IFW: MY NAME IS KOO
My name is Koo, and I’m a blogoholic. Not really, but I do run a NoFilmSchool”>blog about independent filmmaking, and I’ve also contributed to this Filmmaker web site a number of times. So, what am I doing here (again)?
I’ve got a feature script in the Emerging Narrative program this year. I also had a script in the similar-but-different No Borders program this same time last year; the main difference is EN scripts have no financing attached and NB do (theoretically, that is: we didn’t last year, but that’s another story). If you read my thoughts on the No Borders experience) you’ll see why I’m back for more: it was a great experience, and while last year’s project hasn’t gotten made, we learned a lot and were incredibly thankful to have been selected. When I say “we,” I’m referring to co-director Zack Lieberman. And we’re still going to make our No Borders project… one day.
I’m extremely grateful to be back again this year. This year’s a bit different for me, though: Independent Film Week will almost certainly be the craziest week of my life. Because, as IFW kicks off, I also happen to be entering the last week of my campaign to make the script I’m presenting at Emerging Narrative. About that whole “no financing attached” Emerging Narrative thing… I’m trying to change that, hopefully by Friday September 23rd at 11:59pm, when my campaign ends. If we make the goal, this will be my first project that actually has financing attached. And it’ll be my first feature. If we don’t make the goal, everything resets to zero and none of the over 1,300 pledges (so far) take place. Check out the campaign!
While I’m going to meetings over the next few days with producers, financiers, distributors, and sales agents, I’ll also be using a laptop or phone during any spare moment. I also won’t be sleeping. And I’ll be Tweeting like crazy and distributing flyers I printed up about the Kickstarter campaign. With $115k on the line, I’ll have to cast aside any misgivings I have about self-promotion.
What film am I trying to pitch offline and fundraise for online at the same time? It’s called <em>Man-child</em> and it takes place in the surprisingly high-stakes world of youth basketball. In 2009, the NCAA lowered the age limit on who can be considered an official basketball “prospect” to include 7th graders. While there have been a number of basketball films made about high school, college, or pro athletes, today’s recruiting — legal and illegal — begins much earlier. It’s a fascinating and treacherous world which often leaves big decisions in the hands of little kids.
The film explores sports, education, religion, and sex in America through the eyes of a talented 13 year-old basketball player. Here’s a brief synopsis:
An amateur video of 13 year-old Terran “TJ” Jackson playing basketball hits the internet and turns his life upside down. TJ is soon nationally ranked among other 7th graders and declared to be “the next Dwayne Wade” despite being in middle school.
As a result of this exposure, free athletic gear and various hangers-on find their way to the doorstep of his small, predominantly-black Christian school. While TJ navigates the religious curriculum — and simultaneously a sexually active relationship with his girlfriend — he learns about the youth basketball world and the recruiting machine that powers it. With his newfound fame, he must choose between educational institutes, father figures, and belief systems.
A few years from now TJ could be a millionaire, but right now all he has is basketball. It’s a lot for anyone to handle — much less a 13 year-old.
Here at IFW I’m extremely thankful to have some great meetings lined up — there are plenty of folks on my docket that I’m looking forward to meeting, whether or not my project ends up being a good fit. I called the 30-minute screenwriter/producer meetings “speed dating” in last year’s blog post, so I have a decent idea of what to expect going into the pitches — with the added wrinkle of this simultaneous fundraising effort thrown in.
I said my fundraiser and IFW “happen to be” taking place at the same time as if it’s a coincidence, but for some insane reason I actually planned it this way. A month ago I thought I could promote the campaign in person at IFW and get a momentum boost out of it. What I failed to realize was I should’ve ended the campaign the week <em>after</em> IFW, so I wouldn’t be double-booked with offline meetings and online promotional efforts at the same time. Ah, well: live and learn. This could be an expensive mistake, though.
It will be a juggling act: if I’m unable to promote my Kickstarter campaign effectively online at a crucial time, I could fail to make the fundraising goal. Hell, even if I’m able to promote it 24/7, I may fail to make the goal: as it turns out, my fundraising campaign would make history by becoming the most funded film in Kickstarter’s narrative film category (I didn’t know this when I set the goal). On the other hand, if I’m distracted by the online campaign and I do something stupid like pull out my phone in the middle of a meeting and start tweeting, that could cost me dearly as well. Note to self: don’t do that.
We’ll see what happens this week! I’m hoping that the possibility of bringing six figures of financing to the table myself will help get an experienced producer on board with whom I can further develop (and eventually make) the film. I’ve spent the past year researching and writing Man-child and just as long preparing to run this crowdfunding campaign. This week marks the culmination of a year of work. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say this week marks the culmination of a life of work. It’s my first feature, and I’ve been working for this as long as I can remember. No pressure!