The Man from Earth
|The Man from Earth|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Schenkman|
|Written by||Jerome Bixby|
|Music by||Mark Hinton Stewart|
The Man from Earth is a 2007 American drama science fiction film written by Jerome Bixby and directed by Richard Schenkman. It stars David Lee Smith as John Oldman, the protagonist. The screenplay was conceived by Jerome Bixby in the early 1960s and completed on his deathbed in April 1998. The film gained recognition in part for being widely distributed through Internet peer-to-peer networks, which raised its profile. The film was later adapted by Schenkman into a stage play of the same name.
The plot focuses on John Oldman, a departing university professor, who claims to be a Cro-Magnon (or Magdalenian caveman) who has secretly survived for more than 14,000 years. The entire film is set in and around Oldman's house during his farewell party and is composed almost entirely of dialogue. The plot advances through intellectual arguments between Oldman and his fellow faculty members.
The film begins with Professor John Oldman (David Lee Smith) packing his belongings onto his truck, preparing to move to a new home. His colleagues show up to give him an impromptu farewell party: Harry (John Billingsley), a biologist; Edith (Ellen Crawford), an art history professor and devout Christian; Dan (Tony Todd), an anthropologist; Sandy (Annika Peterson), a historian who is in love with John; Dr. Will Gruber (Richard Riehle), a psychiatrist; Art (William Katt), an archaeologist; and his student Linda (Alexis Thorpe).
As John's colleagues press him to explain the reason for his departure, he slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, reveals that he is a prehistoric caveman who has lived for more than 14 millennia, and that he relocates every ten years to keep others from realizing that he does not age. He begins his tale under the guise of a possible science-fiction story, but eventually stops speaking in hypotheticals and begins answering questions from a first-person perspective. His colleagues refuse to believe his story. John continues his tale, relating how he was a Sumerian for 2000 years, a Babylonian, and eventually went east to become a disciple of Gautama Buddha. He claims to have been given a chance to sail with Christopher Columbus (admitting that at the time he still believed the earth was flat) and to have befriended Van Gogh (one of whose original paintings he apparently owns, a gift from the artist himself).
In the course of the conversation, each of John's colleagues questions his story based on knowledge from his or her own academic specialty. Harry, the biologist, struggles with how biology could allow for the possibility of a human being living for so long. Art, the archaeologist, questions John about events in prehistory. He exclaims that John's answers, though correct, could have come from any textbook. Will, the psychiatrist, questions if John feels guilt for outliving everyone he has ever known and loved, and threatens John with an (unloaded) gun before (temporarily) leaving. John then learns from the group that Will's wife had died the previous day after a long illness.
The discussion turns to the topic of religion. John mentions that he is not a follower of a particular religion; though he does not necessarily believe in an omnipotent God, he does not discount the possibility of such a being's existence. Pressed by the group, John reluctantly reveals that, in trying to bring Buddha's teachings to the West, he became the inspiration for the Jesus story. After this revelation, emotions in the room run high. Edith begins crying. Will demands that John end his tale and give the group a sense of closure by admitting it was all a hoax. John appears to ruminate over his response before finally apologizing to everyone for leading them on.
John's friends leave the party with various reactions: Edith is relieved; Harry indicates an open mind. After everyone but Will and Sandy has left, Will overhears John and Sandy's conversation, which suggests the story was true after all. John mentions some of the pseudonyms he has used over the years, and Will realizes one was his father's name. Shocked to realize the ageless man is his own father, Will suffers a heart attack and dies. After Will's body has been taken away, Sandy realizes this is the first time John has seen one of his grown children die. John wordlessly gets in his truck and starts to drive to an unknown destination, then stops to wait for Sandy. Sandy joins John in the truck and they drive away.
In order of appearance:
- David Lee Smith as John Oldman
- Tony Todd as Dan
- John Billingsley as Harry
- Ellen Crawford as Edith
- Annika Peterson as Sandy
- William Katt as Art Jenkins
- Alexis Thorpe as Linda Murphy
- Richard Riehle as Dr. Will Gruber
- Robbie Bryan as Police Officer
The story is Jerome Bixby's last work, which he completed on his deathbed in April 1998. Bixby dictated the last of his screenplay to his son, screenwriter Emerson Bixby. After Jerome Bixby's death, the script was given to Richard Schenkman to direct on a $200,000 budget.
