Posted: 01/22/2012



by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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Idaho Filmmakers Tate McCullough and Will Schmeckpeper - along with actress and performer Calico Cooper - will be traversing the United States the summer of 2012 via Amtrak passenger train in order to film a documentary about the state of the American Dream.

“According to a recent Yahoo! Finance report,” says Schmeckpeper, “41% of Americans say that the American Dream is lost. Unfortunately, that report only included 1,500 subjects. We’re looking to travel around the country and interview as many people as possible to find out the real story. I’m betting there’s more hope out there than we think.”

Spurred by a re-reading of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of the American Dream, the filmmakers’ realized that this is a story worth addressing for the current age. “The American Dream is such a strange creature,” says Schmeckpeper. “It used to be something clearly defined. Nowadays… not so much.” James Adams defined the American Dream in1931 as the belief that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement”, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. “Clearly, that’s not happening,” says Schmeckpeper. “Look at the protests of the 99%: these people feel that the American Dream has been robbed from them by the greed of those that would be described as upper-class.”

But even if the financial elite of this country are responsible for the ever-widening rift between the haves and have-nots, Schmeckpeper believes that the dream is still alive in the hearts of Americans. “There’s a reason people are angry and protesting in the dead of winter. It’s because they believe that they have the chance to succeed on a level playing field, and are tired of being taken advantage of by those that have rigged the game.”

Schmeckpeper, a life-long Idaho resident and filmmaker, will be joined in this documentary by Tate McCullough and Calico Cooper.

“I’m a behind-the-lens guy, so I need people that can engage those we meet on the rails and get them to tell their stories. Tate’s a farm boy from Montana. He brings a sensibility to a number of issues that I don’t have, and can speak to people from the experience of hard, blue-collar work. And Calico…Calico’s a rock star.”

Literally, Calico Cooper is the daughter of Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member Alice Cooper.

“Calico and I have worked on two films together in the last two years, and believe me when I say she’s the single most enthusiastic, genuine, funny, down-to-earth person I’ve met in my ten years of filmmaking,” says Schmeckpeper. “Her involvement in the film is multi-faceted, but I’ll keep it simple: First, she’s an engaging person that can get people to honestly talk about their hopes and dreams. Second, she has no fear. Dealing with pyrotechnics and crazed fans every night for eleven years will do that to a person. Third, she knows a lot of people that have achieved a level of success finding their personal version of the American Dream, and their stories are just as important to this documentary as those of people not so fortunate.”

With this team in place, Schmeckpeper hopes to finance this project through crowd-sourcing and private donations. “I don’t want to feel obligated to tell the story that a corporate sponsor wants me to tell. I want to go and find what Americans are truly feeling, and then give voice to their beliefs and concerns. I can’t do that if I’m beholden to a company like CNN or FOXnews and their political agendas.” Budget for the film is set at just under twenty thousand dollars -not much for an investigative documentary - but more than enough of a challenge for an independent filmmaker.

“We need help meeting our goal,” says Schmeckpeper, “But that’s part of what makes this project so interesting. In trying to make this film, we are - on many levels - trying to achieve our own American Dream. That proves that the hope is still alive in this country. Sometimes all it needs is a helping hand.”

To get that help, the filmmakers have established a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds and provide updates about the project. Information can be found at the following web address:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago, who also serves as a news editor for

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