In October 2012, five unarmed boys in Elkhart, Indiana, ranging in age from 16 to 21, entered a house with the intent to burgle. Unbeknownst to them, the homeowner was upstairs and proceeded to shoot wildly at the boys, killing the oldest and injuring the youngest, Blake. Under Indiana law, the four surviving boys were found guilty of felony murder in August 2013 and were recently sentenced to upwards of 55 years in prison. In the wake of their sentencing, we follow Blake and his family as they plan the boys' appeal while their case gains exposure and polarizes the community. Though shockingly unjust, it’s an exemplary case of the justice system choosing retribution over rehabilitation and inappropriately sentencing children as adults. Blake has a strong and loyal community supporting him and the other 3 boys and they have since become know as the Elkhart Four. We have been documenting this case from its infancy, exposing the arduous journey juveniles and their families endure when entering the criminal justice system, making evident it's not only the person behind bars doing time.
Paris recently spent his 20th birthday in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison. Conjuring up similarities to "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and "Into the Abyss", we focus on his mother, Charity. It has been seven years since her 13-year-old son killed her 4-year-old daughter (his sister), Ella. While he serves a 40-year sentence (the maximum time he could have received as a juvenile in Texas), we observe her complicated relationship with him, as she questions his remorse and potential to re-offend. Charity walks the unique line between victim and perpetrator, advocating for families of both, through her organization, the ELLA foundation. Hearing from Paris himself will propel viewers to question whether this is a young man riddled with guilt and remorse or if we too have fallen victim to his manipulations.
Regardless of whether the crime was a horrific act of violence or a relatively benign act that led to a miscarriage of justice, the juxtaposed stories ultimately emphasizes the American criminal justice system's inability to recognize juveniles as such. Some of the field's leading experts like Dr. Laurence Steinberg and Bryan Stevenson, both of whom were instrumental in the Supreme Court's recent movements towards Juvenile Justice, give context to these stories.
This money will allow us to pay our editor (who has kindly been working deferred for several months), to continue filming and to be able to afford an interview with Blake (Wabash Correctional Facility charges a $5,000 unavoidable fee for interviews). If we surpass our goal, it will enable us to hire a well-connected archival producer to help locate old footage and news clips to which we eventually hope to acquire the rights. With your support, we feel we can surpass our goal and gain enough exposure to help bring this issue into the greater collective.
Risks and challenges
Raising funds for documentaries is always a challenge, regardless if you are a first-timer or veteran filmmaker. This being our second kickstarter campaign (we surpassed our goal for The Club documentary, which was eventually acquired by HBO), we are prepared for the challenges that lie ahead, such as maintaining a steady flow of contributions, mobilizing audiences to engage with our footage and subject matter and to ultimately be able to complete this film and find a distributor.
We started filming last May and have been so far funding this project ourselves. In June, we were one of 63 projects selected for Sheffield Doc/Fest: MeetMarket. Despite having only been in the early stages of production, we found ourselves in the same room as well-known filmmakers like Marshall Curry, pitching our doc-in-progress to the likes of BBC and Thirteen. Although we managed to garner a great deal of interest and several letters of intent (for sales both domestically and internationally), we are still in need of funding which is why we are now turning to crowd-funding. Kickstarter allows artists to mobilize audiences in an immediate and accessible manner. As independent filmmakers we are encouraged by the opportunity to raise both money and awareness surrounding the extreme sentencing of youth in America.
We are very aware of the roadblocks we may encounter, but are completely committed to seeing this project through to fruition and determined to tell what we believe are incredibly important stories... we hope you watch, then agree, then donate and finally, SHARE!
We promise to be transparent with every high and low of our journey, because as soon as you back this film, you become an integral part of it!
We have also found private investors who have agreed to match the last 15k we raise, so therein lies OUR incentive!
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