Shuktara Documentary Film

$24,055 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 230 people in 18 months
Please visit the updates section to follow our production story and progress.   
We have 1 - 2 more shoots to complete photography on the documentary and then will move into post-production.   We are still actively fundraising to cover our on going production costs.  
The support of our individual donors is what has got us this far!! 

In the chaos of Kolkata’s Howrah train station David Earp’s life changed forever.

Deeply moved by the plight of children with disabilities who had been orphaned or abandoned —living on the streets and seeking refuge in the station, begging for scraps of food, or finding their way to local institutions that were not equipped to properly care for them—David resolved to provide a home for children who need care for a lifetime.

This home is called Shuktara – star of happiness.

We want to make this film because shuktara is home to an amazing group of young people - wonderful, glowing and complex young people - who have rich, full lives - because they have love, attention and care in their lives.  

This is their story.  

We also want to raise awareness of the continued discrimination, hardship and abuse many people living with disabilities still endure because of ableism, ignorance and lack of access.  Not just in India, but everywhere.   


Now, this is where you come in.  We need your support to keep going.  REALLY we do

We shoot cheap and pretty, but the costs of making a film still add up.  To get to this point filmmakers Phoebe Brown and Elizabeth Strickler have put in over two years of planning, our own funds to get footage for the trailer shot,  working nights and weekends on top of our day jobs.  This is truly a passion project. 
But, most importantly, more eyes on the film mean more supporters for shuktara!  

What's in in for you? 

Anyone who donates $25 or more during this funding campaign will recieve access to a digital screener before it is available to the general public.  

You'll also be included in our behind the scenes updates and special content.  

And we'll also put your name in the credits as a thank you.  

Where will the money go?  

Meeting our goal will fund the next shoot, show we have a ready audience, and hopefully get the attention of grant makers and investors who can fund the film entirely.  Our overall budget including post-production is over $300,000.00.   But we think this story is worth every penny, rupee, euro and peso! 

How the funds breakdown:  


We are running a small female crew with a proven track record of exceptional storytelling. 

Director/Producer Phoebe Brown has been working as a producer for unscripted television and feature documentary projects for almost 10 years.  This will be her 8th trip to Kolkata and she is full of ideas for the next shoot.  

Producer/VR Director Elizabeth Strickler, a media educator and scholar, is developing a companion Virtual Reality experience that will be part of  the outreach of the film.   

Fearless Cinematographer Raegan Hodge has shot from Bangladesh to South Sudan for the charitable organization CARE and other non-profit clients. 

Again keeping lean and mean. 
Two cameras, lenses, and insurance.  
Simple sound kit and a little help for the mostly natural light. 

Travel/Stay:  Staying is cheap.  Getting there - a long expensive flight.  The crew will bunk up in a nearby airbnb. 
And of course....Wrap party for the shuktara family!  You'll be virtually invited! 

Editing:  funds to organize the footage and get a rough idea of what the next shoot will be.   

What happens if we exceed our goal?   

We shoot more and worry less. 
All funds will go into making this film a reality!  The more we raise - the faster we can get the film into distribution. 

Your sharing is as important as your giving!  Please donate and then spread the word! 

To find out more about shuktara visit their website: 

Interview on her experience with shuktara from long time supporter and amazing singer Belinda Carlisle

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Happy 20th Anniversary to Shuktara!

What an amazing milestone to make! We love and miss you all!!

The team had hoped to be there for this celebration but some other obligations conspired against us and we had to get creative. So our 20th anniversary gift from the production was a small portable action camera that everyone can shoot with! The Osmo Pocket has been well received and the kids have already shot over 30 video files. We’ll be working together to establish what to capture over the next few months while we work on the edit and determine what else is needed to wrap up the film.

Editing isn’t the most visually exciting part of the process but the thrill for us is we’ve added Kitty Ray Swain as our editor.

Kitty has been post producing and editing for over 25 years on a wide variety of projects. Passionate about exploring social and ecological issues, she currently post produces and edits the Emmy-award winning series, EcoSense For Living, an environmental awareness program that has aired on national PBS stations since 2008. Other notable projects include Herren’s: A Sweet Southern Spirit, an Emmy-nominated, historical documentary for public television about Atlanta’s first restaurant to voluntarily desegregate in the 1960’s; and 66 documentary episodes of the Emmy-nominated environmental discovery series, The Natural South for Turner Broadcasting. We are so excited to have Kitty on board. Her sensitivity and patience are exactly what we need in post-production.

We also owe a special thanks to Ben Pundole who ran a half marathon in Miami at the end of January and generously donated the $2K he raised to the Shuktara Doc fund. We put those funds into the post-production fund and this also helped us purchase the Osmo camera for the house. Thank you, Ben for your continued support!

Some team updates!

Phoebe was selected to participate in the 2019 Southern Producers Lab sponsored by the New Orleans Film Society https://neworleansfilmsociety.org/southern-producers-lab/
She attended a 5-day intensive in New Orleans in March and a 3-day industry event in LA in June where she received mentorship from top documentary and narrative film industry professionals. This will be hugely beneficial to the Shuktara documentary going into post-production and distribution.

Raegan has relocated to Amsterdam and is working for the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation. She is using her video and photography skills to document and advocate for survivors of wartime sexual violence around the world.

