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“Some Kind of Spark” beautifully illustrates the power of music education and how it has changed the lives of 7 inner-city kids in NYC.

Some Kind of Spark is an independently produced documentary film that takes us on a musical journey with 7 inner-city kids as they enter a world they could once scarcely imagine—the opportunity to learn music in Juilliard’s Music Advancement Program (MAP).

We have been given unfettered access to the program—the only production besides 60 Minutes—and have intimately followed these wonderful students since auditions in May of 2010. The personal stories of the children and their teachers illustrate the powerful impact of music across age, race, gender, and class lines:
• Pete Destill, a 9-year-old Haitian boy forced to leave his country after the devastating earthquake in 2010 and now learning the flute
• Suzanne Morello, a former MAP student herself in 1994 who “came from nothing” and is now a viola teacher for the program
• Leisley de Plaza, whose parents from Ecuador have made every sacrifice to allow her to study the piano; Leisley’s teacher, Major Scurlock, who “came from the projects,” found the piano at 15!, and still managed to attend Juilliard as a student
• and many others, each with a unique and inspiring story to share.

To be clear, SPARK is not a “competition” film but rather a mix of thoughtful and intimate portraits illustrating the profound impact music can have on both student and teacher. We care about their struggles, their successes, and their futures. We see how the investment in these children has a dramatic effect on their families and communities, and how it sets each student down a life-long path of music and learning, something every kid deserves!

We are very grateful to supporters of our first Kickstarter campaign in May 2010—over 200 believers in the project and $21,000 raised!—who made it possible for us to film for nearly 3 years now. We have been converting footage, logging and compiling “selects” in preparation for the final edit. During this whole process we have also been invited to pitch the film at three prestigious film markets and festivals: Independent Feature Project (IFP), The Paley Center’s DOCFEST and The Camden International Film Festival’s Pitch Competition. SPARK was also selected as FILM OF THE WEEK on IndieWire. SO WE’VE BEEN BUSY!

But, we still have work to do and we need to raise at least $52,000 for this critical next stage of editing. To get a feel for the film, please check out the video (additional clips also at www.somekindofspark.com). If you like it, please embed it, link to it, “like it” and share it with the world. Viral marketing is imperative for the success of any indie film.

Your support at whatever level you can afford will make a tremendous difference. By Kickstarter rules, if we don't reach our goal by our deadline we don't get a penny and your pledge is erased. But if we can raise more than our goal it will be invaluable in helping us complete the film and ultimately create an entertaining and inspiring film that will go a long way towards supporting music education programs around the country.

My sincere thanks for all your support!

Ben Niles
Director, Producer

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

With any independent film there are always a series of “risks” involved. Many films never even get finished. That said, we have already completed shooting SPARK and have made substantial progress with editing. There is no question this film will be completed, it just might take longer if we don't have a successful Kickstarter campaign. But we've invested too much of our time and money, your donations and support!, to allow anything short of an outstanding film to be completed. We crossed that line a long time ago. The real questions are which festivals we'll be invited to? And theatrical and television distribution is always an unknown until a premiere.

This is industry path we must take but we dealt with this before on my last film, NOTE BY NOTE, and I'm very pleased to say that it has played in over 40 cities domestically and 25 countries abroad + a national airing on PBS for a 3-year cycle. With your support, we feel more confident than ever that SPARK can follow a similar path, gain widespread exposure and garner further attention to the benefits of music education.

FAQ

  • We have estimated that the film will take at least 6 months to finish a rough-cut. At $2000 per week for an editor—and that's very cheap by industry standards—it adds up fast.

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  • No. All monies go to my editor and intern. I hope to get money back once the film is finished and we (fingers crossed) sell it or find a distributor.

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  • We applied to 12 grants and have come up empty so far. We'll keep after it but grants are never certain and the amount is usually nominal in these cases. They also take several months to respond and we just can't wait that long for something so uncertain.

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  • We have not, and will not, ask Juilliard for funding. The film is not intended to be a promotional for the school and any monetary contribution from them would make the film seem biased. We are grateful for the unfettered access but we aim to make a film that promotes the impact of music education in general, not just at the Juilliard program.

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    All donations are greatly appreciated. Nothing is too little. We'll add you to our list of backers and provide updates of our progress with the film.

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    You'll get a high-definition digital download of “Spark” when the film is released on video. And our sincere thanks!

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    The above and a DVD copy of my award-winning film, “Note By Note (The Making of Steinway L1037). Please add $5 for international shipments.

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    All the above + a signed DVD of my award-winning film, “Note By Note (The Making of Steinway L1037). Please add $5 for international shipments.

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    All of the above + a signed copy of bass player Omer Avital’s latest release, “Suite Of The East,” listed on several Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2012, including Downbeat Magazine and NPR. (Thanks, Omer!)

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    All of the above + a signed copy of pianist Adam Gyorgy’s latest release, “Adam Gyorgy Plays Liszt, Bach & Mozart ” “This sense of movement is heightened by dramatic interludes, respites of loveliness, counterpoint, flowing glissando passages and his unerring ear for continual edge-of-your-seat suspense.” —Mike Greenblatt (Thanks, Adam!)

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    All the above PLUS 2 DVDs of the film, web access to bonus features and a signed, limited-edition “Spark” film poster AND an on-screen thanks in the film's credits.

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    All the above PLUS an autographed copy by Hélène Grimaud of her latest CD, “DUO,” with Sol Gabetta. “An elegant partnership!”—Toronto Music

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    All the above PLUS 2 tickets to the premiere (travel not included), dinner with the director and 2 passes to the after party. (or theatrical screening in a city near you). (Also for large amounts it's possible to make tax-deductible donations through our fiscal sponsor. Please visit us at http://somekindofspark.com/Support or contact me directly at ben@plowproductions.com.)

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    All of the above PLUS Guest Appearance by the director for a private screening at your home, business or school (travel not included). (Also for large amounts it's possible to make tax-deductible donations through our fiscal sponsor. Please visit us at http://somekindofspark.com/Support or contact me directly at ben@plowproductions.com.)

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    All of the above PLUS a 5-day Masterclass in documentary film making for you and your friends (limit 5-7 please). (Travel, meals not incl.) Masterclass portion of this reward available as your schedule allows! (Also for large amounts it's possible to make tax-deductible donations through our fiscal sponsor. Please visit us at http://somekindofspark.com/Support or contact me directly at ben@plowproductions.com.)

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    All of the above PLUS a 10-day Masterclass in documentary film making for you and your friends (limit 10-12, please). (Travel, meals not incl.) Masterclass portion of this reward available as your schedule allows! (Also for large amounts it's possible to make tax-deductible donations through our fiscal sponsor. Please visit us at http://somekindofspark.com/Support or contact me directly at ben@plowproductions.com.)

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Funding period

- (29 days)