Former Hagerstown resident Michael Wicklein is producing a feature-length documentary about the annual December illumination and the stories behind the luminarias.
During the annual December event, volunteers place 23,000 luminarias at Antietam National Battlefield to represent the casualties from the bloodiest single-day battle on American soil.
Wicklein, who lives in Baltimore, recently started a campaign to raise $23,110 to help fund the documentary through the website Kickstarter, at http://kck.st/XVbpTS.
With Kickstarter.com, if at least $23,110 in pledges isn’t made to the project by 11:11 a.m. May 24, the project won’t receive any of the pledges, Wicklein explained after a Monday morning press conference on the grounds of Antietam National Battlefield.
As of Monday afternoon, the website stated $1,650 in pledges from 24 backers had been raised.
Wicklein said he needs the funds to help with costs such as studio time, equipment and travel costs for interview subjects.
Wicklein was surrounded by friends and project supporters as he talked about the documentary. He said he started the project five years ago, filming the illumination each December.
If he doesn’t get the funds by the May 24 deadline, Wicklein said it could take another five to 10 years to complete the project.
Wicklein said he was hoping to finish the documentary early next year, after filming the 25th annual illumination Dec. 7, and would like to have the DVD issued by March. He still needs to find a distribution partner, he said.
Shaara talked about the importance of events like the illumination in drawing people to the battlefield to learn about American history.
“Without these kinds of projects, this kind of land ... this place here might very well go away,” Shaara said during the press conference.
The memorial illumination attracts people who might not otherwise go to the battlefield, and gives them “something other than just a history lesson,” Shaara said afterward.
Boonsboro historian Doug Bast announced at the press conference that he would contribute $100 to the documentary.
Wicklein said Jay Wertz, a history author and an editor with Paramount Pictures, will pledge $500 in memory of his brother, Andy, who died recently.
People who would prefer to write a check to the fundraising campaign can do so by writing the check out to Save Historic Antietam Foundation and noting the donation is for the Illumination documentary, Wicklein said. The nonprofit group, represented Monday by board member Tom Clemens, will pass the money through to the documentary project, Wicklein said. Save Historic Antietam Foundation’s address is P.O. Box 550, Sharpsburg, MD 21782.