Announcing “Living with Dead Hearts”

UPDATE: I didn’t expect this to happen so soon, but Foreign Policy has published a freelance article I wrote on the problem of kidnapped children in China. I think it’s a good primer on the issue in general and some of our subjects in specific. You can check it out here.

Longtime readers of the site have probably been aware for some time that some of the folks behind ChinaGeeks have also been working on a documentary for the past year or so. Today, I want to share with you a bunch of new information about that work.

We’re still in the process of shooting it, but we’re a lot further on than we were the last time I updated you here. The film now has an official title — Living with Dead Hearts: The Search for China’s Kidnapped Children — and we’ve even put together an early trailer which you can watch below to get more of a feel for what it’s going to be like when it’s finished (the trailer starts at about 0:30).

As you can see, we’re raising money again to help us continue production, and also to help out our friends at the Xinxing Aid center. We’re raising the money ourselves this time through Paypal so that we can give 20% of it to Xinxing rather than using Kickstarter and having to fork over a percentage to them and to Amazon payments. We’re looking to raise about $4,000.

We’ve got a new website for the film set up at but I thought I’d also lay out a little but of information for you here. We may not be using Kickstarter, but we will be running things the same way they do, in that donors can choose how much they donate and are eligible for rewards based on their donation (you can also opt out if you don’t want the rewards).

    • Donate $1 or more: Your name goes in the end credits of the film and you get access to exclusive donor-only content like desktop wallpapers.
    • Donate $15 or more: All the above, plus access to our monthly production updates via email.
    • Donate $30 or more: All the above, plus access to production stills.
    • Donate $50 or more: All the above, plus access to exclusive video clips and a DVD copy of the finished film once it’s done.
    • Donate $100 or more: All the above but now the DVD is signed and accompanied by a personal thank you letter from the director.
    • Donate $250 or more: All the above, plus contact our producers to ask your own questions to our interview subjects and get their responses translated for you.
    • Donate $500 or more: All the above, plus you’re listed as an Executive Producer and an invitation to one free dinner with the director the next time you’re in Beijing.
    • Donate $750 or more: All the above, plus personalized updates on the film’s progress straight from the director, who you can also chat with on Skype about the film’s progress.
    • Donate $1000 or more: All the above, plus exclusive early access to the finished film and the chance to record an audio commentary for the soundtrack.
    • Donate $2000 or more: You are incredible. You get everything listed above, and anything else you can think of that we can feasibly provide. Talk to us about how we can make you a part of the film.

    Some pretty cool stuff, no? Hey, how did this button get here…

    You may recall we did this last year, and were pretty successful, so it’s quite reasonable to be wondering why we have to do it again. The main reason is that my computer simply isn’t going to be able up to the task of editing hours and hours of HD video. A dual-core processor and 2 GB of RAM would be pretty suspect specs under the best of circumstances, but of late it’s also been corrupting files and has outright stopped recognizing the AVCHD files that make up about half of our footage. Probably there is some kind of software fix for that, but given that the battery, power cord and optical drive are all broken, it seems like a better idea to buy a new computer so we can do our work on a system that’s reliable.

    Additionally, we’re having to travel quite a bit more than we originally expected, and travel is costing more because in several cities we’re being forced to stay in three-star hotels because the cheaper hotels aren’t willing to book a foreigner, which we hadn’t anticipated because it’s never been an issue for me before.

    Of course, there’s much more to say, and you may have questions; there are lots more details on the official site so go check that out. I’ve also created a special section of ChinaGeeks dedicated to the film and the problem of kidnapped children; you can check that out here.

    Anyway, if you enjoy ChinaGeeks I hope you’ll consider making a donation. If you can’t make a donation, I hope you’ll at least consider passing the link around to your friends and family or tweeting it to your followers on Twitter and Weibo. Even if you’re not willing to do any of that, keep an eye out for the film which we’re hoping to have finished by late 2012.

0 thoughts on “Announcing “Living with Dead Hearts””

  1. Well, now that I have a bit of money in my pocket I’ll send you some. BTW, FYI I am working for the NED and this will result in you and your missus being put under arrest for slandering the country. Putzster will then try to justify your imprisonment on these very page whilst HH will write a long essay saying that they are sad to hear you are under lock and key, you brought it on yourself. Charles Liu will launch into a diatribe about what might have happened had you been living in the US and paid by the Chinese government and will approvingly re-post comments calling for your execution. The ‘biased’ western media will print articles calling for your release, but newspapers like The Guardian will also publish editorials exposing the unsavory ‘truth’ about Charles Custer and implying that true left-wingers would not support you. Talking heads like Kaiser Kuo will tweet that once the CCP recognise their mistake you’ll be released right away, and then, after this prediction fails to come true, never mention you again except in passing whilst explaining how mis-understood the CCP is. Shaun Rein will write an editorial saying that advances in women’s rights outweigh oppressive acts like locking up film directors such as yourself, and will still manage to reference his market research company n doing so. People who work at Global Times and China Daily will still talk about how proud they are of where they work even after those publications run long character-assasination pieces directed against you. People who work in various government-run agencies helping with translation will, when they have your name mentioned to them at a translation-slam at The Bookworm, stare blankly at their interlocutor and then just continue talking about their excellent job and how they love helping China’s government get its message across. The vast majority of Chinese will never hear of you. Since you are not actually a spy, exchange is not possible, so your arrest will cause a minor diplomatic kerfuffle which will then be quickly glossed over as you languish in jail for the best part of a decade.

    So, who do I make out the cheque to?


  2. Custer it looks great, I’ll be sure to spread the word and hopefully make a contribution. BTW the editing on the trailer looks really sharp, its a great presentation and I’ll be looking forward to hearing how it pans out, you should definitely commit a few more updates to this blog too.


  3. @ Adam: I’ve been pondering that. We don’t have one yet, and may yet create one, but I’m a bit wary of attracting the wrong sort of attention before our project is complete, if you know what I mean, and I worry that spreading a Chinese link around, it might get too big. But I’m still pondering it. If we do set one up, you’ll see it in a post on ChinaGeeks, so stay tuned.


  4. Sure you are right, you dont want to attract the wrong sort of attention. Perhaps it would be best to wait until the video is finished and launched, then use it as part of the pitch to attract Chinese donations to take further action in helping these Children.


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