Lolita's Butterfly

A feature documentary film on the scientific work of Vladimir Nabokov, author of 'Lolita'.
Michael House
1 Team Member

* (15 September 2013) This campaign was a great start for this film - THANK YOU to everyone who contributed. To get in touch with us or if you came to this page to make a contribution to Lolita's Butterfly please drop us an email at . Utilising the funds raised thus far we will do further filming & research after which we will launch a new campaign here on IndieGoGo.

* (14 September 2013) This is the last 24hrs of 'stage one' for this film campaign. We are so excited to have made hundreds of friends and contacts via this IndieGoGo platform. The funds we have raised we have used for filming new sequences and for research. Our 'Nabokov Butterfly' network has taken on a life of its own, it is really exciting. This film will happen please join us on this wonderful adventure. Be sure and check our 'update' tab to read more on the project. -Michael House

* (12 September 2013) It may seem that we are far from our goal on this campaign but this fund raising campaign is only the beginning for this film. I have made 5 previous films on artist and all of them had difficulties being funded but I always found a way, 'Lolita's Butterfly' is no different. I am totally convinced that this film must be made. I will do follow-up campaigns, apply for grants, whatever is needed to get it done - that is a promise! So while there is time left on this campaign please contribute. - Michael House

* * To all the Slavic language speakers out there: Excuse my crass American pronouncement in the above clip of 'Nabokov'. I've been practicing and now pronounce it correctly Na BOH cuff.

Our Story

'If Vladimir Nabokov had never written a line of fiction, he would have an honoured reputation as a naturalist, and an expert on a large group of butterflies known as Blues.' - Stephen Jay Gould

My name is Michael House, the director of this film. A few years ago I read an article about Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita. In this article Nabokov was quoted saying 'If I could choose, I think that I would prefer to be remembered as a Lepidopterist, instead of a writer'.

I learned that throughout his life Nabokov had been a passionate Lepidopterist (one who studies butterflies). As a boy in his native Russia and on holidays in France and Germany, Nabokov collected butterflies, as a student at Cambridge he published his first scientific paper on butterflies, and in his forties he became the world expert on the large subfamily, the Blues. He caught specimens of new species, he identified many new species he or others had caught, and he was the first reviser of the South American representatives of the Polyommatini tribe. Nabokov even named new butterfly species in honour of his friends Neonympha dorothea for example was named after Dorothy Leuthold who drove Nabokov and his wife on their first American butterfly hunt to the Grand Canyon in 1941.

Nabokov made numerous contributions to lepidopterology, within the small part of it in which he could concentrate in his few years as a laboratory scientist. He applied rigorously new techniques like genitalic dissection, even identifying new diagnostic features of Lycaeides genitalia, and analysed wing patterns to a finer degree than had ever been done. His work became the standard first for North American butterflies in the complicated genus Lycaeides, and then in the whole South American tribe of the Polyommatini, which he fearlessly revised from very few available specimens, in a way that has stood the test of massive new evidence from the last twenty-five years.

A group of Harvard scientists recently did DNA testing on the Blues, which Nabokov theorised about in the 1940s. These scientists proved that Nabokov had been absolutely correct in his theories of the Blues migration.

Nabokov - A life with Butterflies

I was surprised to learn this 'other' side of Nabokov. I read all I could on the subject, discovering that Nabokov was an extraordinary scientist without any formal training in biology.

Up until this point my experience with Nabokov was limited to his iconic novel Lolita. 50+ years after its publication Nabokov's Lolita  tops 'best novel of the century' lists, still creating controversy among its millions of readers.


For over two years I have been researching, filming and gathering information for this documentary film about Nabokov's passionate love affair with butterflies and the story of his Lepidoptery pursuits.

Working with Brian Boyd, Nabokov's official biographer; The Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia; numerous Lepidopterists including Dr. Kurt Johnson author of Nabokov's Blues and the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology where Nabokov served as curator in the 1940s (after he and his Jewish wife Véra escaped Nazism to America), I have brought together a project that will explain the lesser-known Nabokov. The film will tell in simple language what Nabokov contributed to the study of butterflies, how his work plays a role today in biology studies and how science and art came together for Nabokov.

Véra & Vladimir hunting butterflies

The Impact

One impact this film will have is the widening of peoples understanding of the interconnectedness of scientific work and artistic work. Often separated these two disciplines compliment one another, Nabokov being a ideal case study to explore this fact.

Another big impact of this film will be to awaken the viewer to the infinite wonder of nature via Nabokov's passion for butterflies. This idea is at the heart of the film. An important aspect of the project is to explain that one of the 20th centuries most respected novelist spent vast amounts of his time immersed in the natural world. In a world that often separates science and culture this film shows how Nabokov used butterflies to join them together.

I strongly feel that telling the story of a person such as Nabokov, whose love of nature & science has resulted in furthering habitat protection and deepening biodiversity knowledge is very important. Its a story that should be made widely known.

Sketches of Butterflies by Vladimir Nabokov

What We Need & What You Get

We need $91,400 to finish this film, however this amount could be much lower if the costs of archive footage is reduced and we receive donated/discounted production services - both are very likely which would cut the films cost down substantially.

We have thus far been funded by donations from friends and family, now we are at the point when it is time to complete this film and release it. We need money to cover - additional interview filming, various post-production costs such as sound designcolour grade, music, audio mixmotion graphics, subtitling - the most costly expense will be archive footage licensing.

