18 Weeks. 9 Kids. 1 Film. NOTHING BUT VICTORY!
For the next six months, I have quit all my work in New York City and I'm working completely pro bono with 9 public high school students in North Carolina to create a feature film. My goal is to teach the students team-building and leadership skills, while uniting the community behind the project leading up to our premiere in June.
As part of the program, I plan to launch the "Warhorse Film Festival" to bring the community together and experience the film on a big screen, while also showcasing the short film work of my students.
I am paying for the entire project out of pocket - everything from insurance, lodging, travel, props, meals, equipment - so I'm looking for any support you can provide that will not only help me make a better movie but provide a better educational experience for my students.
For more information about what the students have been up to, check out our blog: http://warhorsefilmmaker.tumblr.com
HISTORY OF THE WARHORSE FILMMAKER At the age of 17, I was given the chance to appear on the first season of MTV's MADE as a TV producer. While working for MADE, I met my first mentors who have always been there for me through the years. Since then, I've had an adventurous eight years of filming everything from parkour (http://vimeo.com/11810594) to abandoned subway stations for my documentary UNDERCITY (http://vimeo.com/18280328), which received over half a million hits in less than five days, and was covered by the NY Times, CNN, Gizmodo, and even an appearance on NBC's TODAY show.
I've gotten to do a lot of great things but I've always wanted to give back and help others, like my mentors have done for me. Last April, I figured out a way to do this. I was directing the 200th Episode of MADE at Owen High School in Black Mountain, NC and, while shooting, I realized this place was special. Owen is bursting with inspiration. The students I met were eager and hungry to learn all they could about film and the elements that would come together to create the story for our feature - Breaking Free. This was my chance to give back, create my first feature and teach the film program I've always dreamed of attending.
On my last day of filming MADE, I approached the school with my idea. The principal loved it and took it to the school board. Eight months later, here I am teaching my 9 Warhorse Filmmakers in Black Mountain, NC and we are more ready than ever to make a movie together.
THE WARHORSE WAY My curriculum is simple. The more you put in, the more you get out. I am focused on what the education world calls "soft skills" like teamwork and leadership. Besides just teaching film, I want to prepare my students for the new digital world where collaborating, group decision making and knowing how to lead a team are the biggest skills you need to succeed. Using radical techniques ranging from a week on a ropes course to uniformed crew drills, students are taught to work as a single unit facing obstacles and completing goals. Everything from our t-shirts to our grading policy exemplifies this idea. When you become a Warhorse Filmmaker, you agree to succeed and fail as a team--even with your grades. 85% of a student's grade is the lowest grade in the class. So if you’re the star of the class, letting a teammate fall behind is unacceptable. Of the 30 students who applied, 9 were selected and they have all embraced and relish in the challenges of my class.
THE FILM BREAKING FREE is a modern day high school re-telling of "Of Mice and Men" dealing with the issues/stories I've experienced within this community. I have met a lot of students who have survived incredible hardship and try to survive on their own due to these unfortunate circumstances. I wanted to make a story about this teenage battle between independence and maturity.
Our story centers around Madison, a tough 16 year old, and Teddy, her special needs brother, who live completely alone in an abandoned trailer, struggling to get out of town. During her struggle, Madison tries to juggle many obstacles like finding money to skip town, taking care of her brother and staying under the radar at school. Madison tragically learns that independent survival at 16 isn't as easy as it seems.
Throughout Madison's journey we deal with real issues facing this community, such as keeping homeless kids in the school system (subject of a NY Times cover story last year - http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/education/06homeless.html) and how the educational system deals with special needs students. Everyone in the Buncombe County School District has embraced the idea of using this film to examine both the community and the education system in general.
The 9 students in my class will serve as facilitators, but the whole mission of the film is to unite the community and get everyone involved. From local businesses providing services/food for our production to the actors which have been selected from all of the High School's in the district.
THE GAME PLAN After six weeks of intense training with my students, I will fly down three crew members from NYC to work with the individual students to train them in skills like cinematography, lighting, sound and producing. For the five weeks following, the students will work with me, the cast and my crew to create our feature film.
We are shooting after school on weekdays as well as Saturdays. Students will watch dailies everyday in class and discuss the game plan for shooting that day. The best part about being in the school everyday is the flexibility we have in creating real environments for our scenes. When we need to shoot a dance, we'll throw a real dance. When we need a hallway full of students we will film between classes.
This film will be guerilla to the extreme, but by using the energy and authenticity of the students working on it, I truly believe we will create an emotional and exhilarating film, unlike anyone has ever seen before.
After we finish the feature, students will make individual short films. Those short films and a first cut of the feature will be screened at the first ever "Warhorse Film Festival" for the community.
WHERE YOUR MONEY GOES Owen High School, home of Warhorse Filmmakers, is like most public schools around the country and is in the middle of a huge budget deficit. Everything I am doing here is completely pro bono and out of my own personal funds. The school and community are providing no salary, housing or anything financial, however the access and support they have given me is greater than any sum of money.
The goal is to raise at least $10,000. A generous donation to this film will help aid a unique educational experience for a group of amazing teenagers in a public school. It will also help fund the film from start to finish—insurance, wardrobe, makeup, location fees, festival submissions, etc. Your money will NOT go to anyone’s salary. The first priority of Warhorse Filmmakers is education, and we will ensure that these funds will go directly to the well-being and schooling of these students.
Just a reminder that if we don't reach our goal of $10,000, we don't make ANYTHING. Please, please, please pass this link around to your friends and family. Any help is greatly appreciated.
Welcome to our team! And always remember, NOTHING BUT VICTORY!
- (90 days)