The Sky Is Red will tell the stories of underrepresented and marginalized individuals pushing for gender, race, and class equity in the growing world of ultimate frisbee from 1968 to the present. The film will explore the parallels and connections between history and present-day events. The unsung efforts and tricky conversations in the small community of ultimate become a microcosm for the fight to upend institutional power balances in the world.
In the wake of the 2016 United States presidential election, activists within the ultimate community are buoyed in their efforts to reject the paths of other mainstream sports, which have predominantly focused on men. In a sport founded in discussing conflict with one’s opponents (no referees), ultimate players are primed to have the tough conversations about systemic oppression necessary to push for an equitable future.
Our characters will represent the behind-the-scenes of what it's like to grow a new sport in an equitable way. This will help the audience understand the complexity of the issues, and see the world through a potentially new lens. We are still finalizing our main characters. Among them are Suzanne Fields, who was the driving force behind the creation of the women's division in ultimate in 1981, Rhonda Williams, a scholar in the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and class, and the first black woman to win a National Championship, whose life was cut short by cancer in 2000, and Laurel Oldershaw, an openly queer athlete and businessperson, who is embarking on an adventure to start a new kind of ultimate business, focusing on investing in women in ultimate.
This film will also help to fill a gap in sports documentaries. Historically, documentaries about ultimate and other mainstream sports have focused on men, and on the playing of the sport itself. This documentary will focus on the culture of sport and dynamic characters who will inspire the audience to create positive change in their own communities.
Ultimate was born in 1968, during the first feminist movement, the civil rights movement, and discussions of Title IX. Over 5 million people play Ultimate in the US alone, more than rugby and lacrosse combined. Its most distinct feature is “Spirit Of The Game,” which dictates that athletes self-officiate (that is, players call and resolve their own fouls; Ultimate does not employ referees) and conduct themselves in a way that preserves the joy of play for all competitors. Spirit Of The Game is upheld even at the highest levels of competition. Today, the sport’s governing body, USA Ultimate, offers opportunities to play in a men's, women's, or coed (mixed) division. A separate, semi-professional league exists, but it is explicitly a men’s league. One woman has played in the league during its 5-year existence.
Though the sport is unique in that men and women created it together, it has followed the growth model of more traditional mainstream sports, which values and over-represents men. In the US, players are majority white, male, upper-middle class, and college educated. Voices that have historically been underrepresented in the sport (LGBTQ, non-binary, women, people of color, differing socio-economic backgrounds) are speaking up about their experiences and barriers.
Society influences sports and sports influence society. In this politically charged moment, only 4% of sports coverage in the USA is of women’s sports, but women make up 40% of athletes, thanks in part to Title IX. Female athletes in sports are constantly demanding equal pay, and to be recognized as strong athletes as opposed to sex objects. When NFL players take a knee to call attention to racial injustice, mainstream media leaves out the women of color who had been doing so before. Trans and non-binary players are often left out of the discussion all together.
While individuals have pushed to uplift historically underrepresented voices, most of the histories and images of ultimate highlight white men. This film will help to redirect the focus and magnify the visibility of these marginalized players throughout history and today. As ultimate approaches its 50th birthday, the community is discussing a potential professional co-ed league -- the first of its kind -- and is pushing to participate in the 2024 Olympics as a co-ed sport. The more visible ultimate becomes as it grows, the more visible its discussions around equity and social justice become. Ultimate frisbee’s inner workings are relevant to national conversations about the intersection of identity, politics, sport, and activism.
Julia Johnson (Producer) has produced short films, branded social media content, music videos, short form documentaries, and live television. Her most recent producer credits include, Paradise Cove, Groupie, and Paradigm. This is her first exploration into producing a feature documentary film, and she is lucky to have the help of many mentors from her time at USC and friends in the documentary world. She is passionate about the themes in this project and the community it involves, and hopes that the finished film will bring further awareness to the push for equity in the ultimate frisbee and greater sports communities. Julia is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts where she received a BFA in Film and Television Production, and a minor in Business Law.
Julia grew up playing most every sport but ultimate, yet in her first month in college she had repurposed her soccer cleats into ultimate ones. She has played and eventually captained the USC Hellions of Troy from 2014-2017, founded and captained (with swolemate Lili Gu) a second women’s club team in Los Angeles, and she currently plays for San Diego Wildfire in the Women’s Club Division.
Lili Gu (Writer, Director) is a Seattle-based documentary filmmaker focused on exploring the human condition. She is passionate about telling the stories of underrepresented and marginalized folks in the United States, and is proud to be working with a team of all women on this project. Her work has received numerous festival accolades and has screened on television stations such as PBS. Lili received her MS in Applied Mathematics from Columbia University and her MFA in Film Production and Directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, where she was lucky to train under the mentorship of pioneering vérité documentarian Marina Goldovskaya.