This film will get made, my target is to finish it by mid-2014 with your support this can be done. If we don't meet our goal for this campaign I will continue to work on the project, I will do additional fundraising campaigns and pursue grants but with your help I can complete Lolita's Butterfly to the very highest standards in the near future. In all cases, even if additional campaigns are needed, the film will be released.

Since I have begun this project two key figures in Nabokov's story have passed away including his son Dmitri, my point is time is a real consideration for this film - help me get it done now.

It is important to me that I encourage and practice green film making. This film will be created in ways that don't cause damage to the environment.

Over the past 4 years I have made five feature films on art during which I have developed a method of using SKYPE along with local camera operators to conduct interviews all over the world. I stay in Paris and conduct the interview via SKYPE (or phone) while a local camera-person films the subject, the footage is then sent to me over the Internet. This is one way I keep production costs down and keep travel omissions low for the production.

When completed Lolita's Butterfly will be made available to viewers worldwide on - this is an international platform for films on art that encourages green consumerism.

Once the film is done it will be shown internationally at film festivals and by broadcasters, it will also be offered to schools and museums for use in classrooms and study groups.

Please help us finish this film by 'pre buying' it. Once it is finished you will receive an HD download of 'Lolita's Butterfly' one month before it is released to the general public, we will also include an immeditate download of The Magnifcent Tati our internationally acclaimed film on French cinema icon Jacques Tati.

There are some additional great gifts if you choose to get involved: limited edition DVD with special extra material, posters of the film, original paintings of butterflies (featured in the film), invitations to the premiere of the film in the company of the director & those who appear in the film (travel expenses excluded), even the chance to become a named associate film producer.

As a Sponsor you can use this film to promote your business, your name (or your business name) will appear in the premiere spot of the opening credits... This film was made possible through the support of (your company).... for a mere $15,000 you will receive global exposure.

About Me

I am an American composer and film maker based in Paris, I am from from San Francisco. I have made five feature documentary films on major artists (Revealing Mr. Maugham, The Magnificent TatiEugéne & Berenice - Pioneers of Urban Photography, Meeting Shakespeare & Fred Lyon - Living Through the Lens). All of my films have been shown on television throughout the world and screened in festivals such as The Telluride International Film FestivalBFI London Film Festival & San Francisco's LBGT Film Festival. I was a judge at the FIFA International Film Festival in Montréal, Canada in March 2013. I make factual films on art because I feel creativity is vital to living a healthy, happy life and that the history of art is a very valuable subject for everyone.

Please help us in our big push to get this film about Nabokov and his Butterflies made - it is a subject that deserves to be shared - it's a celebration of nature, science and art.

Other Ways You Can Help

Spread the word, use your Facebook page and email contacts to help share this endeavour, recommend this project to friends, associates and organisations and send them the link to our Indiegogo campaign page. Contact us on We want and appreciate your feedback so all comments and insights welcome, thank you.

*Be sure to check the 'updates' tab at the top of this page (between the page title and video), every few days we will post new developments on the project.

Lastly, I would like to direct you to our previous IndieGoGo campaign a documentary film called Fred Lyon - Living Through the Lens. This film is making its world premiere at The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on September 29th. The YBCA is one of the most progressive Art museums in the world and I am very please they are hosting the world premiere of the film. If your in the Bay Area and would like to attend please click HERE for tickets. If you can't make the screening you can look forward to seeing the film on PBS in 2014 - dates to be announced.

Find This Campaign On
raised by 48 people in 2 months
5% funded
0 time left
$91,400 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on September 14, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $25USD
    Pre Buy Film

    You get a BIG THANK YOU from us and a download of the full film when it is completed.

    21 claimed

    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $25USD
    Pre Buy Film + Tati Film

    Download of 'Lolita's Butterfly' one month before its general release (mid 2014) PLUS a download of 'The Magnificent Tati' (sent within 24 hrs. of your contribution).

    14 claimed

  • $100USD
    Desktop Wallpaper

    All of the above PLUS an exclusive desktop wallpaper of Nabokov's Butterflies for your computer screen, pad or mobile phone.

    0 claimed

    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $250USD

    All of the above PLUS a download of the special edition 'Lolita's Butterfly' film poster (in Russian).

    0 claimed

    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $500USD
    Limited Edition DVD

    All of the above PLUS a limited edition DVD of film with special behind the scenes extras.

    4 claimed

    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $1,000USD
    Name on Film

    All of the above PLUS your name in the ending credits under 'Friends of the Film'.

    1 claimed

    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $1,800USD
    A day working with Director

    Accompany the director on a day of filming. Assist on an interview film shoot and receive an credit as a 'Lolita's Butterfly' production member. Travel costs excluded.

    0 out of 5 claimed

    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $2,500USD
    Associate Producer Credit

    All of the above PLUS your name in the opening credits under 'Associate Producer' PLUS an invite to private screening of film with participates of the film (travel costs excluded).

    0 out of 15 claimed

    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $5,000USD
    Executive Producer + Art

    All of the above PLUS your name as 'Executive Producer' in opening credits of film PLUS an listing, PLUS an original painting of a butterfly by Laurie Pessemier (art work will appear in the film).

    0 out of 7 claimed

    Estimated delivery: June 2014
  • $15,000USD
    Sponsor Position

    All of the above PLUS premier opening credit position with your name (or your organisations name) under 'Made Possible by...'. PLUS A framed 'Blue' butterfly with personalised name plate.

    0 out of 2 claimed

    Estimated delivery: June 2014
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