About this project
In 1981, Mickey Rooney portrayed the life of Bill Sackter in the highly successful made-for-tv movie "Bill"...
...NOW MEET THE REAL BILL SACKTER
"A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" is an inspiring new documentary by director/editor Lane Wyrick that uses actual film and video footage and photographs of Bill Sackter, along with newly filmed interviews of those closest to Bill to tell an authentic story that will touch your heart and bring you to tears.
This powerful feature length production reveals the real Bill Sackter, a man who was lost in an institution for 44 years but through the help and friendship of Barry Morrow and other key people was able to thrive in a community and eventually rise to become a nationally celebrated hero for people with disabilities.
"A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" is entertaining, funny, and ultimately very inspiring, but it also brings audiences to tears in touching scenes that are even more remarkable because they are the actual events told firsthand by the people that knew Bill Sackter personally.
"A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" was voted the #1 Audience Favorite in 5 consecutive film festivals, and has been praised for its accurate portrayal of Bill Sackter by those who were closest to him.
Plans are now in place for a new hour long version of "A Friend Indeed" to be offered for free to all of the nearly 300 PBS stations across the nation, but we need your support to overcome the final hurdles that are preventing this important story from being shared on a wide scale.
In order to prepare "A Friend Indeed" for this PBS offer, there are significant expenses related to obtaining television broadcast rights for key footage, getting a professional quality high definition transfer, closed captioning, satellite uplink fees, and then hiring a station relations professional to increase the likelihood that "A Friend Indeed" will be carried by as many PBS stations as possible.
With your help, we will be able to surmount these final barriers and share this documentary with viewers across the nation!
Please join our effort by making a pledge of any amount - even $1 will help. After pledging, please click the Facebook or Twitter ‘likes’, or post a link to this web page anywhere you can.
There are a lot of great rewards at all pledge levels, and many of the rewards are cumulative, meaning that you receive the reward for that level AND every reward from each preceding level as well! If this is your first time on Kickstarter or if you are an active member, please become involved with this effort by making a pledge, then tell your family, friends and followers about it. Also, your input is greatly valued so please feel free to post you ideas and questions in the Comments section, or send me an email.
"A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" is a documentary that you'll be proud to be associated with, and it has a very positive message about how just a little bit of kindness and attention can make a big difference in another person's life. I look forward to having you involved so that we can spread this positive message to people across the nation!
Thanks for your support,
Lane Wyrick, Director/Editor of "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story"
There is much more to this story, so to get the full details about "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story", please continue reading...
The Full Story
"A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" tells the real life story of Bill Sackter who was abandoned in Faribault Institution in Minnesota at the age of 7 (with what today would be considered a moderate learning disability), and ended up spending the next 44 years of his life locked away from society. After his release, he was still languishing in Minneapolis when he had a chance meeting with young college student Barry Morrow. Barry was one of the first people who could see past Bill's unkempt appearance and discover a man with great charm and a vibrant personality.
Shortly after they met in 1972, Barry began shooting film and video footage and taking photographs of Bill Sackter in an effort to capture the personality of this unique man whom he felt would make a good subject for a documentary. Barry shot interviews with Bill and also filmed him playing the harmonica, trying on all kinds of wigs, and just Bill "being Bill".
Barry and Bill quickly became very close friends, and when faced with the possibility that Bill might be sent back to the institution, Barry took the unprecedented step of becoming Bill's legal guardian, preventing Bill from being lost in the system again. Barry, his wife Beverly, and new baby Clay moved to Iowa City, and Bill moved in with them just like a new family member.
Bill couldn't read or write, but he always believed "a good man has to have a good job". So with the help of Tom Walz (the Director at the University of Iowa School of Social Work), he became the harmonica playing proprietor of "Wild Bill's Coffee Shop".
Bill became known to nearly everyone in the Iowa City community and he started receiving awards and recognition around the state. Then Barry wrote a biographical account of Bill's life called "Bill's Triumph" that was published in its entirety in the Des Moines Register newspaper. Bill's story rapidly spread across the nation and he was even invited to the White House as a guest and met with First Lady Rosalynn Carter!
