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The Kickstarter Chronicles

Beauty pageants for seniors and case law books for zombies
September 14, 2012

Each week, dozens of journalistic endeavors turn to Kickstarter for funding. Pitching media projects to this online community brings another meaning to the concept “public interest journalism”; success depends on how intrigued people are by the pitch. From the hugely popular to the barely noticed, CJR’s Kickstarter Chronicles is a look through some of these journalistic proposals.

We all know about beauty pageants for children, thanks to shows like Toddlers & Tiaras and Honey Boo Boo Child (and if you don’t know what “Honey Boo Boo Child” is, I’m gonna do you a favor and suggest that you don’t look it up and remain blissfully ignorant). It turns out there are also beauty pageants for the other end of the age spectrum, as Eléonore Hamelin and Kiran Alvi discovered when they were looking for a subject for their j-school documentary workshop (Hamelin and Alvi were my classmates at the Columbia Journalism School).

Hamelin says they initially expected to end up with a light-hearted, 20-minute-long look at a counterintuitive beauty pageant. But her three protagonists — Vivien, 87, Tina, 65, and CJ Marie, the young upstart at 60 (the pageant’s minimum age) — were interesting, vibrant, inspiring women facing issues most people can identify with; things like mortality, aging, and loneliness. “It ended up being so much more,” Hamelin says.

About 40 minutes more — Hamelin and Alvi ended up with an hourlong documentary that is a beautifully shot look at what beauty means and when it fades — or not. They’re turning to Kickstarter to raise $5,000, which will enable them to put the finishing touches on the film and enter it in festivals. Hamelin also hopes to pay a translator to subtitle the documentary to show in her native France.

Deadline is October 25 at 12:55 p.m.

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Josh Warren wants to create a “law school style book” featuring over 300 United States federal court opinions about … zombies. Yes, it’s true. As is their wont, zombies have infiltrated our society to the point that the undead are now shaping the law of the land.

Warren, a practicing attorney and doctoral student, has been tracking the use of the word “zombie” in court opinions since last year. He says “zombie” is often used as a way to describe the symptoms of certain medical conditions as well as side effects from medications. “It is unclear why the Federal Courts are so prone to latch onto this description. The zombie word is just sticky right now,” he told CJR in an email. The zombies we all know and love make appearances too, usually popping up in intellectual property cases, such as this one, from Warren’s Zombie Law blog, in which a federal court spent way too much time and energy describing the plot points of 1979’s Dawn of the Dead and a video game that featured zombies and a mall.

Warren hopes to raise $4,666 through his campaign, which will cover the cost of producing the 700-page hardcover book. There are funding rewards, such as a picture of the current US Supreme Court justices photoshopped into zombies (which I found hilarious), and one of the coolest 4GB flash drives I’ve ever seen (hint: it’s shaped like a zombie’s favorite food).

Deadline is October 9 at 2:32 a.m.

Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison.