Broughton project garners grants, but still needs more support

An effort to make a feature-length documentary about legendary poet and filmmaker James Broughton has garnered significant grant support.

Islander Stephen Silha took on the project to bring Broughton’s unorthodox life to the silver screen two years ago. Now, with recent grant support, the project — called Big Joy, a reference to a name Broughton’s publisher gave him in the 1970s — has nearly half of the $400,000 needed to bring it to completion, he said.

Recently, the California Council for the Humanities recognized the Broughton story with a $20,000 grant. King County’s 4 Culture, meanwhile, gave the Big Joy Project a $3,000 grant. Along with hundreds of individual and foundation contributions, the project has raised over $150,000.

Now, Silha, who says he needs another $200,000 to complete the film, market it and distribute it, is experimenting with “crowdfunding” through a website called Kickstarter, through which artists with creative ideas can raise funds for their projects.

The only hitch, Silha added, is that if Big Joy doesn’t raise its $12,000 goal by May 1, it gets nothing. So far, the film has garnered more than $10,000. Interested Islanders can contribute at

Broughton, a poet and filmmaker who was a prominent player in the San Francisco Renaissance and largely influential in setting the stage for the Beats, lived in Port Townsend during the last decade of his life and became a friend and mentor to Silha. The Big Joy film, still in production, includes interviews with major cultural figures, such as poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

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