FULL BODY BURDEN

A feature length documentary from HaveyPro Cinema
Based on the book by Kristen Iversen

Full Body Burden is Kristen Iversen’s story of growing up in a small Colorado town in the shadow of Rocky Flats, a secret nuclear weapons plant. It is also a story about the destructive power of secrets — family secrets and government secrets — and the cost of deception. Today, as development pushes against the borders of the former plant site and the United States moves closer to a renewed nuclear arms race, a clear-eyed assessment of our nuclear legacy is increasingly urgent.

Synopsis

1951 - To the surprise of Colorado’s citizens and elected officials, the Atomic Energy Commission announces that it has selected “an old rocky cow pasture” just outside the quickly growing city of Denver as the site of a new nuclear production plant. While local papers, businesses and contractors gladly anticipate the flow of federal dollars, specifics of the plant’s activities are veiled in secrecy.

In reality, Rocky Flats is tasked with producing the radioactive heart of every nuclear weapon produced in the United States for the next thirty years. Over the lifespan of the plant over 3000lbs of plutonium, with a half-life of 24,000 years, will be classified as “Material Unaccounted For”.

Combining a poignant personal memoir with a highly-researched work of investigative journalism, Full Body Burden gives a detailed and shocking account of the United States government’s nuclear weapons production and the sustained attempt to conceal the toxic and radioactive material released by Rocky Flats. Years of protest, lawsuits, and health studies culminated in 1989, as the FBI and EPA conducted a federal raid on the plant over alleged environmental crimes. The lawsuits and investigations that flowed from the raid began to uncover decades of negligence and deception along with the toxic threat lurking just beyond suburban yards.

The mid-century neighborhoods near Rocky Flats embody the post-war American ideal, but behind the idyllic suburban façade a more complex story unfolded. Many residents were among the thousands of Cold Warriors who proudly fulfilled their mission to build the sophisticated mechanisms meant to protect the nation, while raising their own nuclear families on the generous paychecks from the plant. But government pressure to keep nuclear components rolling off the production line led to a culture that valued speed and production over safety. Multiple releases of radioactive contaminants threatened not only workers at Rocky Flats, but the burgeoning metropolis on the horizon. In 1969, a large fire sent a plume of radioactive smoke drifting over the Denver metro area with only the desperate heroics of plant firefighters preventing a Chernobyl-level disaster.

This feature length documentary film grapples with the destructive power of secrets as government agencies, developers, activists and nearby neighbors continue to spar over the environmental legacy of Rocky Flats. Today, the need to understand and honestly assess the secrets of Rocky Flats is critical. While technical experts, plant managers and engaged activists have long debated these issues, the general public still lacks a basic understanding of the events of past decades, and how they affect decisions today.

Urgency

With the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge now open to the public for recreation, and housing developments and highways pressing toward the former plant’s perimeter, the need for a broadened understanding of Rocky Flats’ nuclear history is increasingly urgent. Heightened local awareness combined with the international interest generated by the publication of Full Body Burden, as well as rising global nuclear tensions, the anticipated renewal of plutonium pit production, and the ongoing cleanup of other similar nuclear facilities, make the time right to alert audiences to the dangers of our shared nuclear legacy.

By weaving together a detailed historical record with the personal story of neighborhoods in the shadow of Rocky Flats, this film will not only illuminate the history of the plant and prompt a more informed public dialog, it will also emotionally engage citizens in the questions that will continue to surround the physical remnants of our atomic inheritance today, and for countless generations to come.