By this time, Barry had amassed hours of footage and had taken hundreds of photographs of this compelling man, and Tom Walz suggested that he turn this great material into a real-life documentary.
Barry agreed with the idea, and was afforded the opportunity to pitch the documentary concept to potential investors at a board meeting of the University of Iowa Foundation. Afterwards two members said they would like to help, and Barry and Bill were soon flown to New York to meet with executives at CBS television.
The real life documentary concept was dropped, however, and was instead transformed into what became the highly successful made-for-tv drama "Bill" (1981) starring Mickey Rooney as Bill Sackter and a young Dennis Quaid as Barry Morrow.
The "Bill" television movie was a major hit across the country and won numerous awards. And it was one of the first television portrayals of a person with disabilities who was triumphant.
But the original documentary never got made...
While 'based in fact', Mickey Rooney never meant to create a character that mimicked Bill, but rather he wanted to portray a sympathetic view of a person with disability. The vibrant character and charisma of the real Bill Sackter was known to those around him, but would have to wait many, many years to be revealed to the public through "A Friend Indeed". After Bill's death in 1983, Barry continued his screenwriting career in Hollywood and most notably won an Academy Award for his screenplay "Rain Man".
A New Documentary Begins
In 2001, Barry Morrow approached me (Lane Wyrick) with a storage unit full of all the film and video footage and photographs he had taken of Bill Sackter years earlier. He knew of my previous documentary work, and that I lived in Iowa City so I would have access to people and locations in Bill's hometown, so he asked me to see if I could do something with all this footage.
After seeing the treasure trove of really great material I felt that this could be turned into an excellent feature length documentary, and thus began my journey over a decade ago! I decided to start completely from scratch and threw out any preconceived notions of the story from the "Bill" tv movie and set out to discover the real life story based on the actual people and events.
It took 7 years of research, sifting through hours of really great archival footage including some previously lost gems, shooting new interviews with all the people that were closest to Bill, filming creative scenes, editing all the material and writing the narration, and eventually having test screenings to finally complete my first feature length documentary, "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story".
I worked closely with Peter Bloesch who composed the original full orchestral music score that is tightly integrated into the documentary and is simply amazing! His talent and passion brought a whole new emotional dimension to the story, and the soundtrack was recorded in the professional facilities of Seattle Music with a live 50 member orchestra.
"A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" had its premiere in 2008 at Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City and received a standing ovation from the crowd of 1200.
"A Friend Indeed" went on to win the #1 Audience Favorite award in 5 consecutive film festivals, and had a limited theatrical tour, and at every screening the response has been incredibly positive.
Over the past few months, I've created a new version that will fit within the hour-long time slot required by PBS Stations. This new version retains the same power and inspiration of the feature length production but with the potential of reaching a much wider audience.
Working directly with the PBS submission organization NETA, "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" is now poised to be offered to all of the PBS Stations across the country.
So why does this documentary need a Kickstarter campaign?
After nearly 12 years of fighting through numerous obstacles, everything is finally in place for the free broadcast offering. But there are some major final hurdles to get over and I need your help with them, or this documentary and the real story of Bill Sackter which has had such a positive impact on many viewers already, will just languish in obscurity:
What the funds will go to:
- Footage Rights for Television Broadcast - In 1982, Mickey Rooney was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance in the tv drama "Bill", but he couldn't make it to the ceremony, so he gave the real Bill Sackter, Barry and Bev Morrow the opportunity to go to the awards. Sure enough, Mickey Rooney won the award, so Bill, Barry, and Dennis Quaid got up on stage. To everyone's surprise, Bill pulled out his "secret mini harmonica" and played for millions of viewers to a rousing standing ovation. This scene is pivotal and demonstrates just how far Bill came from a life of neglect to being embraced by an entire nation, so I need funds to cover the Television Broadcast Rights for this footage that is licensed through Dick Clark Productions.
- Closed Captioning and Audio Description Services are required to not only comply with PBS regulations but more importantly to serve people with disabilities (hearing/sight) who are an important audience for the screenings.
- A Professional Quality Transfer to High Definition Master is needed to meet PBS broadcast standards
- Satellite Uplink Fee - This fee allows the documentary to be offered to all of the PBS stations simultaneously so they can record it for later broadcast.
