The Legend

Joshua Abraham Norton left the city impoverished and disgraced. He reappeared years later, striding into the San Francisco Bulletin in full imperial dress and handed the editor his first decree. It called for the US government to be disbanded and anointed him, “Norton the First, Emperor of the United States”.

For over twenty years Norton ruled as Emperor. The story delighted San Franciscans and everyone indulged him by playing along, transforming Norton into a living tourist attraction. He dined for free in restaurants, had box seats held for him at the opera, was saluted in the streets by local police, and even printed his own money. 

Norton was the first in a long line of San Francisco eccentrics and is largely responsible for the whimsical nature of the city. To this day groups hold him up as a patron saint, including the Imperial Council (a worldwide LGBT organization), E. Clampus Vitus or the Clampers (a mens drinking club formed in the Gold Rush), and the Cacophony Society (the group responsible for Burning Man). 

The Movie

The film will tell Norton’s story alongside the history of California. From the Gold Rush, to the telegram, the Civil War and the Transcontential Railroad, California saw great change during Norton’s life.

We are currently in production interviewing historians, authors, and Norton aficionados. Since source material from this era is scarce, we plan to create basic animations from archival photos and original character illustrations. An original musical score is also being composed for the film.

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The Filmmakers

We have an array of Bay Area professionals on board to help, including Videographer Tylor Bohlman, Illustrator Mike Gray,VFX Artist Blair Kelly, Producer Kat Shreve, and musician Sam Chase to create the score. I’ve been editing for over twelve years and working as a freelance videographer in San Francisco for the past six years. I’ve been involved with a wide array of projects, in many different capacities, and I’m excited to bring 
Norton’s story to the big screen.