July 25, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka: It is a blisteringly hot day at Sugathadasa Stadium as Amit "Happy" Lochab steps on the field for the first ever professional American Football game in South Asia; he has come a long way at this point. The field where he learned to play this game was one built with his own two hands. Happy is the leader of his team, the Delhi Defenders, and when they didn't have a field to practice on, he gathered his villagers and teammates, borrowed a tractor, and spent day and night clearing the field, laying grass down, and painting lines on it. Of course, the field could never be complete without one final touch: stamping DEFENDERS across the end zone. Happy grew up poor in Auchandi Village. Just 11 months ago he picked up a football for the first time. But now, Happy is moments away from making history.
What is this film about?
What if America’s most popular sport was introduced to the world’s second most populous nation?
Birth of a Sport will be a feature documentary chronicling the Elite Football League of India (EFLI), the first professional American football league in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Founded in late 2011, the EFLI was started to create new opportunities for athletes in the region. The first season began just about a year later and is being broadcast throughout South Asia on one of the leading sports networks, Ten Sports. The league consists of eight teams, five located in various cities across India, two in Sri Lanka, and one from Pakistan. There are some big names behind the league, including NFL Hall of Fame members Kurt Warner, Mike Ditka and Michael Irvin, as well as Hollywood superstar Mark Wahlberg.
Cricket rules in this region and nothing comes close. That means the one billion plus people who populate this vast land only consume one sport. What about other athletes? These other sportsmen have unquestionable skills. But let's face it, some people are more fit to tackle a running back than bowl to a batsman.
INDIA vs. PAKISTAN: THE RIVALRY
With 111 million television viewers, the 2012 Super Bowl was the most watched show in US history. By contrast, a 2011 India-Pakistan cricket match was estimated to attract an audience of over 500 million.
The history between India and Pakistan is long, documenting a relationship colored by infamous complexity. India and Pakistan were, at one time, a single country under British rule. In 1947 Britain dismantled its Indian Empire and partitioned the sub-continent, creating a fierce South Asian rivalry, which has lasted ever since. The roots of this animosity stem from religious difference and even further conflict over the states of Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, this conflict has escalated into a frightening nuclear arms race.
This rivalry isn't constrained to just geopolitical affairs. The competition between the national cricket teams of India and Pakistan is one of the most intense sports rivalries in the world. A standard India-Pakistan cricket match attracts hundreds of millions of viewers, and defeat is just plain unacceptable to fans of both teams.
The EFLI is hoping to bring these two countries together in peace through this vicious contact sport. Can players from these two countries, competing with the same goal of demolishing each other on the field, come together as brothers off of it? Birth of a Sport will chronicle this as it’s happening.
The true heart of this film rests in the personal stories of players and coaches. India is an extremely diverse place with a centuries old caste system; the players from this league come from all over, they speak one of hundreds of different languages and represent many of the thousands of different castes.
There are players coming from the slums, looking to bring a better life to their families. Then there are those from well-off backgrounds, looking to make a name for themselves in the world of sport. Some left decent jobs, others good schools, but all of these men are risking their livelihoods to become EFLI stars.
Who are we and why are we making this film?
Evan Rosenfeld and Jenna Moshell worked together at a Miami-based documentary studio, rakontur, before setting out on their own.
Evan Rosenfeld (Director/Producer) is an experienced documentary film producer who has worked on multiple sports related films. His most recent film, Broke, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and made its television debut on October 2nd, 2012 as a part of ESPN's "30 for 30" series, becoming the highest rated film in the critically acclaimed Peabody Award winning series. This was his second project for ESPN, the first of which, The U, also debuted with record breaking ratings. Evan is the Executive Producer of Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Evan has also worked as a producer on the Cocaine Cowboys film series.
Jenna Moshell (Producer) is a seasoned producer and production manager. She has worked on a slew of documentaries including The U and Broke, both part of ESPN's "30 for 30" series; Limelight, which premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and currently runs on Showtime; Square Grouper, which premiered at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival and is also currently on Showtime.
What have we done already?
We have already shot a large amount of incredible footage for our documentary. We were able to shoot training camps before the EFLI season took off, and even better, we were fortunate enough to shoot the entire, first ever, American football season in Asia. We followed specific teams and players on this journey, and have captured both heartwarming and heartbreaking stories throughout this process.