- Hiring a Station Relations Professional - this person is closely linked to all of the PBS stations around the country, and will actively promote the documentary to programmers at each PBS Station. This will help get the documentary on the top of their stack for consideration, and increase the likelihood that they will be ready to record the satellite feed of "A Friend Indeed" and be able to broadcast the documentary over the next 3 years.
We get one shot at this satellite uplink, so stations need to be aware that it is coming. If this project is successfully funded through this Kickstarter campaign, I will immediately call NETA and give the go ahead for the broadcast offering - there is a three month time period between the announcement of the documentary to PBS stations and the actual satellite uplink date so this will give us time to get as many stations on board as possible.
"A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" is being offered to all the PBS stations free of charge, and any station can air the documentary as many times as they like over a three year time period. I receive no compensation for any of the television airings - the only income that could possibly be generated is if viewers decide to purchase a copy of the Deluxe Edition DVD after seeing the program.
My main desire, which is the same for everyone involved in the documentary, is just to have "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" seen and shared by as many people as possible. With your help this can happen...in a BIG WAY!!!
Please join our team!
I can accomplish these goals only if we reach the funding goal together. Kickstarter is all or nothing, so if we don't reach the $15,000 threshold necessary for covering these mandatory expenses, then the project gets $0 funding. So please help and invite your friends to help as well!
You can make a contribution as little as $1 and still make a big impact. Or contribute more and receive great rewards - read about them in the right hand column. Almost all of the rewards are cumulative, so if you pledge any amount, you receive that reward and all preceding rewards listed above that level.
After you pledge any amount, on the confirmation page please click on the Facebook or Twitter links or post this website address anywhere you can and let your friends and followers know you are a supporter of our Kickstarter campaign to get "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" seen on PBS stations around the country.
There are a lot of great rewards at all pledge levels
You can be a part of the effort and also be rewarded with some great original items from the film. Get a digital download of the full TV version of "A Friend Indeed", a signed Deluxe Edition DVD with your name listed in the special Kickstarter extras section, get a movie poster, see exclusive never before seen footage from the documentary, have a Skype conversation with director Lane Wyrick. You can have a phone conversation with Academy Award Winning screenwriter Barry Morrow, or even go golfing with him for an afternoon. Or you can have a screening of the documentary in your hometown with Lane Wyrick or Barry Morrow as hosts, or spend an entire day with Barry and Bev Morrow in beautiful Santa Barbara. No matter what you pledge you will be a vital part of our campaign!
With your help we can reach people in every one of the nearly 300 different regions served by local Public Broadcasting Stations.
The most important part of this effort is YOU!
With your help, and by sharing this campaign and your enthusiasm about "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" with your friends, followers, and people that you feel would benefit from this documentary, your voice will make a difference. If you put even a small effort into sharing this Kickstarter campaign with others, it will bring awareness and generate momentum that will help us get over the top!
Risks and challenges
The real challenge is for individual PBS stations to not only know that "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" exists, but to consider it for broadcast amongst the slew of other submissions each month. If your local PBS programmer knows that there is an audience for the production and that their constituency is interested in seeing "A Friend Indeed" (meaning you, and possibly others in your viewing area!), it increases the likelihood that they will broadcast the documentary.
In order to address this challenge, I am putting together an email that will go out once the campaign is completed (if successful), giving all of you who pledge simple steps you can follow if you would like to help improve this awareness in your area, as well as specific information about the date/time of the satellite feed so your PBS station will be ready to record it for future rebroadcast.
If you would like to contribute your own ideas on ways we can increase the visibility and awareness of "A Friend Indeed", I definitely welcome your input (please send me an email, or post your ideas in the Comments section). By becoming involved in the campaign you are already helping this effort, and the more family, friends, and followers you let know about "A Friend Indeed", the larger wave we can all create together as a unified crowd working towards a common purpose!
I am looking forward to working with you to share this story with communities across the US, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help and interest in “A Friend Indeed – The Bill Sackter Story”.
Director/Editor of “A Friend Indeed – The Bill Sackter Story”
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