Help St. Louis non-profit Empowerment Arts shoot the international scenes in Colombia for the feature film, "A Paper Tiger Burns".
Empowerment Arts is a non-profit organization based in Saint Louis, Missouri that creates productions with cultural and educational influence. Our mission is to empower people to build their lives free of barriers to self-worth, and to educate and enlist humanity to promote respect and compassion for others who are different.
Our feature film project, A Paper Tiger Burns, seeks to empower immigrants and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) youth and adults with a story inspired by true events. The film is about a Colombian with an abusive childhood, who is hated and bullied by other kids at school, and even his own mother because he is gay. A journey of being hospitalized, degraded, and tortured, that eventually takes him to the point of attempted suicide, is only overcome by an immensely powerful, learned desire to be true to himself and reach for a dream. It is an international story, that involves the protagonist eventually being exiled from his family to the USA in St. Louis, Missouri. Once there, as an adult he faces new challenges, and then goes back to Colombia to find that his home country has changed, and that there is now more acceptance from the culture for LGBT individuals. He then returns to his new home country empowered by what he learns. Through the process of self discovery in facing adversity, he struggles to obtain true strength through martial arts while overcoming the demons of his troubled past.
Right now, our first phase of principal shooting will be filming internationally to capture cultural events intertwined with the story. Our contracted team of filmmakers will travel to Colombia, South America to shoot the necessary scenes for our film project A Paper Tiger Burns. We will be sending a skeleton crew, and three principal actors to shoot the critical scenes in Colombia. One of the main scenes must be shot on location in Bogota during the annual LGBT pride parade. It is urgent that we make it there in time for the event in late June. We will be recording the actual parade for the film, and our actor will take part in a performance on a float. This will bring a colorful, cultural display to the film, and depict an open and accepting future for Colombia, and for the main character who learns that things do get better.
The Colombia scenes are critical to the production value of the film. The film's story is international, so it must also be shot internationally. In the trailer, we show a scene set in Colombia where the teen protagonist is chased by bullies. That was shot in Missouri, but we searched hard to find a spot that would be convincing to a real Colombian. However, beyond generic woods shots, we cannot depict a culture and its people by shooting in rural Missouri for Colombia. Not showing the real location would cheapen the theatrical experience, and limit our audience. According to our mission, we must be able to reach a mass audience in order to increase acceptance and understanding of a minority. Production value is salient to that aim. (continued below picture)
The story is based on true events, and for the integrity and realism of this story, we feel we must show the actual places surrounding the action. Locations help tell a story. Colombia itself, is another character we hope to empower. The country is disrespectfully misconstrued as a jungle of drug dealing and explosions. Contrary to that portrayal by western media, we have found it to be quite different, and very progressive. The cast and crew are looking forward to its 60 degree year round weather in the mountains (no ceiling fans!).
In order to keep costs low, however, we are only planning to shoot the most necessary scenes in Colombia to tell the story: city exteriors, parade events, landscapes, schools, fashion shows, and other specific cultural elements. All interiors will be shot on set stages and local interiors in St. Louis, MO to connect visually to the world shown through the exteriors we shoot in Colombia.
So, our budget for the trip is minimized to fit these needs in a way that will be effective for the production value. The $18,000 will pay for the plane tickets for a minimum crew and the three actors needed, and for the cost of the crew being away from their day jobs for that time period of about 3 to 4 weeks.
Our primary crew consists of mainly Webster University film production graduates. Webster University in St. Louis is one of few liberal arts colleges with a comprehensive, technically advanced, and well renowned film production program. All crew members have been selected for their qualified production skills, and for the Colombia shoot, some for their additional bilingual capabilities. They are also all willing to work at a higher capacity to meet the budget constraints of a non-profit, all going above and beyond to take on multiple roles, and often volunteer extra time to make this film a reality.
The script for the film has been completed, the board of directors and advisors have worked hard to research and develop the project, we have cast the main actor roles, and detailed production coordination has begun. As you hopefully saw in the full trailer, we have already shot a few scenes for the film, including one of the more complicated fight scenes. The international shoot in Colombia is our next goal, and then we will complete the rest of the film domestically in the USA before the end of the year. Post-production is expected to extend until next summer, and we hope to premiere the film at either the Saint Louis Filmmakers Showcase in July 2013, or the Saint Louis International Film Festival in Fall 2013.
