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Teaser

Two conventional Harvard professors began probing the edges of consciousness in the 60s. Timothy Leary ended up in jail while Richard Alpert became Ram Dass, spiritual teacher. Narrated by Robert Redford and containing rare interviews spanning 50 years, this intimate portrait of an epic friendship shaped a generation, and today challenges us to explore the final frontier of the human landscape.

Synopsis

“Dying to Know” is an intimate portrait celebrating two very complex, controversial characters in an epic friendship that shaped a generation.  In the early 1960s Harvard psychology professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert began probing the edges of consciousness through their experiments with psychedelics.  Leary became the LSD guru, challenging convention, questioning authority and as a result spawned a global counter culture movement landing in prison after Nixon called him “the most dangerous man in America”.  Alpert journeyed to the East becoming Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher for an entire generation who continues in his 80’s teaching service through compassion.  With interviews spanning 50 years the film invites us into the future encouraging us to ponder questions about life, drugs & the biggest mystery of all: death.

In 1995 after years of estrangement Leary found out that he was dying of cancer. The first person he called was Ram Dass.  In the 60s they had collaborated on a book entitled, ‘The Psychedelic Experience‘ which was based on The Tibetan Book of The Dead and explored the similarities of the psychedelic experience and the dying process.  Each holding a remarkably different point of view about death they share their thoughts/perspectives and rekindle the love they have always felt for one another.

In this provocative film the viewer is a fly on the wall, observing an intimate conversation between Leary and Ram Dass just a few months before Leary’s death.  It is a genuine exploration and an emotional respectful goodbye between two life long companions. We include subsequent interviews with Leary as he shares his dying process with us.  Ram Dass who suffered a stroke himself not long after Tim’s passing shares his own perspective on death and dying.   This story is much larger than a simple conversation between two old friends. It embraces the arcs of their entire lives helping us understand how two Harvard professors became counter – culture icons.  We will explore their upbringing, early life and their fateful meeting at Harvard where together they ran fully sanctioned experiments into the nature and use of psilocybin and LSD before being fired in 1963.  We follow them from Harvard to Millbrook where their experimentation continued and ultimately their friendship was tested and fractured.  They both went their own way becoming legends in their own right. These chapters are highlighted using archival footage and stills. This tale of taboos: sex, drugs and death includes interviews in 2012 with Dr. Andrew Weil, Huston Smith, Roshi Joan Halifax, Ralph Metzner, Joanna Harcourt-Smith, Lama Tsultrim Allione, John Perry Barlow, Peggy Hitchcock and Zach Leary.

Robert Redford’s iconic voice as narrator gives a classic American feel and tone.  Dillingham, the Producer/Director has contributed on & off 17 years of her life to this labor of love.  She uncovers the wisdom these two men have as they continue to guide us on the next revolution – a right to access our own consciousnesses and our own death.

Director's Note

“Dying to Know” started on a whim in 1995 while dining with good friends, discussing the news of the day: “Timothy Leary announced he was dying.” My dinner companions were all baby boomers in their mid 40s, I just 30.

I’d seen Leary in the 80s on his college lecture circuit (in his cyber-tech manifestation) promoting LSD, Leary Software Design. I was not all that impressed at the time as I experienced Leary, the showman, not the man. I also remembered my brother who I adored getting in trouble for driving 2 hours to the City one school night in 1978 to see a guy named Timothy Leary. I would later realize why he took that risk. In college like many others, I had read “Be Here Now”, the so-called hippy bible written by Ram Dass formerly known as Richard Alpert, a Harvard Psychologist.

When I was 17 that same brother who had gone off to see Leary died accidentally at the tender age of 20. That loss became a major turning stone in my life and vision.

Back at our 1995 dinner my soon to be husband announced, “We should get Ram Dass to come down from San Francisco for a final good bye with Tim.” He would make the call to Ram Dass and I would direct. Within 48 hours I had prepped the questions so that Ram Dass could facilitate a lively dialog between the two men. I wanted the environment to be as open as possible; the “set & setting” had to support their decades-long relationship for an honest, lively final discussion & perhaps, final good-bye. This meant the crew and equipment once set up had to disappear. I realized this was risky given I was dealing with two known anarchists. Where would it lead? The camera’s rolled and as Tim said at the end, “Thanks for bringing us together so we could make love in public.” A cosmic buddy film – a love story was underway. I was then fortunate to get a last solo interview with Tim shortly before he died. I managed another solo interview with Ram Dass in the very narrow window right after Tim died and before Ram Dass’s stroke in Feb 1997.