Production Timeline

Development & Pre-Production (Ongoing)

Fundraising, Archival Research, Initial Interviews, Trailer Production, Website Development

Production (Present — Summer 2019)

Interview & B-Roll Filming, Research, Script Development, Preliminary Editing

Post-Production (Fall 2019)

Final Edit, Graphics and Visual Effects Production, Music Scoring & Recording

Premiere & Distribution (Early 2020)

Gala Premiere Event, Film Festival Screenings, Theatrical & Television Release

Production Team

HaveyPro Cinema

The Emmy Award winning production team at HaveyPro Cinema specializes in compelling and artistic films to broaden perspectives on stories that matter. From legacy films to preserve and articulate history and ideals to documentaries featuring the important people, places and stories of the American West, HaveyPro films make a powerful connection to hearts and minds at special events, in theaters, online and on television. Historical documentaries produced for television and education include: The Great Divide, Centennial Statehouse: Colorado’s Greatest Treasure, Denver Union Station: Portal to Progress, Molly Brown: Biography of a Changing Nation, Downtown Denver: Heart of the Queen, Colfax Avenue: Main Street Colorado, The Five States of Colorado, and Forging the West. Honors include two Emmy Awards, ten Telly Awards, two First Place National Municipal Television Awards, three best-of-festival documentary awards, and numerous screenings at film festivals.

International Documentary Association — Fiscal Sponsor

The IDA is dedicated to building and serving the needs of a thriving documentary culture. Through its programs, it provides resources, creates community, and defends rights and freedoms for documentary artists, activists, and journalists. Since 1998, the fiscal sponsorship program has been directly accomplishing this mission by helping hundreds of independent documentaries which may otherwise have been unable to secure funding, get funded, finished, and seen. IDA is a 501(c)(3) public charity and last year administered over $7 million dollars in donations and grants to sponsored projects.

Kristen Iversen, PhD — Executive Producer

Kristen is the author of Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, winner of the Colorado Book Award and the Reading the West Book Award, and chosen one of the Best Books of 2012 by Kirkus Reviews, the American Library Association, and Mother Jones Magazine, and 2012 Best Book About Justice by The Atlantic. Iversen’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Reader’s Digest, Fourth Genre, and many other publications. She has appeared on C-Span, NPR’s Fresh Air, and BBC World Outlook, and worked extensively with A&E Biography, The History Channel, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She currently heads the PhD program in Creative Nonfiction at the University of Cincinnati and has lectured widely across the U.S. and abroad. Full Body Burden was recently published in China and Japan.

Jim Havey — Producer

Jim earned a degree in Political Science and Sociology from St. Ambrose University and, following seven years in social work with at-risk youth, developed a passion for photography and multi-image production into a new career starting HaveyPro Cinema in 1979. Inspired by the work of Jacob Bronowski and Ken Burns, Jim has been enriching viewers with films that tell the stories of western and American history for over 30 years.

Nathan Church — Director

Nathan graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Visual Arts and Graphic Design. He joined HaveyPro in 2001 as Art Director and Film Editor. From cinematography and editing, to sound and production design, Nathan has over 15 years of experience in all aspects of film production.

Jeff Jenkins — Music Director

Jeff is one of the region’s top jazz piano players whose talents include composing and performing for a variety of film and stage productions. Jeff is also an adjunct professor of music at University of Colorado in Boulder. He has toured with major theatrical productions, played in Jazz festivals throughout the US and Europe, and has composed music for many award-winning HaveyPro films.

Fundraising

The production team at HaveyPro Cinema, in association with Kristen Iversen, is currently approaching funding sources for the project, including local and national non-profits, foundations, government agencies, corporations and private citizens. HaveyPro has a proven three decade track record of bringing multiple funders together to finance documentaries that bring complex and compelling stories to life. Fundraising is projected to be complete in 2019. For further information on sponsorship opportunities, please contact Nathan Church at nathan@haveypro.com.

Production

Production will begin in early 2019. Filmed interviews with Ms. Iversen, as well as an array of historians, writers, plant workers, local residents, government officials, environmental activists and others will provide information and insights into Rocky Flats and its importance both locally and nationally. Recent interviews include noted whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, discussing his own involvement in the Rocky Flats protest movement, as well as the larger context of the international nuclear weapons complex. Adapted from Full Body Burden, the script will tell the intertwined stories of the author’s coming of age and the development of the plant, providing a personal connection that will engage audiences and bring the broader story to life. Archival photos and footage will bring greater context to the story, with audio and visual effects adding deeper meaning to the historic imagery. Original music production provides an expertly orchestrated undercurrent enhancing the mood and message of every scene. In addition, originally produced footage will recreate key moments from the personal narrative while complimenting archival imagery to illustrate the script.