Please remember that we are a non-profit organization! All of the budget is geared towards very minimal costs, and all cast and crew are working at-cost, or as volunteers. Any money you donate will be tax deductible. Empowerment Arts is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
Any extra funds we raise, will go directly into completing the rest of the film's budget goals. We will begin the domestic shoot for A Paper Tiger Burns as soon as we get back from Colombia. The bulk of the film will still be shot in and around St. Louis, Missouri. The total budget for the film is $88,000, and that covers the entire feature production and editing process.
Please remember that Kickstarter is a pledge-based system that protects the interests and money of all of you, our backers. The projects are all or nothing, so money only transfers when the project is successful. So, when you set your eyes on an awesome reward, know that you absolutely will get that reward if your money is transferred. Your money isn't given in the hopes of creating a project, it is only transferred when the funding is successful, which means the project can be made as declared by the producers. We have until May 19th to raise at least $18,000 or the film receives zero funding. So please, give what you can, and spread the word to others about our project and our cause. Our community of backers who pledge funding for this project becomes part of the Empowerment Arts team, joining us in our mission to empower people to build their lives free of barriers to self-worth, and to educate and enlist humanity to promote respect and compassion for others who are different.
Thank you all, and I look forward to the next step!
Founding President, Empowerment Arts
Producer/Director, A Paper Tiger Burns
For more information about the project, and the non-profit organization, please visit our website. It's full of details about our goals and mission, as well as photos, media, and stories of our endeavors so far. Here, you can also watch the full trailer for the film in HD! www.empowermentarts.org
It's a big chunk of our budget, but it is worth it to greatly increase the production value, and present the story with integrity. First of all, the story is about an immigrant, and the story of an immigrant is intrinsically linked to the person's home country. The country must be presented accurately and in a way that portrays the history and culture the individual comes from with an egalitarian perspective. In other words, we have to go there to see and show what is really like from their perspective, (not from what we could only imagine or perceive from the US). Second, Colombia itself is another character we hope to empower. The country is misconstrued as a jungle of drug dealing and explosions. Contrary to that portrayal by western media, we have found it to be quite different, and very progressive.
We will be flying an selected minimal, experienced film crew and a few principal actors to Bogota in late June to document the largest pride festival in the southern hemisphere. Other locations include more suburban towns like La Union and Pasto that will allow us to show a diverse sense of landscape and culture. Our actors and others cast members in Colombia will be acting parts of the script during the actual pride parade event, and in other scenarios on location. Many of the events and locations can be captured through a documentary style of shooting, in conjunction with real participation from actors and a few staged scenes. We have been very thrifty and clever in planning the international scenes.
We expect most of our food, travel, and lodging, once there, to be covered by supporters in Colombia. Our main actor, Edgar Montenegro, is a native Colombian, and has proven to be quite the producer-type by setting us up with free housing, food, and transportation to be given by excited Colombian supporters of the film. We have already contacted several representatives in government and NGOs (such as Bogota Brilliance and Colombia Diversa) to be aware of our presence and purpose, and to offer assistance. So, costs will be minimal for our team. The $18,000 will pay for our tickets to get there, and the cost of the crew working abroad for a month.
If you select the reward for $10 donations, you will at least have an opportunity to be an extra in a karate tournament scene! Otherwise, for interest in speaking roles, please send a headshot and resume to email@example.com and we will call you for auditions if selected as a potential candidate for a role. List of roles we are looking for can be found on our website, under the "Take Action" tab, on the "Casting Call" page. http://empowermentarts.org/?page_id=113
The purpose of Empowerment Arts is to create productions with cultural and educational influence. Employees or affiliates with skills in filmmaking, videography, and other artistic mediums will be called upon by the organization to create artistic productions with public benefit. The directors of Empowerment Arts will develop ideas for projects, gather funding necessary to complete productions, employ the talent needed for all stages of production, and after production, offer a means to promote and distribute the finished work.
Idea development for projects may begin in a number of ways. Most typically it will start with the board of directors doing research on current events related to minorities, human rights issues, progressive demand, conservation, or other individuals, groups, or issues needing empowerment. A project may also spawn from a prospective client offering a compelling story to be produced through an artistic medium. This client might be another producer, non-profit, or artistic talent with a true story he or she wants to be shared with a mass audience.
