Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on April 1, 2014.
About this project
RANK is an American chess drama television series set and produced in and around Los Angeles, California.
This Kickstarter campaign will fund the filming of RANK, Season 1, Episode 1- Pilot- Poison Pawn
Created and written by filmmaker and chess player Tonya Michelle, the series hopes to find a home on a premium cable network channel. RANK aspires to eventually air 13 episodes per season.
Each season of RANK introduces a different facet of the city of Los Angeles.
Rank, Season 1 introduces the Ladera Heights chess crew, and the heavy gambling/debt plaguing their community. The ensemble cast will consist primarily of ethnically diverse character actors. Despite its presentation as a chess drama, RANK is really about the complexities of America, and how we interact and live together. The games on the chessboard will often mirror the life lessons that each of the characters will have to come to grips with week after week on the show. Whether one is an engineer, a financial planner, a former pimp, a television executive, or an ex-con, all are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever moves they've made in the past.
SYNOPSIS - Pilot Episode, POISON PAWN
The series opening of RANK is the Pilot Episode, POISON PAWN. The episode opens with two Chess Masters, Yawo – a 27 year old, Af- Am male, that dresses impeccably- and Junie – a 50 year old Filipino male with a rugged face- playing a series of “blitz” chess games at the Starbucks in Ladera Heights. At a 100.00 dollars per game, the stakes are high. Other chess players stand around watching with all the intensity of a boxing match between Ali and Frazier.
Thembi Grace – a 30 year old Af- Am female television executive- walks in to Starbucks and is instantly intercepted by Darcy – a 42 year old Af- Am financial planner/chess player. He proceeds to probe her about her relationship status with Isoul – a 45 year old former hustler, turned oil refinery engineer. Thembi shares with Darcy that she and Isoul broke up and have not spoken in 22 days. She tells him that it’s over, but that she knows Isoul still loves her. Darcy interjects and tells Thembi that he doesn’t believe that Isoul ever loved her, and that he was cheating on her the entire time they were together. Thembi is incredulous, and tells Darcy that she plans on confronting Isoul. Darcy emphatically begs Thembi to keep his name out of it. Thembi leaves out of Starbucks, pissed and hurt.
Meanwhile, Wacko – a 40 year old Af-Am male, former gangbanger-, Cheddar – a 35 year old Af- Am male, former Soul Train Dancer-, Cleo – a handsome 25 year old weed head-, and Do Nothing – A 30 year old white homeless male- are playing dominos on the Starbucks patio when they spot Kansas – a 60 year old Af- Am male former pimp/hustler- walking to his car in the parking lot. Wacko calls out to Kansas because he still owes him money for gambling on the FIDE World Chess Championship between Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand that took place over the course of 10 games in Chennai, India. Kansas bet on Anand, thinking that age would triumph over youth. He is now 5,000 dollars in the hole to Wacko. Kansas waves Wacko off, and gets in his car and drives off. Wacko takes notice, but continues playing dominos.
Later that day…
Thembi shows up at Isoul’s home in Baldwin Hills, and confronts him about the allegations Darcy made. Isoul is taken aback and steps outside his front door. He questions Thembi as to why she’s at his home unannounced, after they’ve already broken up. She tells him that she hates him, and says that she no longer believes that he broke up with her to take care of his mother, who is dying of cancer. Isoul tells Thembi that his mother is resting inside his home now. He explains that he never cheated on her, and firmly states that he’ll deal with Darcy.
In Glendale, well after midnight, Yawo quietly enters his apartment trying his best not to wake up his live-in girlfriend, Katie – a 24 year old, Korean purse designer. He walks into his bedroom to find Katie packing a suitcase. She is upset because Yawo has been gone all day, and has not returned any of her calls. It’s her birthday. Yawo tries to explain about the chess battle between he and Junie, but Katie is not interested in hearing any of it. She’d much rather he take his belongings and leave.