We've also produced short documentaries on each team in the league. Here is the piece on the Kolkata Vipers:
A message from Evan Rosenfeld (Director/Producer):
It was the experience of a lifetime to be a part of the first season of the EFLI. Seeing the heart and passion invested at all levels, from everyone involved, was nothing short of incredible. The players dedicated everything they have to learning this sport with the utmost skill and expertise. After observing even one season, there is no question that they have done exactly that. The high paced action, vicious tackles, and amazing catches come together for one purpose; this league put an unquestionably entertaining product on some of the most surprising fields.
It was a pleasure to capture this first season on film. Each and every team had the same, astonishing level of passion, but they are all unique and special. We are thankful for the welcome we received from all of the groups, and even more so, that we were able to witness and experience the bonds each team had. Whether it was waking up with the Mumbai Gladiators at 5AM, singing and dancing on the team bus with the Bangalore Warhawks, or spending Independence Day with the Pakistan Wolfpak, all of the teams made us feel like a part of their families. We hope the people who see this film will witness the unique bonds that color these connections, and we hope viewers will get to know the very special players, who comprise the heart and persistent fervor of the EFLI.
If we were able to capture just a small part of what we witnessed, then the world will see, just as we have, how huge this league will become.
Risks and challenges
We've come a long way, literally, to get this film made. Multiple trips around the world. Planes, trains and automobiles across India. Months in hotels around South Asia. Every step of the way we've encountered challenges and taken them head on. Will there be more? Yes, of course. Delays can happen. Dates can move back. Making a film is a true adventure.
There are potential risks and challenges for this specific project. The league and the players are a constantly evolving story. We think there are only a few interviews left to shoot but we don't know what new and exciting story-lines might emerge between now and when we plan on finishing the film. We've built the possibility of this happening into our schedule and budget, but this could also alter our plans and push us back a bit. We will be forthcoming about anything going on with the film and make sure to update everybody.
The good news is that we've been through this before and have a successful track record to prove it!
"Own A Piece of History " Package 1 - this package includes dirt from the field of the inaugural championship game of the EFLI & an unused Season 1 game ticket (plus all of the above). This award is not included with any other package unless specifically noted.
Very special pack of 4 high quality photo prints (8X8) from Season 1 of the EFLI taken by Director Evan Rosenfeld (plus the mini football, digital download code, DVD, t-shirt & Blu-ray). Images are shown to the left.
1 pair of tickets to a Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown concert at a city near you in 2013, which includes meeting the band backstage (plus a Birth of a Sport DVD). Touring schedule will be announced soon & you will have your choice of city. Their music can be heard in our Kickstarter movie trailer. This award is not included with any other package. Travel & Accommodations not provided.
rakontur Gift Pack - A special collection of swag by filmmakers Billy Corben, Alfred Spellman & David Cypkin. This includes signed Cocaine Cowboys & The U DVDs, a signed Cocaine Cowboys poster and rakontur stickers. Also included is a Birth of a Sport DVD. This award is not included with any other package.
"Own A Piece of History" Package 2 - Autographed limited edition jersey from a star football player of the EFLI Season 1 championship team (plus all of the above). This award is not included with any other package unless specifically noted.
You've just become an ASSOCIATE PRODUCER and will be credited as such in the end credits of the film and listed on IMDB (plus the mini football, digital download code, DVD, t-shirt, "Own A Piece Of History" Package 1 & full size movie poster).
Dinner for you and a guest with EFLI Founders, Rich Whelan and/or Sunday Zeller, Director Evan Rosenfeld and Producer Jenna Moshell in Los Angeles (plus all of the above). Travel & Accommodations not provided. This award is not included with any other package.
Documentary Premiere Package - bring a guest and share a meal (you pick the cuisine) with Director Evan Rosenfeld, Producer Jenna Moshell and EFLI founders Rich Whelan and/or Sunday Zeller before heading to the movie premiere & after party in either New York or Los Angeles (plus all of the above). Travel & Accommodations not provided.
"Own A Piece Of History" Package 3 - The first 2 people to pledge will get signed cleats worn by a football player of the EFLI Season 1 championship team (plus all of the above, including the other "Own A Piece of History" packages). This award is not included with any other package.