I, Pencil Short Film Wins Reason Foundation Award

I, Pencil, a short film produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and adapted from the 1958 essay by the late Leonard E. Read, has won the first Reason Video Prize.

The film, produced for CEI by Drew Tidwell of Passing Lane Films, was recognized Nov. 6 at an awards ceremony in New York City.  The prize honors short-form online video, film and moving pictures that “explore, investigate, or enrich libertarian beliefs in individual rights, limited government and human possibilities.”

”In a world of sound bites, policy statistics and congressional testimony, I, Pencil reminds us that fighting for ‘good’ public policy must include embracing the power of transformative ideas presented in a simple story,” said CEI President Lawson R. Bader.

The film demonstrates how a simple pencil is the end product of an intricate and global chain of human activity.

No master mind dictates the making of a pencil. Rather, it takes bits of know-how from thousands of individuals – from loggers in California to factory workers in China to miners in Sri Lanka to transport workers the world over – to bring an ordinary pencil into being. By trading their skills and labor for wages, these individuals each bring the pencil a step closer into being.

In pursuit of their self-interest, people who are strangers to each other cooperate every day to produce goods that others want, need and enjoy. This is the miracle of the free market, the film explains. Without this constant spontaneous cooperation, the modern wonders of our world would not exist.

In May 2011, CEI set out to produce an exciting and accessible treatment of Read’s story that would update it for the Internet age. The concept was originally developed by Tidwell while he was at CEI, and the screenplay was adapted by CEI Media Coordinator Nicole Ciandella.

The film debuted in November 2012 and has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube. Under the direction of libertarian filmmaker Nicholas Tucker, the 6-minute animated short is a colorful, easy-to-share re-imagining of Read’s timeless narrative about the making of the humble pencil.

Professor Art Carden of Samford University partnered with CEI to tailor a curriculum for the film, which has been used in middle schools, high schools and undergraduate courses across the country, and in at least one middle school abroad—in Africa.  The interactive lesson plan also is available on the TED-Ed platform. CEI also produced a series of five extended video commentaries featuring Carden and fellow libertarian luminaries Deirdre McCloskey, Larry Reed and Walter Williams, each discussing different themes of the I, Pencil narrative.

Earlier in 2013, the I, Pencil film was awarded Best Short Documentary and Audience Choice at the Anthem Film Festival in Las Vegas during Freedom Fest.

At the Reason Media Awards, the film’s worthy competition included: Crony Chronicles: I want to be a crony by Owen Brennan, Justin Folk, and Robert Perkins; Game of Thrones Food Trucks by Isaac Reese for the Institute of Justice; Obama That I Used To Know by Justin Monticello for Just New Productions; and Top DHS Checkpoint Refusals by Matt Mills.

> View I, Pencil online at ipencilmovie.org.