About this project
THE OLYMPIC AUDITORIUM PROJECT
We're making a feature length documentary that tells the story of the Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles' late great boxing, wrestling, roller derby and music arena. The list of people who fought, performed, or were connected to the Olympic are a who's who of major figures of the 20th Century: Muhammad Ali, Andre the Giant, Johnny Rotten. The fans were just as notable: Clint Eastwood, Joan Didion, Mae West, and many more. The Olympic hosted seminal musical artists, including Rage Against the Machine, Frank Zappa and Fela Kuti and was a tribal gathering point of the hardcore punk scene. It was also a major filming location for the entertainment industry: Rocky, Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby--and countless other films and TV shows were shot at the Olympic.
We're telling the story from the perspective from the fighters, skaters, musicians, insiders and fans. The Olympic was synonymous with action and intensity, and drew constituents from every community in Los Angeles--with particularly strong representation from Mexican Americans. The crowd was diverse: gangsters, artists, writers and working class people. Where else in the city would you see artist Ed Ruscha of Venice, music historian and boxing fanatic Gene Aguilera from East L.A., Beverly Hills mobster Mickey Cohen, and a construction worker from Tijuana under the same roof?
STYLE AND APPROACH
The Olympic was a significant part of L.A. pop culture, widely televised locally from the mid 1940s through the 1980s. We will tell the story with a pop sensibility--full of energy and dynamism--using contemporary storytelling means to engage those who remember the place and those who weren't yet born. Many of the key characters are international icons so the Olympic story has appeal to anyone who cares about old school boxing, wrestling, roller derby, punk or L.A. history.
WHERE WE ARE
Thus far we've interviewed some of the central figures who were part of Olympic Auditorium history: Rowdy Roddy Piper, Gene LeBell, Dick Enberg, Don Chargin, Mando Guerrero, Ed Ruscha, Gene Aguilera, Don Fraser, and others. We have important interview targets within our sight and reach, and have been laying the groundwork methodically. Step-by-step, we've built relationships and credibility within the boxing, wrestling, roller derby and punk rock communities. Our engagement is sincere and deep, and we're eager to deliver a film where the great stories and characters are told in a dynamic and honest way. We've even connected with the current owners of the building (a Korean church!) who have generously allowed us to shoot inside the old arena.
The characters and narratives surrounding this concrete sarcophagus of a building, located at 18th and Grand downtown, are captivating. During its prime, this monument to testosterone was run by a diminutive woman named Aileen Eaton. She was a dominant figure in L.A. sports and cultural history, hobnobbing with mayors and movie stars and building a sports/entertainment empire that stretched from Bakersfield to the border of Mexico. A brilliant but ruthless promoter (her nickname was "The Dragon Lady") Eaton was vital to the career development of Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and the brains behind Gorgeous George, wrestling's first crossover superstar. Her sons were "Judo" Gene LeBell, jock, wrestling champion, stuntman, and hell-raiser, and Mike LeBell, wrestling promoter at the Olympic with a gambling problem and some not-so-savory friends. Add in oddballs like Dr. Bernard Schwartz, ring doctor and bass player whose office in Watts was a frequent target of robbery, and Dick Lane, B-movie actor turned wrestling and roller derby announcer, and you have all you need and more in terms of character and drama.
Our team is diverse, with a complementary set of talents, skills, and relationships. Steve DeBro, director of the documentary and creator of The Olympic Auditorium Project, is a veteran producer who has been persistently researching and developing the Olympic project for the past several years. Producer Willard Ford is a longtime student of boxing and wrestling, and is the owner of the Strong Sports Gym in downtown L.A., as well as a sales and marketing agency. Tony Peck, the Director of Photography and Executive Producer, is an Art Center alumni with deep experience and uncommon generosity. Kellie Cunningham, a Producer of the documentary, is enmeshed in combat sports management and film production. Nick Arnold, who leads the operational and business side of the production company, is an attorney with extensive independent film production and business development experience. Executive Producer Robert Benavides shot and Produced Beats Rhymes and Life, The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest for Sony Pictures Classics, as well as a host of commercials for Nike, Adidas, Pepsi, Toyota and many others. And we have creative consultants such as Gene Aguilera and Ben Merlis, who are experts in boxing and punk. For more information about the team, check out theolympicauditoriumproject.com.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
Thus far we've existed on the passion and commitment of a small group of people, who have been extremely generous with their time and expertise. We've got the ball rolling on the documentary, but we need your help to take this to the next level. We need to interview more people (we're still deficient on the Roller Derby and Punk side of the story), shoot b-roll in and around the Olympic and throughout L.A., clear music and video footage, and pay for editing, graphic effects and post-production. We have a clear idea of what needs to be done, and a commitment to make it happen, but we can't survive on favors forever.
The Olympic Auditorium Project is envisioned as a larger community project, including cultural and fan events, short films and interactive storytelling, and other exciting and engaging activities centered around the Olympic. But first things first--we need support to take our film to the next level!
The money raised from Kickstarter will be both a lifeline and a show of support for this truly remarkable project. So if you care about boxing, wrestling, roller derby, punk rock, or just an amazing story, join the brawl and Kickstart the Olympic Auditorium Project!
We're offering some amazing rewards to our contributors, from the basics--prints and tees--to one-of-a-kind experiences for fans of boxing, wrestling, roller derby and punk rock. The photographic prints of boxers and wrestlers are from the archives of Theo Ehret, former house photographer at the Olympic.
Risks and challenges
There are always risks with any film production, but we're doing our best to minimize them. We've assembled an experienced team to manage the production and budget, assist with creative and technical issues, and integrate the film with the outreach to fans of each niche subject area.
Some challenges we might face: difficulties in scheduling and interviewing certain interview subjects; failing to acquire rights to certain desired images, music, and clips; delays in the editing and post-production process, and experiencing a shortfall in the budget to complete the film.
We have worked tirelessly for a couple of years laying the groundwork for this project, and establishing the relationships in the various boxing, wrestling, and other communities necessary to realize its vision. We have built enough buffer time in our project plan to allow for scheduling difficulties and allow for more time to acquire the rights necessary to tell our story. With respect to the budget, your help will go a long way towards ensuring that we complete our shooting, and deliver a quality first cut that will help solicit the additional financing needed to complete the film!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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