We are still on track to complete post-production by late winter/early spring next year and then launch the film into the world! Join us in wishing Shuktara a happy 20th Anniversary and many 20's to come!
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Happy New Year to All!

We are excited to announce that Phoebe was awarded a 2018 artist grant from Idea Capital for the shuktara documentary. It is a small, but meaningful grant and hopefully a sign of more good things to come. You’ll notice David and Ratan are the lead image in the announcement! www.ideacapitalatlanta.org/blog/2019/1/3/idea-capital-2018-award-winners

We are hoping to get in two more shoots – one to wrap up our principal storylines in March or April and one to capture shuktara’s 20th anniversary celebration in July. This will then move us fully into post-production with a goal of having a rough cut of the film in Winter 2019/2020. We are still in the fundraising process for this – but feel like 2019 is really going to be the year of shuktara!

I know this can seem like a slow process to our supporters but a 3-year turnaround time for a documentary is really quite speedy; a 6-10 year process for a documentary film is actually fairly commonplace.

A most important shuktara milestone that must be celebrated, although sadly we will miss, is another epic jasmine throne at David’s 60th birthday celebration. We wish him 60 more!!

More news to come soon! There is a ton going on behind the scenes – not always very visually interesting, but always humming.

As always, thank you for your help in making this film and supporting independent artists. It matters!
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Having just celebrated Thanksgiving here in America – I’m ready to share how thankful the crew was to experience being in Kolkata in October. I’ve held off on making an update on the shoot while David and the rest of the shuktara home go through the grieving and letting go process around the death of Anna. It was also a hard landing coming back to the U.S. – after so much emotion and getting a bit of the crud on the way home.

It’s hard to put the last shoot into words – so much celebration and also such a huge loss for the shuktara family. We went to Kolkata this time to capture Durga Puja, which is a huge celebration across all of Kolkata and pure visual and auditory overload. We came. We saw. We Durga Puja-ed!

Various civic organizations, funded by streets lined with advertisements on temporary billboards (soon after to become temporary roofs on homes in the slums), create theme based stages called pandals to host the image of the goddess Durga Ma and pandal hopping is the thing. We did two days with the girls and a night with the boys. It’s an absolute spectacle. The kids get VIP treatment as persons with disabilities and everyone was really gracious (maybe especially so as they were being trailed by white folks with cameras). It was a real treat to see the shuktara kids enjoy festival time like everyone else and tooling around Kolkata in the car just seeing the city.

Most everyone is well and thriving and lives are going on. This is the up news.

The down news was, as many who follow the shuktara homes now know, that Anna fell ill and left this plane of existence. Anna – who launched David into caring for young people before shuktara was even a full fledged idea, became ill and went into hospital on the first day of Durga Puja. It was up and down all week. First, Anna was not expected to last the night – and by end of week the doctor’s declared he had made good progress toward recovery from pneumonia and underlying that, tuberculosis. David and Pappu tried to be in the spirit of the Puja as much as they could for the staff and other kids and us…but it was a strain and we so appreciated their kindness and what attention they had available for the film crew.

Anna was released home on the last day of Durga Puja – and died surrounded by loved ones later that afternoon.

Raegan and I were so lucky to have met Anna and been touched by his spirit and kindness. It is also amazing that this is the first loss of a child who has come into the shuktara family in its near 20 years. That is real care and real love.

Lastly, I have to say I couldn’t ask for two better people to have been on this trip than Jake and Raegan. We tried to stay present and be respectful of the real emotional turmoil going on with a family we’ve come to love so much – even Jake who has just met everyone at shuktara was already at home on day one. And through it all we tried to capture the wild magic and freedom that Durga Puja brings the kids.

Durga, the mother goddess creates and calls back. We brought the creative mother with us, but had no power over her asking one of her own to return to spirit. We are only tellers of the story and that is the magic we can weave - for a minute we’ll be able to call Anna back and let you all hold him a little longer.

The film update from here: looking at one more shoot to round out our storylines - but with that principal photography should be complete! Seeking creative options for post production funding and always pushing forward to get the doc finished! Again - thank you for all of your support getting us this far.
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We are just a under two weeks away from our next shoot. So excited to be going back to see everyone! I was making my list of shots and story threads this morning and wishing I could stay for a month and not just a wild week. But, we will take what we can get and just keep making magic!

Our camera/sound/moral support Siddarth Agarwal just shared some wonderful behind the scenes shots he took on the last trip and here are a few for you, dear backers! Sadly, we don't have Siddarth with us on this trip. He's busy doing amazing work raising environmental awareness in India. (see his work here https://www.veditum.org/)

BUT we do have sound recordist extraordinaire Jake Slaney (The Walking Dead, Brockmire, Carbonaro Effect...the credit list is long and impressive) joining us from Atlanta. Jake is generously donating his time on this shoot which is a huge gift. Our creative crew cutting their rates and throwing in free gear is how we are able to get the level of production we are shooting at such a low cost. The love in this labor is HUGE!!

But we do still have flights to cover and some gear to rent and insurance and other little incidentals that add up...so your shares and support really help here! A round of social media thanks is about to go out next.

So excited to have you all along on this journey.
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$24,055 of $30,000 goal

Raised by 230 people in 18 months
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