The man who gave the world Rocky Balboa and Daniel Larusso. Featuring Sylvester Stallone, Ralph Macchio, Morgan Freeman, & more
John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs
An examination of the Oscar-winning director who brought to life some of cinema's most beloved motion pictures.
When people want to know who my favorite directors are I give them my top ten list. When I say John G. Avildsen most of them ask, “Who’s that?” and yet a small portion usually smile, nod their head and say, “Yeah… Heck yeah. I love his films.”
One day at lunch I asked John what it feels like to know that his movies have influenced the world. He called a waiter over and said, "Excuse me, I have a question for ya. What do you think of when you hear "wax on, wax off?" The waiter smiled and replied, "Is that a trick question? The Karate Kid, of course." John grinned and thanked the waiter for his time. He turned to me and said, "I can go anywhere in the world and ask that question and every time they immediately know where that line comes from. They may not know who I am, but the fact that they know and love my films makes me very happy."
Getting to know John over the last couple of years I have come to realize just how important his mark on the world of cinema is and how equally unknown he is to the general public. To this fact Avildsen admits, "My lack of name recognition is the result of me never paying a publicist a lot of money to get my name in print. I thought the few people who can hire me already know my name. Probably a mistake."
Surprisingly, there has never been a documentary made exclusively about him, yet he has given countless interviews about his movies, but rarely about himself. It is time to tell his story.
You can view some of his interviews on YouTube at:
Not many filmmakers have experienced such highs and lows as director John G. Avildsen. From major success with Sylvester Stallone and Rocky (1976) to striking out with The Formula (1980) starring Marlon Brando and George C. Scott, for over forty years John G. Avildsen’s films have inspired movie-goers and have changed filmmaking as we know it. With familiar story lines, charming characters, and riveting climaxes, Avildsen’s films have pulled at audiences’ hearts and have shaped popular culture for decades.
His many achievements include, but are not limited to:
directed three of the most popular films of all time: Rocky (1976), The Karate Kid (1984), and The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
earned two Academy Award nominations:
Best Director - WINNER - Rocky (1976)
Best Documentary, Short Subjects - Nominated - Traveling Hopefully (1982);
directed seven actors to Academy Award nominations:
Jack Lemmon -Best Actor - WINNER - Save the Tiger (1973)
Jack Gilford - Best Supporting Actor - Nominated - Save the Tiger (1973)
Sylvester Stallone - Best Actor - Nominated - Rocky (1976)
Talia Shire - Best Actress - Nominated - Rocky (1976)
Burgess Meredith - Best Supporting Actor - Nominated - Rocky (1976)
Burt Young - Best Supporting Actor - Nominated - Rocky (1976)
Pat Morita - Best Supporting Actor - Nominated - The Karate Kid (1984)
This documentary sets out to explore the life and career of a filmmaker who has had as many hits as misses, and to rediscover the legendary director through interviews with actors, filmmakers, friends, and from the man himself. This documentary will also examine the choices Avildsen made behind the camera which shaped the outcome of his films and their enduring popularity.
The goal of this documentary is to tell the story of an underappreciated director who has had both major success and major failure, probably more than any other filmmaker of his caliber. John G. Avildsen has spent years in the shadow of Sylvester Stallone and many other amazing artists he has worked with, all the while searching for the next great project to put him back on the Hollywood map.
With Avildsen’s participation and help from enthusiastic Kickstarter backers like yourselves, the filmmakers will be able to work with a modest budget, interview high profile celebrities and Hollywood hit-makers, and gain access to photos, home movies, behind the scenes footage, and clips from the legendary director's films.
This documentary is inspired by the new book The Films of John G. Avildsen: Rocky, The Karate Kid, and Other Underdogs written by producer Tom Garrett and co-producer Larry Powell. The companion book details each of Avildsen's films including behind the scenes stories from the set, which will also be discussed in this documentary.
The book on Amazon:
Derek Wayne Johnson - Director / Producer - independent filmmaker and owner of AJ16 Entertainment
Tom Garrett - Producer - associate professor at Sam Houston State University and producer of independent feature films and documentaries
Chris May - Producer - independent film producer
Larry Powell - Co-Producer - author of several books and articles and professor of communication studies at the University of Alabama-Birmingham
This documentary is currently in Pre-Production. The filmmakers have spent over a year researching and developing the project with Avildsen's assistance. Many months have been devoted to attaching interviewees, assembling a crew, acquiring and editing photos, graphics, montages, etc, as well as devising a pertinent distribution plan and suitable budget.
The Karate Kid 30th Anniversary
2014 marks the 30th anniversary of The Karate Kid (1984). To commemorate, this production will feature many of the cast members from all three films! An achievement exclusive only to this documentary as it has never been done before!
Why not ask John G. Avildsen for the money?
Traditionally, the subject of a documentary does not fund the project themselves. It is up to the filmmakers to raise the budget necessary to complete the film. Thankfully, Avildsen is participating in this project 100% and is thrilled that this movie is being made. His willingness to assist the filmmakers in seeing the film come to light is more than enough to ask of him.
Why Kickstarter and what for?
Kickstarter is a good source of funds for underdogs. In addition, it gives fans a chance to participate.
We are seeking a minimum of $20,000 to be used for interviews, license fees, film festival submissions, marketing, etc. Although start up funds have been secured through private investors, we believe Kickstarter will ensure the film's completion and success.
With your help, the sky is the limit on how amazing and in-depth this documentary can be! Please join us as a Kickstarter backer and become an Official Underdog!
IMDb: (full cast and crew list not complete as new credits are continuously being added)
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The subject of this documentary has made a career out of taking risks and overcoming challenges. You don't get fired from directing both "Serpico" (1973) and "Saturday Night Fever" (1977) if you aren't the type of person to take risks and face challenges. (Yep, that actually happened to Avildsen)
First, let me state that I am truly honored to take on this project. As a lifelong fan of Avildsen and as a filmmaker who has been deeply influenced by his work, I know without a doubt I am the right director for the job. The first film I remember seeing in a movie theater was "The Karate Kid Part II" when I was 3 years old, and I've been hooked ever since.
One challenge is securing and scheduling interviews with the actors and filmmakers he has worked with. Another will be licensing the rights to film clips of Avilden's movies. With your help as a Kickstarter backer we will be able to film as many interviews as possible and afford the license fees of those classic scenes we all love and cherish.
Thank you all for your support. Let's go the distance together and make a great film.
Forever an underdog,
Derek Wayne Johnson
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
seconds to go
Pledge $10 or moreYou selected
UNDERDOG package - PERSONAL THANK YOU and WEBSITE CREDIT. You will receive our eternal gratitude and appreciation, a personal thank you message from director Derek Wayne Johnson (including a special message from John G. Avildsen), your name in the credits on the Official Website (when it's up and running), and a Special Thanks on the Official Facebook page.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
MIGHTY MICK'S package - ON-SCREEN CREDIT. All of the above + you will be thanked in the closing credits of the film. How cool is that?! To have your name on a movie that you helped fund! + you will receive behind the scenes updates during production, post-production, and distribution.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $50 or moreYou selected
COBRA KAI package - SIGNED PHOTO. All of the above + you will receive by mail a unique, one of a kind, and candid photo from the set (possibly of a famous person giving you a thumbs up?, the director doing the crane kick?, John G. Avildsen himself?, Daniel-san's car?, the Rocky statue?, Sensei Kreese making a mean face?, Apollo Creed and his amazing smile?, or whatever the photographer happens to snap a pic of) signed by the person in the photo, John G. Avildsen, and director Derek Wayne Johnson with only one copy in existence made especially for you!Estimated delivery:Add $10 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
GO THE DISTANCE package - SIGNED FILM POSTER. All of the above + you will receive an original 11"x17" poster of the film signed by John G. Avildsen and director Derek Wayne Johnson. A wonderful item to frame and hang on your wall!Estimated delivery:Add $10 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $250 or moreYou selected
CRANE KICK package - SIGNED DVD (or BLU-RAY). All of the above + you will receive a signed DVD (or Blu-Ray) of the film prior to its release!Estimated delivery:Add $10 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $350 or moreYou selected
ITALIAN STALLION package - OFFICIAL UNDERDOG T-SHIRT. All of the above + you will receive an official JOHN G. AVILDSEN: KING OF THE UNDERDOGS t-shirt with the words OFFICIAL UNDERDOG on the back! A great shirt to wear to the gym, the grocery store, a karate tournament, or wherever you feel like looking awesome and letting the world know you helped make this movie happen.Estimated delivery:Add $10 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
0 backers Limited (10 left of 10)
ALI W/ AN "I", DANIEL WITH AN "L" package - SIGNED BOOK. All of the above + you will receive a copy of the documentary's companion book THE FILMS OF JOHN G. AVILDSEN: ROCKY, THE KARATE KID, AND OTHER UNDERDOGS signed by the book's co-author Tom Garrett. Tom is also a producer on the documentary. It's a fantastic read and was authorized by John G. Avildsen himself! The book discusses in detail every film directed by Avildsen and includes stories from the set. Makes a wonderful gift for movie buffs and avid readers alike! Only 10 available for this package so hurry!Estimated delivery:Add $10 USD to ship outside the US
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
MASTER OF DISASTER package - ASSOCIATE PRODUCER CREDIT, IMDb CREDIT, and TWO VIP TICKETS TO THE RED CARPET PRIVATE SCREENING. All of the above + we'll make you an Associate Producer. Your name will appear in the credits of the film as an Associate Producer + you will receive an Associate Producer credit on the film's IMDb page + two VIP tickets to the film's red carpet private screening. We'll save you some good seats, introduce you to John G. Avildsen and the star studded attendees, hang out with you before and after the screening, treat you to a photo opportunity, autographs, etc. When you arrive you may walk the red carpet and mingle with the who's who of the event. Stick around for the Q&A after the screening to ask Avildsen, the filmmakers, and the stars questions. The Q&A will take place after the credits roll (ya know, those credits with your name on them). You'll have a blast! (travel and lodging NOT included - screening date is not set at this time but we will keep you updated accordingly)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $2,500 or moreYou selected
ALL VALLEY UNDER 18 KARATE CHAMPION package - CO-PRODUCER CREDIT and HANDWRITTEN LETTER FROM JOHN G. AVILDSEN. All of the above (producer credits not cumulative) + we'll make you a Co-Producer. Your name will appear in the credits of the film as a Co-Producer + you will receive a Co-Producer credit on the film's IMDb page + you will receive a handwritten letter from John G. Avildsen. What an honor!Estimated delivery:
Pledge $5,000 or moreYou selected
HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD package - EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CREDIT and DINNER or LUNCH with JOHN G. AVILDSEN and DEREK WAYNE JOHNSON. All of the above (producer credits not cumulative) + we'll make you an Executive Producer. Your name will appear in the credits of the film as an Executive Producer + you will receive an Executive Producer credit on the film's IMDb page + the day of the red carpet private screening you may join John G. Avildsen and Derek Wayne Johnson for lunch or dinner! Dine and chat with the legendary director! (travel and lodging NOT included - screening date is not set at this time but we will keep you updated accordingly)Estimated delivery:
Pledge $7,500 or moreYou selected
KING OF THE UNDERDOGS package - EXECUTIVE PRODUCER CREDIT and APPEARANCE IN THE FILM. All of the above (producer credits not cumulative) + we'll make you an Executive Producer. Your name will appear in the credits of the film as an Executive Producer + you will receive an Executive Producer credit on the film's IMDb page + you will be interviewed and appear in the documentary expressing your enjoyment of Avildsen's films! This package was Avildsen's idea as he appreciates all of his fans and the fans of his movies, and wants to give everyone a chance to speak on camera about how much they love his films! Don't miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity! (travel and lodging NOT included - interview date is not set at this time and will be scheduled with your assistance)Estimated delivery:
- (30 days)