Lili started playing ultimate at Columbia University and UCLA. She took an extended break from ultimate to focus on running track, but love of the game and the wonderful people in it (including her first club co-captain, Julia Johnson) drew her back. Lili currently captains Seattle BFG in the Mixed Club Division, and has coached the Garfield High School girls’ team for the past two seasons.
Brittany Kaplan (Director, Editor) is a Vassar College grad, who has been working on social justice documentaries in New York City for the past 9 years. In 2016, she edited her first feature documentary, Beyond Borders, about undocumented Mexican-Americans and the history of immigration reform in America, which aired on PBS. With this film, Brittany was a 2016 Karen Schmeer Editing Fellowship finalist. Her work has appeared on PBS, A&E, HBO, Great Big Story, and in many film festivals, and she has worked closely with award-winning producers such as Ken Burns, Liz Garbus, Barak Goodman, and Charles Ferguson. This project combines her three main passions, documentary, history, and ultimate.
Brittany started playing ultimate in 2000 in Amherst, MA, first in the middle school coed program, and then on the JV and Varsity High School girls teams. She then played all four years at Vassar College, captaining her senior year. Brittany has just finished her 6th season on New York City’s women’s club team, BENT, and her first year as captain. She runs BENT’s social media, which focuses on uplifting voices from the equity movement in ultimate and other sports. She also organizes leagues and events in the NYC ultimate community.
Our team is deep into research and pre-production, and we have not yet begun production. This kickstarter is to help with our first big shoot, where we will travel across the USA from January - April, 2018, speaking to current and past members of the ultimate community who have pushed for equity.
We’ve divided our costs for our first phase of production (the road trip) into these five categories. After we finish this shoot, we will begin to piece together the story in the edit room. Once our scenes and characters become more concrete, we will then plan to film more specific shoots to fill in the story as needed. The funding we are raising for this kickstarter will go directly towards the costs of taking a film crew on the road.
Equipment Rentals || We will be renting a majority of our equipment in order to create the highest quality product possible. These rentals will cover camera equipment, lighting gear, and an audio equipment package as well. These fees will also be higher than normal due to the length of the shoot. ($20,000)
Travel Costs || The first shoot for the project is a 4 month long road trip all over North America. We will be renting a 15 person van, to give our crew ample room to be comfortable and to store all of our equipment and life travel essentials. This road trip will require gas for the van rental, toll money, parking, flight costs to be covered, and travel insurance. ($37,750)
Food and Housing || Everyone on our crew are amazing people who are working on this project for a reduced rate. The least we can do is feed them! We will provide meal per diems for everyone working on the project as well as snacks to keep energy up throughout the day and drinks to keep everyone hydrated. We are hoping to utilize the expansive ultimate frisbee network to find free housing, but we want to be able to leave our hosts thank you gifts for their generosity. ($19,000)
Crew Fees || This is a professional project that will require a professional, experienced crew, and especially with the duration of our shoots (the first one being 4 months) all crew must be paid appropriately. We will be hiring a Director of Photography and a Production Sound Mixer for the entirety of our shoot, plus potential local, additional hands for any big film days. We would like to be able to help the Producer and Directors with appropriate compensation too, as they will be on the duration of the tour working hard. This is very much a passion project, but it is also all of our careers! ($100,000)
Post-Production & Distribution || This will include editor fees, score composition, music licensing, footage licensing, hard drives, IMDb fees, graphic design, VFX costs, color correction costs, marketing materials, and festival entrance fees. ($141,000)
**We recognize that this kickstarter does not cover the entirety of our costs. We will be raising the remaining funds in other ways too, but this kickstarter is imperative to making this four-month tour shoot happen! Thank you so much for taking the time to watch our video and read more about us and our project. We are so appreciative of your support. If you have any specific questions, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
Risks and challenges
With any film there are risks and challenges. We will be shooting on the road in multiple locations and on a tight schedule. We must feed, house, and accommodate our crew for four months straight. We will be renting a lot of expensive equipment, and taking that on the road with us. For the duration of our first production shoot, we will be at the mercy of our van and other drivers too.
Everyone on our crew has valuable experience, and the ultimate frisbee community is a strong network of hospitable and supportive people. Our producer and directors know how to adapt and work together to figure out any hiccups. We are paying the utmost care and consideration into who we choose to be our Director of Photography and Production Sound Mixer as well, and we can guarantee these two individuals will fit into our crew seamlessly. Crew updates to come!
With your help, we can overcome some of these barriers and give you the highest quality project possible!
We value fantastic communication, and we promise to keep all of YOU, our supporters, as up to date as possible, and we are excited to continue to release information about the project. By financially supporting The Sky Is Red, you are supporting countless voices around North America that have not had a chance to share their stories.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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