing the ques­tion, ‘What made him the man he is today?’ “

The script will be re­vised by “vari­ous con­sult­ants, some of which are cur­rently em­ployed by the U.S. gov­ern­ment, and oth­ers that have per­son­al ties with Snowden him­self.”

Fun­drais­ing ef­forts through the film’s main web­site, which ended Wed­nes­day, raised $842,330 from a mere 136 donors. El­ev­en people gave $2,500, which gran­ted them spots as as­so­ci­ate pro­du­cers. A Kick­starter cam­paign that ended in Oc­to­ber raked in $10,916 from 18 back­ers. A note on the movie’s web­site says the film­makers plan to an­nounce new shoot­ing dates for 2014 after re­as­sess­ing their just-short budget.

The two-hour movie, filmed in Van­couver, will cov­er Snowden’s life from the time he en­lis­ted in the U.S. Army in 2004 un­til he re­leased clas­si­fied in­form­a­tion that would dom­in­ate news and policy de­bates in 2013. The time frame may be a smart move, as oth­er film­makers have shied away from fast-track­ing a film be­cause they, along with every­one else, don’t yet know how Snowden’s story ends.

In the spir­it of Snowden­ism, “Clas­si­fied” will be dis­trib­uted un­der the Cre­at­ive Com­mons li­cense, which means it can be viewed and shared for free by any­one with an In­ter­net con­nec­tion. It will be avail­able for down­load on The Pir­ate Bay, a not quite leg­al file-shar­ing web­site, in Septem­ber.

Borque and Doer­ing would like some help from the star of the film if he’s will­ing. “It is very im­port­ant to us that the story be por­trayed as ac­cur­ately as pos­sible, and we would love the op­por­tun­ity to speak with him dir­ectly,” the pair says in the short clip. “So Ed­ward, if you’re out there, you know where to find us.”

While Snowden has been work­ing for an un­named web­site in Rus­sia since the fall, the 30-year-old is short on cash, ac­cord­ing to his law­yer. All those fed­er­al es­pi­on­age charges would ob­vi­ously get in the way, but Snowden could prob­ably make a pretty penny off film rights and con­sulta­tions on ma­jor stu­di­os’ biop­ics.

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