Finders Keepers is an oftentimes hilarious, at turns tragic narrative that delves into the very real lives that created - and were forever changed by - the fantastical headlines.
A few years back I agreed to help my former boss Ed Cunningham organize some documentary footage he'd shot - from a passion project he'd poured years of his life into - so that he could bury it into storage.
While archiving his footage, first of some local North Carolina news reports, I learned about this guy, Shannon, who found a mummified human leg in a barbecue grill that he bought at an auction.
Then there was the national news footage of how Shannon wanted to turn the leg into a tourist attraction ($3 a peek, $1 for kids). And then the international news of how Shannon subsequently sued the leg's amputee owner, a guy named John, for possession of it. Crazy, right?
But then I got to the footage that Ed had filmed with real-life John and Shannon and their families, and saw what didn't make the news. Like how John had lost his leg in a tragic plane crash. That killed his father. On the day they had finally made amends. My interest was piqued.
Then I saw how Shannon had really just seen the leg as his ticket out of a life of hardship. And how the insane media frenzy covering the leg custody battle had sent John into a spiral of addiction and very nearly killed him, until a whole mess of strangely improbable things happened that I don't have room to explain but are ridiculous and oddly spiritual and philosophical and inspiring...
It soon became obvious that this film that Ed had spent years and a small fortune pursuing was unlike anything I'd seen before. And so it would be a long time before I would understand firsthand why he would ever desert it.
He paid me for the work and we parted ways, but for the next few years the story gnawed away at me. I would laugh about it to myself in the car. I would tell people about it at parties. Finally, I ended up talking Ed into letting me take a crack at directing the project.
It was about that time I discovered why he'd set it aside in the first place: people don't like investing in documentaries - even those produced by Oscar-winning producers, he explained. And not in a mean, philistine-y way, but it's just that statistically, most docs don't make money. I smiled and nodded as I pried the footage from his hands.
I've taken meetings with production companies. I've sat down with potential investors. They all loved the story and told me they'd get back to me. In the meantime I got a great producer (Adam Gibbs), went to North Carolina, found an awesome crew (Adam Hobbs, Tim Grant and Jeremy Ball), and we shot some amazing interviews and beautiful visuals!
...but we've yet to hear back from any investors. And now all our money has been spent on equipment, motels and Red Bull. A few years ago, our story would have ended here.
Ed tried his best and came up short, then I tried my best and it still wasn't enough, and now we're humbly asking you to carry the torch and produce a film that would otherwise never exist.
If you laughed during The King of Kong, or cried during Undefeated (just be honest - I sure did), now you can help keep alive a rare tradition of documentaries that are as much fun as they are inspiring.
Be a part of our production, get play-by-play updates, give us tips, ask our subjects questions. And accordingly have yourself thanked in our credits for making it all happen :)
Here's a chance to make the movie that you want to see, and to prove that the internet has moved us past the days where stories like this are often never told because of the realities of how and why movies get financed.
$80,000 is the absolute minimum number we need to make another trip to North Carolina, to start editing and to submit a watchable movie to film festivals. We'll still be roughing it in crack-den motels on our next shoot, but we'll do so gladly, knowing this time there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and that after six years these characters' amazing stories will finally get to be heard!
If you particularly agree that this is a story that deserves to be heard, please consider spreading the word by sharing this page or our video on Twitter, Facebook or your blog, and by Liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter -- this actually helps us out far more than you would imagine.
**Special thanks to our first contributors: Jeff Wilhelm, for the amazing photo in our banner graphic, and Max Frost (www.maxfrost.net), for the fantastic song in our trailer.
And a huge thanks to Billy Mitchell and Rickey's World Famous Hot Sauces (www.800hotsauce.com) for their very generous rewards.**
Risks and challenges
While very little is ever certain in documentary filmmaking, creating a film with a team this experienced gives us a great shot at bringing in a quality film on schedule and under budget, and of delivering your rewards in a timely manner.
We are fully aware that the success of this film is completely reliant on your generosity, and will accordingly take any and all steps to uphold our end of the deal.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter