*** All donations to this project are tax-deductible: The 501(c)3 non-profit fiscal sponsor is Circle of the Living Earth-AIWP, the EIN is #95-3455451 ***
Ubuntu is a Zulu word. It means, Because we are, I am.
On September 11, 2001
I was driving through the foothills of Mount Shasta
in northern California. Passing through the sacred landscape, accompanied only by the
sabre-rattling AM radio, was surreal. Relieved that the bridges into San
Francisco had survived the day intact, I got home and curled up on a futon for the
next few days, asking myself, How do I respond to this -- as a film maker, as a citizen, and as a healer?
As I ruminated on this question, the characters of AMERICAN UBUNTU -- with their longing for love, clashing worldviews, and impossible situations -- first glimmered in my mind's eye.
The characters were talking to me: An FBI agent discovers that the long lost love of his life is dead -- and that she left him a grown daughter. This daughter, who doesn't know who her birth father is, is raised by her Black Panther stepfather and other social visionaries in the community of Ubuntu. The Ubuntu shaman, who is training the daughter to become the next spiritual leader of the community, is dying.
They all started talking to me. And I began writing.
An early draft of the screenplay won an Oregon Literary Fellowship in 2005. However, I wanted the script to hit the ball completely out of the park, so I contracted Tom Schlesinger [NOWHERE IN AFRICA] to evaluate it and coach me on rewrites.
After a few years laboring over more drafts -- with only a few sentences from the first one surviving -- several critics agreed: You’ve nailed it!
I always believed...
...that this healing story would reach the screen because a groundswell of people would see its time has come, and would gather the resources necessary to make and distribute the film.
I never saw AMERICAN UBUNTU as a Hollywood production -- nor one made on a shoestring budget.
No. I always saw it solidly supported as a substantial, independent film that diverse audiences would herald as a life-changing work of art.
So, my producing approach has been a very personal one: I take my script in hand to individuals I believe will be inspired by the story. I ask them to help me reach the people with the influence, funds and connections to bring it to the screen.
And now, momentum is building!
In the past year, a kind of virtual Ubuntu Village has sprung up, as people have begun to join in support of the project. Magnificent manifestations include the AMERICAN UBUNTU poster contributed by outstanding artist Susan Scott, and two full table reads of the script.
Heather Rae, an award-winning independent producer I greatly admire, requested the script. We had an excellent first meeting in LA this summer, and I know that the integrity of her person matches the very high quality of her films.
In August, friends took up a collection to buy me a front-row seat for a concert with the illustrious, Grammy Award-winning jazz genius, Esperanza Spalding.
I want to cast her as Adesimba, the daughter, and wanted to pitch her the role in person.
After the concert, I approached Ms. Spalding with the AMERICAN UBUNTU package, saying I believe you are the perfect person to play the young shaman heroine. She asked, Is that the script? You can bet I had a copy with me, and gave it to her on the spot!
At this time
I am asking you to join us, by contributing what you can. Your pledge will help us gather the team of producers, talent and financial backers who will bring this timely story to the screen in a brilliant way -- sooner rather than later.
Here are three ways you can help through this Kickstarter campaign:
- Make your own, direct contribution;
- Ask your friends via email, phone calls -- and Facebook, Twitter, and other social media -- to make their own, direct contributions; and
- Spread the word of this campaign on blogs, internet forums, radio shows, and any other form of media you can access.
One of the most powerful things about Kickstarter is that it can both build and show evidence of a strong audience for AMERICAN UBUNTU.
In the current state of film economy, producers, funders and distributors look keenly at social media followings to judge whether a film project is viable -- whether it has a chance of earning its keep, plus a little extra for investors.
So if I could choose between garnering 5,000 pledges of $10, or ten pledges of $5,000, I most definitely would choose the former.
This is why I appeal to you not only to give what you can, but to help us spread the word as boldly, broadly and widely as possible!
When I go back to Heather Rae and say, Hey, we just wound up a Kickstarter campaign, we now have $50,000 in seed money donated by 5,000 people, she certainly will take note. She -- or someone else -- will be stimulated to move on the project.
Raising at least $30,000 is essential, since Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform. If we can raise $50,000 or $60,000, we’ll be in an even stronger position going forward!!
Expenses at this point include professionally packaging the project to present to visionary producers and initial investors, which can include developing the film's budget; developing more art, e.g. sample storyboards; connecting with and signing on key talent; exploring possible shooting locations; interactive website development and upkeep; cultivating the fan base for the film. There also are application, submission and legal fees; filmmaking association membership dues and conference fees; travel; schmoozing potential investors; equipment; printing, postage, office expenses; your rewards... the list goes on.
Risks and challenges
Considering the greater access to the technology of film making, coupled with access to net streaming one's work, some say that making and distributing an independent film has never been easier.
However, with the breakdown of curating mechanisms for vetting projects, making and widely distributing a high-quality, independent feature film has, perhaps, never been more difficult.
AMERICAN UBUNTU is the culmination of my life's work to date: It is my art, my activism, and my healing ministry, all rolled into one. I am fully committed to making this film and getting it to its audience, and know that it will happen.
Further, I'm committed to making a film with production values and talent rivaling FROZEN RIVER or THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH; that reaches a broad audience in the theater, and then on TV and online.
An indie producer I hired to evaluate the script for budget said, "I read AMERICAN UBUNTU in one sitting -- which unto itself says a lot. It is engaging. It is a medium budget indie, $5-7M."
David Holbert, a trusted colleague in film sales (House of Film), said, "It's a solid script. If you raise 30% of the budget, it will get made."
So. There's money in the San Francisco Bay Area. And there are people with money here who will be enchanted and fired up by AMERICAN UBUNTU's story, and what it can do for our country. And for our world.
My task is to find them. And fire them up.
That's where you come in:
The funds raised through this campaign first will be used as seed money to help me find the visionary backers and producer(s) to commit to taking the project into production, and then to finish and distribute it. Any funds still available when a producer commits go toward pre-production.
With your support, this will happen sooner rather than later.
And the need for a film of this nature has never been greater.
THANK YOU in advance for throwing down with AMERICAN UBUNTU.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
My intention is to begin preparing shipments as soon as the goal is met in pledges, and then to mail things out via First Class U.S. post a week later, or on December 12, whichever comes later.
So, depending on when we meet our goal, and what holidays you celebrate, you may be able to use your rewards for winter holiday gifts.
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