I loved the project but my own life became overwhelmed with the death of my father, the launching of an environmental technology business with my husband and 8 years heading up environmental management for the state of New Mexico. In that regard, I’ve now worked 25 years on some of our most intractable environmental problems from nuclear weapons and mass extinction to passing the most comprehensive climate change regulations in the country only to see them overturned. Why do we sit by paralyzed with all the information at our fingertips, yet are unable to act? Perhaps it has something to do with our blind spot, our cultural resistance to that looming mystery in the human landscape – our own mortality?

I touched in with Ram Dass over the years interviewing him, getting to know him, while trying to figure out how I was going to finish this film. I was becoming more keenly aware I had historical, rare footage and it would haunt me until I completed it. The more time went on the more I realized the story was mine to tell and was ever more relevant to my own life and, so it seemed, to the American psyche. Like many in my generation I had inherited caricatures of these two men. I needed to reconcile that media abstract with the man I met on his deathbed. In Leary the man I found an intelligent, searching, vulnerable, honest, complex human being. He was a natural risk taker breaking conventional boundaries for what he believed could bring about a higher level of consciousness. He was naïve and paid dearly. Over the years Ram Dass’s body become ravaged by his stroke, pain his constant companion yet he seems to live in a state of unconditional love and continues to be a guiding light to many people. How is this possible?

The film reaches deep with 80 years of footage asking age old questions. As we experience the arcs of their lives and relationship we see the complexity, intelligence & humanity beyond the caricatures. This part of history I believed was worth a deeper look while the taboos they continue to break down are more relavant to contemporay life than ever. I’ve tried to neither glorify nor demonize these men but see the remarkable human stories composed from their lives.

Robert Redford agreed to view the film in December 2012 then reached out immediately to let me know he “loved it”. I spontaneously asked him to narrate which he said he would be honored. His generosity has extended far beyond the narration to his truly masterful guidance in the editing room. I will be forever grateful to him.

I’ve seen this film touch people of all ages from those that have no idea who these men are to those that knew them well to those that don’t care about them. For me this filmmaking journey has led me further down the path to “think for myself” with “unconditional love” and my hope is that it can do that for you.

Cast

Timothy Leary

In the early 1960s Harvard psychology professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert began probing the edges of consciousness through their experiments with psychedelics. Leary became the LSD guru, challenging convention, questioning authority and as a result spawned a global counter culture movement landing in prison after Nixon called him “the most dangerous man in America”.

Ram Dass

Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert, April 6, 1931) is an American contemporary spiritual teacher and the author of the seminal 1971 book ‘Be Here Now’.

Dr. Andrew Weil

Dr. Andrew Weil is a physician, author, professor and one of the world’s preeminent media celebrities in the field of medicine and personal growth. He is a long-time advocate for both Western medicine and alternative therapies. Dr. Weil graduated from Harvard University where he was also an undergraduate reporter for the Harvard Crimson. His investigative journalism led to Leary & Alpert’s dismissal from Harvard and the unraveling of their University studies in the use of psychoactive drugs for medical research and treatments.

Huston Smith

Smith’s book “The World’s Religions” has sold over two million copies and remains a popular introduction to comparative religion. Smith, through his friendship with Aldous Huxley, met Leary and Alpert and others at the Center for Personality Research at Harvard.  There, Smith was one of the active participants in Leary and Alpert’s early experiments, particularly “the Good Friday Experiment.” He termed the experiments “empirical metaphysics.  His book, “Cleansing the Doors of Perception,” describes his experiences.  Smith has both studied and practiced Christianity, mysticism, Vedanta, Zen Buddhism and Sufi Islam.

 

Roshi Joan Halifax

Joan Jiko Halifax is an American Zen Buddhist roshi, anthropologist, ecologist, civil rights activist, hospice caregiver, and the author of several books on Buddhism and spirituality. She currently serves as abbot and guiding teacher of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Zen Peacemaker community which she founded in 1990.

Ralph Metzner

A German psychologist whose work includes extensive participation and collaboration with Leary and Alpert while at Harvard and after. Metzner continues his involvement in consciousness research. He is the cofounder and President of the Green Earth Foundation, a non-profit educational organization devoted to healing and harmonizing the relationship between humans and the Earth.

 

Joanna Harcourt-Smith

Joanna was Timothy Leary’s fourth wife however never legally married. She shared what was probably the most difficult period of his life. After meeting Leary in Europe while he was a fugitive, the couple went to Afghanistan, where they were arrested and sent to California – a foreign place where she had never been. She advocated long for Leary’s release from prison and witnesses his mistreatment there. After almost four years ot Leary’s imprisonment and turning State’s evidence, she accompanied Leary into the Federal Witness Protection plan in New Mexico.

 

Lama Tsultrim Allione

Allione is an author and teacher who has studied in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage. She was born in 1947 in Maine, in the United States, and given the name Joan Rousmanière Ewing. She first travelled to India and Nepal in 1967, returned in 1969 and in 1970 she became one of the first American women to be ordained as a Tibetan nun. She was given her vows by the Karmapa, from the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, who gave her the name Karma Tsultrim Chodron.

John Perry Barlow

Barlow is a multi-talented poet, essayist and retired rancher from Wyoming. Known to many as a cyberlibertarian political activist, Barlow is most popularly recognized for him many song lyrics written for the rock band, the Grateful Dead. He has recently been a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman School for Internet and Society. Barlow and Dead musician friend Bob Weir were frequent visitors to Tim Leary’s Millbrook estate. Barlow founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation to actively advocate for digital rights and internet freedom.

 

Peggy Hitchcock

As an intimate friend to both Leary and Alpert, Peggy was instrumental in establishing a communal living and research community in Millbrook, NY once Leary and Alpert left Harvard. Peggy convinced her brothers to allow the two professors to live and conduct their unfettered and continued research into the effect of psychedelic substances on the personalities of willing participants.

 

Zach Leary

 

Production

Gay Dillingham

PRODUCER/DIRECTOR

Gay has consistently juggled her parallel passions for the environment, public policy and communication through film all in an effort to deepen our human experience and success while on this marvelous planet.

She was born in 1965 to a ranching, entrepreneurial family in Oklahoma, lived mostly under the open skies of the West including Santa Fe New Mexico for the past 25 years.

Gay started making documentary films out of college in the late 80s. Her first, The WIP Trail, narrated by Robert Redford, cast a critical eye at our nation’s first and still world’s only underground nuclear waste repository. It became a community organizing tool and aired on PBS nationally followed by a panel discussion. My Body Belongs to Me, a children’s pro-active educational program on sexual abuse, earned the American Film Festival award for “Guidance & Values Education”. Her company co-produced Dr. Andrew Weil’s first PBS programs in the mid 90s.

Gay then co-founded and managed two environmental technology companies: Earthstone International and Growstone. Under the Richardson Administration she served eight years on the EIB, a regulatory board in charge of environmental management and consumer protection for the State of New Mexico. Under her tenure the EIB spear-headed the passage of the most comprehensive regulations on greenhouse gases in the country.

She was one of only four Americans who joined Governor Richardson as his energy advisor on a private mission to North Korea in December 2010. Many believe this small delegation helped avert what likely could have ended in armed conflict /war.

Today, she is again concentrating her passion to inform and enlighten through her film company CNS Communications, LLC. The project, Dying to Know has been a labor of love she has cultivated on and off for 17 years; footage so compelling is was haunting her to finish. She is grateful to be back to her life’s passion making films & telling meaningful stories.

Michael Donnelly

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

A film industry veteran producer and post-production specialist Michael’s career spans the domestic theatrical, independent and Latin American filmmaking industries at all budget. Over the decades he has always kept a keen eye out for great films with positive commercial potential that equally entertain and enlighten.

His view is informed by executive terms with CFI and Technicolor, a history in theatrical distribution, innovative film exhibition and curatorial film work at UCLA. Fortunate to have worked with some the best theatrical filmmakers of our time, Michael is most proud of his contributions to film preservation, festival programming and international cinema foundations. His personal projects have screened at festivals such as Cannes, Telluride, Sundance, New York, Toronto and San Sebastian.

Always a supporter of independent film, as the Associate Producer of Dying to Know, Michael found another opportunity to apply his creative, technical and management skills to a great team and important project in the New Mexico film community. The opportunity broadens his experience in the feature documentary field, where over the years, he has supported the production and distribution for various documentaries including: Imagine the Sound, Poetry in Motion; The King of Prussia; Underground; Cover-up: Behind the Iran Contra Affair; The Panama Deception; The Buena Vista Social Club and The Unheard Music.

Michael is a New Mexico filmmaker and photographer and partner in the digital consulting and educational company, Fahrenheit 444, LLC.

