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Personal stories of affirmation as told by four inspirational youth who reject the labels placed on them because of their disabilities
Personal stories of affirmation as told by four inspirational youth who reject the labels placed on them because of their disabilities
42 backers pledged $10,320 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$10,320

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“I Am Me” tells the story of four youth, ages 15-21, who are overcoming learning and physical disabilities to exemplify courage and optimism. Meet Jamal, DJ, McKenzie, and April - hear their voices, walk in their shoes, and see the world through their eyes. Each share inspirational stories about their journey to overcome bullying, depression, isolation, and self doubt. They invite you to get to know them and to witness how their unshakable courage is making a difference. In spite of life's challenges, these youth have become stronger, smarter, and more beautiful than ever imagined.

We hope our film will raise awareness about the challenges and needs of young people with disabilities.  We believe the stories shared by these brave youth can serve as encouragement to other youth and bring hope to all who are facing similar struggles. 

MEET OUR FOUR INSPIRATIONAL YOUTH:

JAMAL (age 16) - "If you have a disability...don't let it hinder you, let it empower you."
JAMAL (age 16) - "If you have a disability...don't let it hinder you, let it empower you."

Bullied by children who did not understand him and picked on by teachers who labeled him, Jamal knew something about him was different growing up. His numerous visits to doctors, counselors, and therapists in search of answers didn't seem to help. After years of struggling through school, Jamal was finally diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of 12. At 16, Jamal has already experimented with four different types of prescription drugs to help address his condition. He's no addict but this is what life has been like for him living with ADHD. Yet his positive outlook and his passion for the arts and sciences deters any negativity that dares to drag him down. 

Click on the video clip below to learn more about Jamal's story.

 

MEET DJ (age 21) - "No matter what your challenge is, no matter what the odds are...the odds are always beatable."
MEET DJ (age 21) - "No matter what your challenge is, no matter what the odds are...the odds are always beatable."

To walk in DJ’s shoes means keeping an everyday focus on his God-given"abilities" and not his "disability."  Yes, living with cerebral palsy has been challenging for DJ.  And even more so now with the recent loss of his father, who was his primary caregiver. But DJ's unrelenting faith combined with the unconditional love and support of family keeps him strong and moving forward.

Click on the video clip below to learn more about DJ's story.

 

McKenzie (age 15) - "Don't tell me what I can't do, I can do whatever I put my mind to."
McKenzie (age 15) - "Don't tell me what I can't do, I can do whatever I put my mind to."

When McKenzie first entered the world, right away the doctors and her family noticed something different in her appearance. Growing up, she stood out from her family because of her condition of albinism, which resulted in a lack of pigment in her hair, skin, and eyes. McKenzie also struggles with a visual impairment. Some children would make fun of her and others would not sit next to her out of fear that albinism was communicable. After years of self doubt, she finally began believing in herself and seeing clearly the beauty that those who loved her saw.

Click on the video clip below to learn more about McKenzie's story.

 

April (age 17) - "I want to inspire others to be themselves."
April (age 17) - "I want to inspire others to be themselves."

Born with the rare skin disorder in which skin cells build up but do not shed, April suffered through bullying by other children about her appearance.  Her condition (Ichthyosis) left her with scaly skin and visible dark patches on her face and neck.  Years of not being comfortable in her own skin led April to depression, thoughts of suicide and in turn, self harm. April has learned to manage her skin condition and proudly uses make-up as a form of creativity and self expression. Her bold make-up designs reflect her outspokenness and tremendous growth toward self-acceptance. Younger students now look up to her because she's not afraid to be herself.

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT - Why this film, why now?

"I Am Me" Co-Directors: Sophie Sither, 20, and Ricco Williams, 29.
"I Am Me" Co-Directors: Sophie Sither, 20, and Ricco Williams, 29.

In our daily lives, it's sometimes hard to find the time to slow down and to really get to know the people around us. With our increasingly fast-paced world, we can easily misunderstand and make quick judgments about people simply based on their outward appearance and our inner biases. In particular, this can be true in our daily interactions with people with disabilities. 

We hope this film will promote acceptance. We want it to encourage us to set aside labels and carve out more time to get to know those around us. We believe our film demonstrates that we all have in common the potential to become awesome and beautiful people.  The film also reminds us that we are not alone in our individual struggles. We stand among many who are facing the same or similar challenges. And some are discovering new ways to overcome life's difficulties each day and leaving a path for others to follow.

BEHIND THE CAMERA - Filmmakers for Tomorrow Foundation (FFTF) is a Washington, DC based 501c3 non-profit that provides educational and financial resources to young aspiring filmmakers ages 16-25. Our mission is to promote diversity in filmmaking and to develop the next generation of local filmmakers. FFTF is creating a vast network of artists, professionals, and educators to mentor our young filmmakers. We want to draw attention to the tremendous talent that resides right here in the Washington, DC area. All of our staff are volunteers.