ONE WEEK LATER
Betty – a 48 year old, Af – Am female diva chess player, that only wears Gucci- is playing a game of chess with Cory – a 40 year old Af – Am male. Both of them are talking major ish. Betty tells Cory, “Get your bald-headed witch (the queen) out the street before she gets capped.” Amongst the crowd enjoying the game are Dennis – a 40 year old male, mid level chess player-, Pagan – a 50 year old male chess player with a bad attitude-, Jim – a 74 year old expert chess player, that is best friends with Betty-, and Honey Chile – a 35 year old lower level female chess player that is a bona-fide hot mess. Cory wins the game and tells Betty that she should not have taken that poison pawn. Dennis, Jim, Pagan, and Honey Chile all agree. Betty goes off and pulls out her Gucci wallet. She challenges everyone around to put their money where their mouth is and place a bet on the game if they believe Cory can beat her again. No one takes her up on the offer. Betty tells everyone to shut up, and let a lady handle her business.
Thembi is sitting at a table alone with Junie taking her weekly chess lesson. Junie is teaching Thembi the Najdorf Sicilian for white. Thembi notices Isoul and Cuttie – a tall 60 year old Af- Am male, chess player with a good heart- talking outside on the Starbucks patio. Isoul looks distressed, and Thembi abruptly gets up from her lesson and walks outside to find out what’s wrong.
Isoul tells Thembi that his mother died that morning. Thembi immediately hugs him. Isoul embraces her and doesn’t let go. As Cuttie says a prayer for Isoul, Darcy walks out unto the patio and sees Thembi and Isoul together. Isoul tries to pull away from Thembi to confront Darcy. Thembi hugs him tighter, and tells him that now is not the time to deal with Darcy. She tells him that she believes him. Cuttie stands ready to grab Isoul in cases he charges. Darcy smartly leaves quickly. Isoul and Thembi kiss.
THE NEXT DAY
Wacko, Do Nothing, and Cleo are on the Starbucks Patio watching Cheddar break down a funny dance move.
Kansas walks out of Starbucks with a coffee in his hand. He sees Wacko, and starts to walk in the opposite direction. Wacko instructs Cleo and Do Nothing to catch Kansas. Kansas runs and avoids capture by Cleo. However, he is comically caught when Do Nothing jumps on his back and tackles him to the ground in the parking lot. Wacko and Cheddar laugh as they walk over to Kansas slowly. Wacko asks Kansas when is he going to pay up. Kansas says, “I ain’t given you “s*#t! Westside.” Wacko punches Kansas in the jaw, knocking him out cold. Wacko instructs Do Nothing and Cleo to check Kansas’ pockets and to take his wallet, jacket, belt, shoes, cell phone, and gold fronts (teeth).
End of Episode
Rank, Season 1, Pilot Episode will begin with a cold opening showing a passionate chess "blitz" game being played by two chess Masters and one gambler unable to pay his huge debt. The opening title sequence then plays; a series of shots, mainly close ups, concerning the show's subject matter, separated by fast cutting. The opening credits will be superimposed on the sequence, and consists only of actor's names without identifying which actor plays each role. At the end of the sequence, a quotation naming a chess position will be shown on-screen that is spoken by a character during the episode. Progressive story arcs will unfold in different Los Angeles locations at the same time. The episode will not end with a cliff hanger. It will close with a fade or cut to black with the closing fading music.
Film equipment rentals, actors, locations, production vehicles, production crew, editing, theatre rental, publicity, post production cost, insurance, rental trucks, catering, website, and last but not least…GIFTS for you!!!
Risks and challenges
The risk for RANK is timing. Availability of actors, and locations. Things never go EXACTLY as planned, but the show always goes on. If I have to change a scene, shorten or cut a scene in order to save the production, trust and believe that I am organized and tenacious enough to make sure that the project will be completed. After all, it's Los Angeles. We do this.
I've directed 5 short films, I've written 2 screenplays, and 1 stage play. I have a BFA in Theatre Directing from Howard University, and a MFA in Film Directing from the American Film Institute.
Chess just got real.
Thank you so much for reading all of this!
Tonya MichelleLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
- (30 days)