Empowerment Arts will take on the role of fundraising through the work of the board of directors, secretary, and treasurers. As each project's needs may be different, fundraising tactics may vary. Experienced fundraisers will organize events, gather donations directly or through product donations, and setup pledge-based, online networking fund sources. The organization will also employ a web of networking with related non-profits and organizations to spread the word about projects, and potentially obtain funds.
Once a project idea has been developed, and a goal set, the directors of Empowerment Arts will employ the talent needed for each project's creative requirements. As each project may be different, the talent will be selected specifically for each project, and may or may not be reoccurring, permanent employees; they will be contracted freelancers for Empowerment Arts. The talent may include workers for all stages of productions (directors, producers, actors, writers, choreographers, etc.), or the organization may call upon a select producer to hire their own crew for the production of the project.
After a film production is complete, and begins distribution in film festivals, theaters, and home video releases, Empowerment Arts officers and board members will volunteer to present the film in educational settings, and make it available to educators. A guidebook for educators will be made to accompany each project. Special presentations with guest speakers, and a professional showing can be arranged by Empowerment Arts in the surrounding area of the officers or by special request elsewhere. Outside this region (which will hopefully grow over time), the film will be made available for educators to have a video copy shipped to them, or a special download link will be given to reach and educate audiences worldwide.
So, in effect, Empowerment Arts will act as the spring-board, mentor, and usher for films, videos, and art projects that may not easily find support from typical avenues of funding and producing due to topics in relation to the human rights of minorities, controversies, or other movements counter to the mainstream. Due to the difficulties these much-needed projects face, the organization will act as a production house, executive producer, professional contributor, educational presenter, or other roles that may be needed for these artistic visions to be seen, and make an impact on society.
There are numerous reasons that the founders decided to setup the organization this way:
1. As mentioned in the description of activities, the organization does more than just produce films. The directors and staff will arrange special showings for the films in schools, and include educational seminars, lectures, and presentations on the film's topics. Educational guides for different school age levels will be made for educators. Lessons, detailed information on the film's topics, and related sciences and cultural facts to learn will be presented in these guides.
2. Revenue generated from the film will go into the production of the next project after costs are paid, making Empowerment Arts partially self-sustaining. Continued financial support for the arts and education reflect the salient goals of the non-profit.
3. Empowerment Arts employees include individuals involved with the project's themes, (such as LGBT, Latino, immigrants, etc. in the current film project) as opposed to a typical film studio which will only hire its own studio employees.
4. Films are narratives of stories based on true events, so they can educate people on the reality of issues facing society.
5. Due to the ubiquitous growth of media piracy in the last decade, society has created a new reality in which creative content is effectively worthless. In reaction to this, film production companies are going with safer and safer bets in blockbuster films, and taking less risks on edgy, or risky independent films. Little or no funding from Hollywood studios goes to true independent films. So, to get these films produced in the current state of the economy and the film industry, Empowerment Arts needs to be a non-profit to overcome the existing financial hurdles.
We focus on current issues, diversity, cross-cultural interactions, minority groups, and compelling true stories to reach a wide audience through an entertainment medium. From this we are sustainable by being mostly self-sustaining through a profitable end-product. We will have a product to show for future promotion and fundraising. Also, the group is led by professional filmmakers, so success in the medium of film and video are more guaranteed. We also hope to always employ those involved with the real story, and those who are otherized in the topic of the project.
Why is the organization setup to make narrative films? Why not just make educational videos or documentaries?
Our president is a filmmaker who truly believes in the power of the film narrative. When films are created to make an impact on society, it becomes a means of communicating ideas to the masses through entertainment. When dealing with issues involving minorities, it is crucial to gain the support of the majority to further understanding, acceptance, civil rights, and coexistence. Most people who watch documentaries, or educational programs on specific topics, watch them because they are already interested in the topic and want to learn more. With narrative films, a greater majority of the general public tune in for the enjoyment of a story's entertainment; they learn in tandem. For this reason, we believe that the entertainment medium of narrative films is the best way to have these stories reach out to not only the minorities that need the voice of support, but also to a majority that can lend support, and who has a greater learning gap to fill.