David Leach

FILM EDITOR/NARRATION WRITER

David Leach has been editing films for over 35 years. From 1971 to 1994, he cut commercials, documentaries and dramatic television series in Toronto, Canada, working in both 16mm and 35mm. He was Supervising Editor of TV drama series, and producer/director of several short films.
Since moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1991, he has edited numerous episodes of television documentary series for TBS, TLC, National Geographic, Discovery, PBS and Hallmark, and has also edited several independent feature-length documentaries.
Dillingham chose David for his professional talent and keen sense of long form storytelling. He was a welcome inspiration to this complex narrative. Working side by side over the years Gay & David formed a productive, respectful partnership in the edit suite.

Mangusta Productions

Distribution

Mangusta Productions produce and distribute original narrative films and paradigm-challenging documentaries and are dedicated to providing a sustainable community and platform for filmmakers, artists and seekers.  Giancarlo Canavesio (Founder/CEO), Tao Ruspoli (Director/Producer), Sol Tryon (Partner/Producer), & Shannon Cohn (Marketing and Distribution) www.mangu.tv

Ken S. Polk

SOUND SUPERVISION & DESIGN/RECORDING MIXER

Ken Polk is a multi-award winning and Academy nominated Rerecording Mixer, Sound Designer and Sound Supervisor in both the film and television mediums as well as an award-winning Engineer and Producer.

A graduate from the UCLA School of Motion Picture-Television, he has been an accomplished creator in the sound and music business for facilities such as Warner Brothers, Skywalker Sound and Glen, Glenn/Todd-AO. A veteran of many dozens of films, his credits and work on both television series and mini-series, documentaries, feature films and music projects have garnered numerous nominations and awards that span many years. His extensive feature credits range from “The Untouchables” to “Juno” from “Akeelah and the Bee” to “The Hills Have Eyes.”

Ken immediately appreciated Dying to Know as an important film that encapsulates much social history from the last fifty years. Likewise the film has benefited greatly from his imagination, experience and professionalism. Documentaries, by nature, face unique audio challenges and in Ken’s capable hands, these challenges became opportunities to expand the reach of the film and give audiences a more complete cinema experience.

Steve Postell

COMPOSER

Steve Postell is a singer/songwriter, composer and guitarist now living in Los Angeles. Steve recently won two HOLLYWOOD MUSIC IN MEDIA awards for best song in the Americana/Roots and The Blues categories.

His latest solo CD on Immergent Records features a host of illustrious guests including David Crosby, John Oates, Robben Ford, Eric Johnson, and Jennifer Warnes. Steve was the project coordinator for the Shout Factory release of the 20th anniversary edition of the Jennifer Warnes/Leonard Cohen project “Famous Blue Raincoat”.

Steve manages Katonah Recording Studios and The Renegade Music Group. This past year he produced sessions for “On The Music Path”, a series of music lesson apps for the iPad, featuring such artists as Jackson Browne, Eric Johnson, and Richard Thompson, as well as releasing an Introduction To Guitar series of his own lessons. He recorded and mixed Ravi Shankar’s final two performances, to be released on DVD.

Steve is thrilled to have had the opportunity to create music for “Dying To Know”, which posed the challenge of musically matching the moods and eras of the many incarnations of Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, pioneers of the inner landscape as well as cultural revolutionaries.

Dustin Lindblad

GRAPHIC ARTISTS ILLUSTRATOR

New York artist, Dustin Lindblad created many of the beautiful hand-drawn illustrations found in Dying to Know. Her work evokes the Leary/Ram Dass period graphically intersecting the worlds of Eastern and Western thought and culture. Perfect for the subtext of the film, her mandalas and chapter headings form important story functions contribute essentially to the feeling and message of the film.

Dustin works as an art director, filmmaker, graphic designer and illustrator, integrating a diverse background of traditional visual arts, architectural design and animation. Her stated goal is, “to bring ideas to life through striking visual representations” and to combine critical thinking with moving imagery inspired by story and concept.

Executive Producers

Andrew Ungerleider

Dal LaMagna

Rena Shulsky David and Dr. Sami David

Giancarlo Canavesio -Mangusta Productions

Sarah Johnson Redlich

Carla Kleefeld & Celeste Worl

News

Timothy Leary & Ram Dass

Timothy Francis Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. During a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment. Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were fired from the university because of the public controversy surrounding their research.

Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert, April 6, 1931) is an American contemporary spiritual teacher and the author of the seminal[2][3] 1971 book Be Here Now. He is known for his personal and professional associations with Timothy Leary at Harvard University in the early 1960s, for his travels to India and his relationship with the Hindu guruNeem Karoli Baba, and for founding the charitable organizations Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation. He continues to teach via his website.

Press Kit

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Press Release

Dying To Know Movie Poster

Movie Poster

Dying To Know Production Notes

Production Notes

 

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