OUR MANAGEMENT TEAM & BIOS

Milinda Balthrop (FFTF President & Founder) with Antonio Rodriguez (Aspiring Editor) at "I Am Me" Production Meeting
Milinda Balthrop (FFTF President & Founder) with Antonio Rodriguez (Aspiring Editor) at "I Am Me" Production Meeting

 Milinda Balthrop, Executive Producer.  In 2008, Ms. Balthrop started Filmmakers For Tomorrow Foundation (FFTF), a 501c3 non-profit, to promote diversity in filmmaking and provide opportunities for young filmmakers. Under Ms. Balthrop's leadership, FFTF has produced five films, including “U Street” (“Best Narrative” award) and “The Making of Outrage” (Official Selection 2016 BronzeLens Film Festival). Ms. Balthrop received her BA from George Washington University and MBA from Georgetown University. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Film & Media from Johns Hopkins University. Before beginning her career as a business executive at a Fortune 500 company, Ms. Balthrop spent her early years dedicated to improving the lives of women and children in Africa.

Lynda S. Balthrop (LSB) with the team at "I Am Me" Production Meeting
Lynda S. Balthrop (LSB) with the team at "I Am Me" Production Meeting

Lynda S. Balthrop (LSB), Creative Producer. LSB’s holds a BA in Theater (Summa Cum Laude) and is pursing a Master of Arts in Film & Media from Johns Hopkins University. She has performed at the Kennedy Center, StudioTheatre, and Arena Stage. LSB has been nominated for the Mayor’s Arts Award for Emerging Artist and the Thurgood Marshall Award.

Alonzo Crawford, Film Advisor (Directing). Mr. Crawford (MFA, Columbia University) is a film professor (emeritus) at Howard University and has written/ directed a number of documentary and dramatic short and feature-length films, including “Morning Tate” and “Gila Monster: The Adventures of Adrian Manx.”

Stephen Balthrop, Music Advisor. Mr. Balthrop attended the Berklee College of Music and Towson University. For years, Mr. Balthrop performed as lead guitarist for the "H.R." Band (formerly of Bad Brains) and now performs as singer and lead guitarist for his own band "Mister Steve."

"I Am Me" Soundtrack: "Mister Steve" Band contributed the film's song "The Looking Away" which accompanies our "I Am Me" Kickstarter trailer. The song features "Mister Steve," local singer Rahkendra Ice, and local rapper "Eazyman." "Mister Steve" Band also wrote and performs on the film's song "I Am Me," which can be found in our updates section.

Eric Wells & Sherri Fletcher Wells (Consultants to the Film and Proud Parents of Jamal) at "I Am Me" Production Meeting
Eric Wells & Sherri Fletcher Wells (Consultants to the Film and Proud Parents of Jamal) at "I Am Me" Production Meeting

Eric Wells, Consultant/Audio Advisor. For 26+ years, Mr. Wells, a Tuskegee Alumni, has worked in the industry of Music, Video, and Television. His credits include: “Dick Clark’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes”, Robin Leach’s “Lifestyle of the Rich & Famous” and BET’s “106&Park.” Mr. Wells is a Master Control Operator at Discovery Communications.

Sherri Fletcher Wells – Consultant/Social Media Advisor. Mrs. Wells became interested in the field of film and video once married to Eric Wells and began promoting her son Jamal's interest in the arts. She enjoys being a part of creating stories and bringing them to life. Ms. Wells along with her daughter in dedication to her mother wrote a book of poetry "Generations 3" Poetry through the ages. 

OUR ASPIRING FILMMAKERS & OTHER FILM CREW

Co-Directors: Sophie Sither, Ricco Williams 

Lead Cinematographer: Ricco Williams;  Cinematographers/Assistant Camera Operators: Imani Lee Hector, Clara Jegede, Sophie Sither 

Production Assistants: Pearis J, Akuoma Kamalu 

Junior Editors: Kevin Aninta, Niklas Persson, Antonio Rodriguez, Khadeem Wilson

Our Aspiring Editors: (left to right) Khadeem, Kevin, Antonio, and Niklas.
Our Aspiring Editors: (left to right) Khadeem, Kevin, Antonio, and Niklas.

Marketing Team:  Pat Andersen, Milinda Balthrop, Althea Evans, Akuoma Kamalu, Dan Pedowitz, Sherri Wells

Rough Edit: Lead Editor, Josh Short; Assistant Editors, Kevin Huang, Ricco Williams

OUR FINANCIAL GOALS

Our Financial need is $10,000.00 to get us through the next 6-9 months of post production. We want a polished feature film that brings to life these truly inspirational stories. 