Release and marketing
The film screened at the San Diego Comic-Con Film Festival in July 2007, and premiered theatrically in Hemet, California, and Pitman, New Jersey,  in October 2007. It was released on DVD in North America by Anchor Bay Entertainment on November 13, 2007, and became available for digital rental and sale at iTunes on September 22, 2009. It won the grand prize for Best Screenplay and first place for Best Feature at the Rhode Island Film Festival in August 2007.
Publicity through filesharing
Producer Eric D. Wilkinson has publicly thanked users of BitTorrent who have distributed the film without express permission, saying that it has lifted the profile of the film far beyond the financier's expectations; he encouraged fans to purchase the DVD or donate.
The film has been nominated for and won numerous awards.
- 2007 – WINNER – 1st place – Best Screenplay - Rhode Island International Film Festival
- 2007 – WINNER – Grand Prize - Best Screenplay - Rhode Island International Film Festival
- 2008 – WINNER – Best Film – Montevideo Fantastic Film Festival of Uruguay
- 2008 – WINNER – Audience Choice Award Montevideo Fantastic Film Festival of Uruguay
- 2008 – WINNER – Best Director - Fantaspoa – International Fantastic Film Festival of Porto Alegre, Brazil
- 2008 – WINNER – 2ND place – Best Screenplay - Rio de Janeiro International Fantastic Film Festival (RioFan)
- 2008 – WINNER – Audience Award: Best Screenplay Film – Fixion-Sars Horror & Fantastic Film Festival of Santiago, Chile
- 2008 – WINNER – Jury Award: Best Screenplay – Fixion-Sars Horror & Fantastic Film Festival of Santiago, Chile
- 2008 – WINNER – Best SCI-FI Screenplay - International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival, Phoenix, AZ
- 2008 – WINNER – Best Screenplay - Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre – Int'l Independent Horror, Fantasy & Bizarre, Argentina
- 2007 – Saturn Award nominee - Best DVD Release - The Man From Earth
- 2008 – WINNER – DVD Critics Award – Best Non-Theatrical Movie
All music performed by Mark Hinton Stewart.
- "7th Symphony - 2nd Movement" - Written by Ludwig van Beethoven
- Lyrics by Richard Schenkman
- Music by Mark Hinton Stewart
- Performed by Mark Hinton Stewart and Chantelle Duncan
- Copyright - BDI Music LTD.
In 2012, Richard Schenkman adapted the film to a play, which got positive reviews.
A Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund a sequel named The Man From Earth II: Man From Earth Millennium was announced in September 2013, but it was not able to collect the minimum-required supporting by October 2013. Another attempt was then made to crowdfund a series, Man From Earth: The Series, based on the film. The second crowd-funding effort completed successfully in August 2014.
- "Requiem for Methuselah" – a 1969 Star Trek episode also written by Jerome Bixby, with the same central idea that he later developed into The Man from Earth.
- Immortality in fiction
- List of fictional immortals
- Fernandez, Jay A. (2007-07-25). "A sci-fi writer's final words are brought to life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-01-07.
- "The Man From Earth (About)". Manfromearth.com. Archived from the original on 2012-12-28. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
- Movie producer from Newfield releases sci-fi film November 1, 2007 by Senitra Horbrook at Gloucester County Times.
- ""Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth" on DVD Nov. 13". StarTrek.com / CBS Studios, Inc. 2007-10-26. Retrieved 2008-01-07.
- "Producer Thanks Pirates For Stealing His Film". TorrentFreak. 2007-11-13. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "Piracy isn’t THAT bad and they know it". RLSLOG.net. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Teh, Hock (November 6, 2007). "The Man From Earth DVD Review". IGN.com. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- Stewart, James A. (November 13, 2007). "The Man From Earth". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- The Man from Earth MySpace Blogs
- The Man from Earth official website, top left
- Isenberg, Robert. "The Man From Earth". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- Lowe, Alexander (2013-10-02). "The Man From Earth II: Man From Earth Millennium Launches Kickstarter Campaign". We Got This Covered. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
- "The Man From Earth II: Man From Earth Millennium". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
- Lowe, Alexander (2014-07-24). "Man From Earth: The Series Gets A Kickstarter Campaign". We Got This Covered. Retrieved 2015-05-24.
- "Kickstarter campaign for Man from Earth the Series". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2015-05-24.