King Lee is an independent feature film that tells the highly untrue story of a deeply dishonest man, Lee Alexander, the mayor of Syracuse in the 1970s. This won't be a sober bio-pic, but an action-packed ride through an era when municipal government was the new rock-and-roll. It's Shaft meets The Candidate on a dark alley off Warren Street. Or something. We start filming this August on location in the city where it all went down (or more likely, didn't actually go down at all), Syracuse, New York.
What's the story?
We've put a little bit of our research up on Tumblr at Some Facts About Lee Alexander if you'd like to know more. We'll also be tweeting some quotes and other stuff at @KingLeeMovie. Basically, Lee Alexander was elected mayor of Syracuse in 1969 at age 42. He worked hard for his adopted city, and pushed through many projects to improve it: new firehouses, schools, and lots of economic development. Under his administration, the city flourished, and he kept the city's finances in the black at a time when many Rust-Belt cities were struggling. But after he left office in 1986, his dark secret came to light: that he had taken kickbacks from developers. Lots of them. Millions of dollars, laundered through his ironically-named political fund, Citizens for Good City Government. He was convicted and sent to prison for five and a half years. Then, he returned to the city he loved, and spent his last years working as a maître d' at a restaurant in the shadow of City Hall. He died on Christmas Day in 1996. But that's not exactly the story we're going to tell. Call it a fever dream of Alexander's years in office, the way he might have told the story; the way it might have happened if things were just a little bit different. We'd show you the script, but that would ruin the surprise. And you won't believe how it ends.
Why are you doing this?
In researching this project, I was shocked at how little has been written about Lee Alexander, aside from the volumes that appeared in the local papers. Today, he's become a straw dog for people who want to assert the corruption of big government and the Democratic party, when in fact the story is much more complex and human than that. Lee Alexander's story also says a lot about the state of the American city and how we got where we are today, and the dangers politicians face when they actually try to get things done.
If we raise the minimum amount needed to produce King Lee ($10,000), by the end of our 30 day pledge drive, the money goes straight into the production, minus 5% for Kickstarter and 3-4% to Amazon. If we fail to meet that goal, no cards are charged and our film doesn't get made (sad face). But if we can raise more than $10,000, we can film more scenes, and tell this story the way it deserves to be told.
Can we shoot a feature film for $10,000?
Yes. The less you know about that, the better. But seriously, this is the minimum budget we need to make this movie. if we can raise more than 10 grand, that means we can shoot more and better. Better lighting, better special effects, more 'coverage' (craft jargon, sorry), more sweet vintage cars, more killer seventies threads. And wait until you see the decor! We think we have a pretty powerful script, and we'd really like to do it justice.
Where will the money go?
The usual and boring stuff like legal fees, insurance, equipment rentals, and so on (we're getting some heavy discounts, thankfully). But also, we're making a period film, so we need to get our hands on a bunch of vintage cars, clothes, props, and artwork to make sure every frame of the film is drenched in 1970s grooviness. Plus, there's a scene where someone falls out a window, and dummies don't grow on trees, you know.
The Big Reward
Syracuse artist Jamie Ashlaw has painted a gorgeous portrait of our lead actor in character that will feature prominently in the film. If you contribute $5000 or more, this one-of-a-kind artifact is yours!
Other ways to be a part of King Lee:
We want to make this a community-wide effort. We've recruited dozens of talented people from the Syracuse area and we could probably use your help too. We want this to be a film that's made by the people of Syracuse to tell the world part of our story.
• Share this page on Facebook and Twitter.
• If you live in the Syracuse area (or can get there), we're going to need lots of extras for a couple of crowd scenes. We'll tweet the locations and post them on our Facebook page. Show up in your 1970s threads! It'll be a party!
• We also could use your expertise. Do you have any experience in casting, set design, or line production? Want some? We have a dedicated skeleton crew, and we could use all the help we can get.
• Do you have a vintage car? Does it want to be in a movie? (Stupid question, all cars secretly want to be in a movie.) Why not park it on the street for a few hours where we're shooting. Your car will thank you.
• Send us a message if you'd like to get involved. We'd love to hear from you. The link is at the top of the page, or hit us up on Facebook, Twitter, or KingLeeMovie@gmail.com.
- (30 days)