Distribution

A gala premiere screening will mark completion of the film. The premiere event is an opportunity to recognize and celebrate funders and supporters involved in the film. The event will also raise funds for educational distribution; a model used by HaveyPro at several successful premiere events. The completed film will be promoted for theatrical screenings, film festivals and television broadcast in regional, national and international markets. Partner and funding organizations will also promote and distribute the film through their own networks of supporters. DVDs and streaming video-on-demand will be also be distributed.

Words of Support

"I grew up in a picture-perfect landscape. Just down the road, the secret Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant was building tens of thousands of plutonium triggers— uninhibited by environmental regulation or regard for public health. Rocky Flats is the poster child of what goes wrong when you mix plutonium and politics. It is a critical and devastating story in the history of the United States. And the story isn’t over. This film will bring the critical story of Rocky Flats to new audiences that need to understand our nuclear legacy."

Kristen Iversen
Author, Full Body Burden
Professor of English & Comparative Literature, University of Cincinnati

“The Doomsday Machines of our existing arsenal, on both sides, are each a hundred or more times more than can be justified under any circumstances. And the possibility that they can be triggered by false alarm, or by a conflict that escalates, is an absolutely intolerable situation. The question of the morality of our posture has never really been addressed. Citizens must wake from this sleep of obedience, this state of denial, this course to oblivion.”

Daniel Ellsberg
Writer, Lecturer, Activist

"Einstein said, 'The splitting of the atom has changed everything, save man’s mode of thinking. Thus, we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.' Understanding our nuclear past, present and future is essential to changing our modes of thinking. The Full Body Burden documentary film will help create the educated public necessary to change the priorities of our governments."

Helen Caldicott M.D.
Beyond Nuclear

"This film will be a vital tool to help educate the public about the ongoing legacy of Rocky Flats, a story that has direct consequences on the public health and economic wellbeing of the region both immediately and in the very long term future. Understanding the origins of the threats that are still just below the surface at Rocky Flats and other sites around the country is essential to protect our communities and prevent the spread of environmental contamination in the years to come."

Dr. Harvey Nichols
Professor Emeritus of Biology, University of Colorado
Rocky Flats Technical Group

"The Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant was shrouded in secrecy for most of its years of operation and the silencing of this story continues today. This bold and important new documentary will reveal this vital piece of hidden nuclear history. Viewers will never look at nuclear weapons in the same way again."

Dr. Heidi Hutner
Director of Sustainability Studies & Environmental Humanities
SUNY Stony Brook

"Researching the legacies of Rocky Flats has shown me that the facility and its impacts on local communities are just as alive as ever. Yet, they remain invisible without this sort of in-depth, careful, and compassionate coverage of the people living near the old nuclear weapons plant. Kristen Iversen has been vital in encouraging people to tell their stories and in building the community of survivors and concerned citizens. Her integral role to this project speaks volumes about its authenticity, its importance, and its ability to get to the core of the puzzles that still surround Rocky Flats."

Stephanie Malin, PhD
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Colorado State University
Co-Founder and Co-PI, Environmental Justice CSU

"In 1995, the Department of Energy's own working group on the future of Rocky Flats recommended by consensus that all plutonium from the site be removed. ‘We are willing,’ the report said, ‘to wait as long as is necessary, … even if that takes many generations to accomplish.’ DOE, having asked for a recommendation, ignored it. Most of that plutonium is still out there, just below the surface. We absolutely must have tools like this film to make sure we never forget about it."

LeRoy Moore, PhD
Rocky Flats Nuclear Guardians
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center

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