To achieve this, we need your help.  We want to bring in a professional editing team to get the job done. Your financial support will be applied exclusively to the costs to complete the rough cut, professional edit, scoring, color correction, and audio sweetening for "I Am Me."  

We are on schedule to complete a rough cut of the film by Spring 2017. We expect to have the final edit completed before Fall 2017.  We cannot meet these timeframes without your generous contributions.

Any additional funding received above and beyond our $10,000 funding goal will go towards marketing and distribution costs for our film.

WHY WE NEED YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS

Making a feature documentary takes more than just time and effort. We've been investing our own savings on this project along with the "sweat equity" of all of our FFTF volunteers. We are thrilled that we've made it this far, but we need your help to get this film completed. This is our first feature film and our most expensive effort to date.

Our goal is to see our film screened at national and international film festivals to increase awareness about the challenges and needs of children with disabilities. We also want a finished film that brings recognition to all of the aspiring filmmakers who worked tirelessly to make the film. 

OTHER WAYS YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE

We understand that everyone may not be able to contribute financially to our project.  We welcome your support in other ways and invite you to:

Share this campaign and help us SPREAD THE WORD!  Use the Kickstarter tools available on this site to share the campaign with your network, announce it on your website, include it in your newsletter... Any of these actions is likely to have a high impact on the success of this campaign!

Thank you for taking part in this very personal project!


Risks and challenges

We do not foresee any risks to completing our film project if fully funded. "I Am Me" is our 5th film to date. Filmmakers For Tomorrow Foundation (FFTF) has successfully completed every film project that we have started since our inception. Our films have been selected by local and national film festivals, screened nationally, aired on cable, and won an award. We have an experienced management team that has worked together on previous projects, which greatly lowers our risk for completion.

We do anticipate that we may need additional b-roll footage or photos to complete the final edit once the rough cut is delivered. Efforts are underway to identify and fill those gaps in working with the featured young people and their families.

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    Pledge $1 or more About $1.00

    "I Am Me" Color Wristband

    Start a conversation with your "I Am Me" color wristband. Wear it and increase awareness about the challenges that young people with disabilities face.

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    Your name on our "I Am Me" webpage

    We are grateful for your support. See your name listed on our film's acknowledgements webpage.

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    "I Am Me" Shout-out to you on Twitter

    Receive a Tweet of Thanks from us to you. (Follow us on Twitter @FFTFDC and include your Twitter handle with your pledge)

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    Special Thanks video from us to you

    See how much you're appreciated in our "Special Thanks" Video message from us to you.

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    Signed Copy of "I Am Me" Poster

    Receive a link to your very own signed copy of our "I Am Me" poster.

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    "Special Thanks" credit in our film

    Want to see your name listed in our film? We'll add your name to our "Special Thanks" film credits.

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    - Your name on our webpage
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    - Special thanks video
    - Signed copy of "I Am Me" poster

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    Get noticed in your "I Am Me" T-shirt

    Make a fashion statement with your "I Am Me" T-shirt. We'll ship it to you just in time for the holidays. Also makes a great gift.

    Additional Rewards:
    - Your name on our webpage
    - Shout out on Twitter
    - Special thanks video
    - Signed copy of "I Am Me" poster
    - "Special Thanks" credit in our film

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    Come Celebrate with Us! (4 passes)

    Come celebrate with us and meet the inspirational youth who made "I Am Me" possible. You'll receive 4 passes to an afternoon of food, fun, and festivities in the Washington, DC area.

    Additional Rewards:
    - Your name on our webpage
    - Shout out on Twitter
    - Special thanks video
    - Signed copy of "I Am Me" poster
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    Be a Power-Player "Associate Producer"

    Make big moves and receive big rewards. As a token of our appreciation, you will receive film credit as an "Associate Producer" of "I Am Me."

    Additional Rewards:
    - Your name on our webpage
    - Shout out on Twitter
    - Special thanks video
    - Signed copy of "I Am Me" poster
    - "Special Thanks" credit in our film
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    - (4) Passes to "I Am Me" Celebration

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    Be the Boss "Co-Producer" credit

    Let us reward you for being the Boss you are with a "Co-Producer" film credit for "I Am Me."

    Additional Rewards:
    - Your name on our webpage
    - Shout out on Twitter
    - Special thanks video
    - Signed copy of "I Am Me" poster
    - "Special Thanks" credit in our film
    - "I Am Me" T-shirt
    - (4) Passes to "I Am Me" Celebration
    - Signed CD from guest artist on "I Am Me" soundtrack.

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Funding period

- (30 days)