Another reason is the option of anonymity, and protection for those involved in the true story. For example, one reason we chose not to do a straightforward documentary for A Paper Tiger Burns, is because the inspirations for the story could face repercussions at their work, or with their families for simply telling the truth. We deal with current controversies, and misunderstandings surrounding marginalized minorities; a narrative that is in reality, part-documentary, allows for the most artistic, and legally protective means to portray the truth of a story.
pledged of $18,000 goal
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Apr 13, 2012 - May 20, 2012
Pledge $10 or more
(SPECIAL OFFER) Invitation to be an extra in the karate tournament scene we will be filming in the St. Louis area, and credit in the film! This is a chance to see behind the scenes and also be seen on-camera. This reward is geared toward poor college kids and grads, or others who want to donate their time in hopes of being in a movie. Other extra role options possibly available in Nashville, TN and Bogota, Colombia based on the backer's location. Travel and lodging not included.Estimated delivery: Nov 2012
Pledge $25 or more
(GRACIAS AMIGOS) Eternal gratitude and credit in the film under "special thanks". Also includes a full resolution (1080p) download link to the feature film.Estimated delivery: Jul 2013
Pledge $50 or more
(GREAT BEGINNING) The reward for those who want to become a part of a young filmmaker's journey. Antonio Zapiain Luna will be playing the hero as a teen for this film, but he also aspires to be a director in the future. This could be his big start! Receive a signed photograph of Antonio on location in Colombia, and a video collection of his own short films. Also includes credit in the film under "special thanks" and a full resolution (1080p) download link to the feature film. Items can only be shipped domestically.Estimated delivery: Sep 2012
Pledge $50 or more
(THE WORLD TRAVELER) Receive a personalized postcard sent from location in Colombia. The postcard will be signed by cast and crew members during filming. Sending internationally! Also includes credit in the film under "special thanks" and a full resolution (1080p) download link to the feature film.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $100 or more
(CYBER FIGHT!) Send us a picture of your face and the director (or other participating karate champion) will print and wear a mask of you during a recorded fight with the star of the film, Edgar Montenegro! Your unique sparring match will be posted to Youtube. Good option for International backers! Also includes credit in the film under "special thanks" and a full resolution (1080p) download link to the feature film.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $100 or more
(VIVA COLOMBIA!) Colombian gifts: Colombian coffee and assorted arts and crafts acquired during our trip. Domestic backers in the Continental US only. Also includes credit in the film under "special thanks" and a full resolution (1080p) download link to the feature film.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $500 or more
(SELF MASTERY) Training session with director, Gavin Culbertson in Saint Louis, MO. Get fit with a certified personal trainer, and Agatsu kettlebell instructor. Methods of training will be seen in the film, and now you can do them too! Workout intensity can be adjusted to your fitness level. Travel and lodging not included.Estimated delivery: Sep 2012
Pledge $500 or more
(THE KARATE DOJO) Karate lesson with main actor Edgar Montenegro in Saint Louis, MO. Edgar is an elite, national karate champion. Did you notice all the trophies in that opening shot of the trailer? Those are all his real trophies! Join with him in a class to learn the basics of self defense, sparring, and kata. Travel and lodging not included. Also includes credit in the film under "special thanks" and a full resolution (1080p) download link to the feature film.Estimated delivery: Sep 2012
Pledge $500 or more
(SALSA CALIENTE) Salsa dance lesson with main actor Edgar Montenegro. In addition to being a karate champion, Edgar is also an awarded dancer. Join him to learn a vibrant facet of Colombian culture! Travel and lodging not included. Also includes credit in the film under "special thanks" and a full resolution (1080p) download link to the feature film.Estimated delivery: Sep 2012
Pledge $1,000 or more
(THE HIGH KICK) Executive Producer credit. Get a framed high quality print of a Colombian landscape taken on location during the film shoot. Invitation to attend the pre-screening of the film where you can offer comments and suggestions. Two reserved seats at the film's world premiere in Saint Louis, Missouri. Invitation to Tracy's Karate for a free starter session which includes 4 lessons at one of their prestigious studios in Saint Louis. Also includes a full resolution (1080p) download link to the feature film. Finally, you can choose any one of the other rewards listed on a lower tier. Travel and lodging not included.Estimated delivery: Aug 2012
Pledge $2,000 or more
(THE CONTINENTAL) Executive Producer credit. Invitation to attend the pre-screening of the film where you can offer comments and suggestions. Two VIP seats with the cast and crew at the film's world premiere in Saint Louis, Missouri. Also includes a dinner with the film's director and primary cast and crew at an agreed upon date after the premier. In addition to the full resolution (1080p) download link to the feature film, you will also receive a limited edition, signed, blu-ray copy of the film with special features. Finally, you can choose any one of the other listed rewards. Travel and lodging not included.Estimated delivery: Jul 2013