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The Atlas Society and Atlas Shrugged Part 1

The Atlas Society and Atlas Shrugged Part 1

5 Mins
December 17, 2011

Editor's Note: The following article was written for the March 2011 Atlas Society newsletter.


As Atlas Shrugged Part I nears its theatrical release on April 15, the level of excitement is rising rapidly across the internet, among the fans of Ayn Rand’s great novel—and certainly here in our office at The Atlas Society. Since April, 2010, when our trustee John Aglialoro undertook his last-minute independent production of the film, we have been working with John and his team to support their efforts. We believe that the success of the film is a huge opportunity to spread our ideas—and to gain more visibility for all our work. I want to bring you up to date on what we have accomplished so far.

My role was to advise on whether the scripts were true to the philosophical themes, plot, and characters of the novel.

In late May, John sent me the initial script, written by Brian Patrick O’Toole with major input from John (who will share screen-writing credit). For the past ten years, I have been John’s consultant on all his initiatives to get the film produced, first with Turner Network Television, then with Lionsgate Studios. My role was to advise on whether the scripts were true to the philosophical themes, plot, and characters of the novel; I read and wrote detailed comments on at least six different scripts, all of which had major defects. In this case, thanks to John’s involvement, the script nicely captured the central story in Part I of the novel, and the themes came through loud and clear. That was fortunate, since there were only a few weeks until filming had to begin and no time for major rewrites. Nevertheless, there were problems we managed to fix before shooting began.

For our Sponsors’ Dinner on July 3rd, John prepared a short interview on the set for us to show attendees. He was then in the middle of filming, which was completed by the end of the month, when we posted our report on the project (“Filming of Atlas Shrugged Wraps Up” [http://www.atlassociety.org/filming-atlas-shrugged-wraps1], including the interview with John.

Filming the actors is only the first stage in production. Post-production involves filming all the external scenes to establish location, creating the score, and countless hours of editing. In preparation for editing, I gave the producers comments on the shooting script—the one finally used by actors and director. (Physicist Laurence Gould was generous with his time in advising me on the plausibility of the scene where Hank Rearden and Dagny discover the abandoned motor and speculate about how it worked.) In October, I watched the director’s cut, the first full version of the film, and again wrote comments recommending changes to make in editing.


Meanwhile, the staff worked hard to put on our December 7th New York City event, “Atlas Shrugged: The Making of a Movie.” In the historic Hudson Theatre, this evening to remember was a celebration of John Aglialoro’s achievement in bringing Rand’s great novel to the screen. Its highlight was a showing of ten minutes of clips from the movie, the first scene anyone outside the production team had seen. John also used the occasion to announce that the film would be released in American theaters on April 15th, Tax Day, a date that underscores the struggle between producers and looters.

We expect a surge in demand from viewers who want to know more about the novel and its ideas.

Aglialoro joined other members of his production team—fellow producer Harmon Kaslow; screenwriter Brian O'Toole, who also manages the movie's Facebook  page; executive producer and second-unit director Mike Marvin; and post-production supervisor John Orland—in a panel discussion about the joys and challenges of the project. The panel was moderated by John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, who also spoke about the new Republican Congressmen inspired by Atlas Shrugged.

Also on the evening’s program:

  • I outlined the narrative elements and essential themes I looked for as a consultant on the script.
  • Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal explained the genesis and extraordinary impact of his 2009 article “ Atlas Shrugged: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years .”
  • Atlas Society chairman Jay Lapeyre gave a special Atlas Award for our chairman emeritus Frank Bond.

The Atlas Society was pleased to have the support of Leadership Sponsors whose support made the evening possible: John Aglialoro and Joan Carter; Cliff and Laurel Asness; Frank and Shelda Bond; Scott and Leslie Jacobs; David Kelley; Jay and Sally Lapeyre; Ed Snider; Ashwin and Mari Vasan; and Fred and Sandra Young.

Reports about the event created an online buzz. Of special note was the powerful, and evocative account by Atlas Society trustee Walter Donway.


The producers are using online and social media to get the word out about Atlas. Edward Hudgins and I helped compile lists of influential organizations, blogs, and individuals who might post links to the movie’s website and use their own distribution channels to excite the public about the picture.

Your donations will help us at this crucial time to make the movie a powerful force in our politics, economy, and culture.

At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Ed and I made the rounds with Harmon Kaslow and Scott DeSapio, the movie’s Web site manager, to make sure they met representatives of organizations with an interest in the movie. The “tea party” group FreedomWorks sponsored a session for the first showing of the film’s trailer, with Kaslow and Kelley offering comments about the themes of Atlas.

We also worked with Alexander McCobin to set up a showing of film clips at this year’s Students for Liberty conference in Washington, D.C., where some 500 student leaders will also hear Ed, Will Thomas, and me explain the meaning and urgent significance of the movie. Ed is also organizing an advance screening of the whole film in here in Washington in early March.

As I write this in mid-February, the trailer of the film has drawn over half a million viewers just a few days after its release online. It has begun generating widespread commentary, pro and con. The left is already taking aim at the movie, and we are preparing our response. After the release in April, we expect a surge in demand from viewers who want to know more about the novel and its ideas.

We have waited years for precisely this opportunity to help realize the potential of Atlas Shrugged—just as we know you have waited years to see the film. The producers are counting on us as the resource for understanding the philosophy of open Objectivism founded by Ayn Rand and embodied in her great novel. They are counting on us for the intellectual ammunition to counter the inevitable attacks. We are leading the charge for a film that will bring a new, wider audience to our ideas. Your donations will help us at this crucial time to make the movie a powerful force in our politics, economy, and culture.


David Kelley


David Kelley

David Kelley is the founder of The Atlas Society. A professional philosopher, teacher, and best-selling author, he has been a leading proponent of Objectivism for more than 25 years.

David Kelley Ph.D
About the author:
David Kelley Ph.D

David Kelley founded The Atlas Society (TAS) in 1990 and served as Executive Director through 2016. In addition, as Chief Intellectual Officer, he was responsible for overseeing the content produced by the organization: articles, videos, talks at conferences, etc.. Retired from TAS in 2018, he remains active in TAS projects and continues to serve on the Board of Trustees.

Kelley is a professional philosopher, teacher, and writer. After earning a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1975, he joined the philosophy department of Vassar College, where he taught a wide variety of courses at all levels. He has also taught philosophy at Brandeis University and lectured frequently on other campuses.

Kelley's philosophical writings include original works in ethics, epistemology, and politics, many of them developing Objectivist ideas in new depth and new directions. He is the author of The Evidence of the Senses, a treatise in epistemology; Truth and Toleration in Objectivism, on issues in the Objectivist movement; Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence; and The Art of Reasoning, a widely used textbook for introductory logic, now in its 5th edition.

Kelley has lectured and published on a wide range of political and cultural topics. His articles on social issues and public policy have appeared in Harpers, The Sciences, Reason, Harvard Business Review, The Freeman, On Principle, and elsewhere. During the 1980s, he wrote frequently for Barrons Financial and Business Magazine on such issues as egalitarianism, immigration, minimum wage laws, and Social Security.

His book A Life of One’s Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State is a critique of the moral premises of the welfare state and defense of private alternatives that preserve individual autonomy, responsibility, and dignity. His appearance on John Stossel’s ABC/TV special "Greed" in 1998 stirred a national debate on the ethics of capitalism.

An internationally-recognized expert on Objectivism, he has lectured widely on Ayn Rand, her ideas, and her works. He was a consultant to the film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, and editor of Atlas Shrugged: The Novel, the Films, the Philosophy.


Major Work (selected):

Concepts and Natures: A Commentary on The Realist Turn (by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl),” Reason Papers 42, no. 1, (Summer 2021); This review of a recent book includes a deep dive into the ontology and epistemology of concepts.

The Foundations of Knowledge. Six lectures on the Objectivist epistemology.

The Primacy of Existence” and “The Epistemology of Perception,” The Jefferson School, San Diego, July 1985

Universals and Induction,” two lectures at GKRH conferences, Dallas and Ann Arbor, March 1989

Skepticism,” York University, Toronto, 1987

The Nature of Free Will,” two lectures at The Portland Institute, October 1986

The Party of Modernity,” Cato Policy Report, May/June 2003;and Navigator, Nov 2003; A widely cited article on the cultural divisions among pre-modern, modern (Enlightenment) and postmodern views.

"I Don't Have To" (IOS Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, April 1996) and “I Can and I Will” (The New Individualist, Fall/Winter 2011); Companion pieces on making real the control we have over our lives as individuals.

Atlas Shrugged