The first feature film by Koo (dir. of The West Side, founder of NoFilmSchool.com) explores the high-stakes world of youth basketball.
We're live at 9pm! Live stream of the campaign's conclusion here!
UPDATE: The campaign just hit 100%!!! It's still going until the deadline, the only change is I can't guarantee you'll get unique frames (it depends on how long the finished film is). ALL of the other rewards are still available! THANK YOU!!!
Last chance to help make history with over 2,000 others! Man-child will become the most funded project in Kickstarter's narrative film category!
Also, check out this press release, which welcomes 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson and Los Angeles Lakers EVP Jeanie Buss as backers!
What is Man-child about?
Man-child is an independent fiction film (not a documentary) that takes place in the surprisingly high-stakes world of youth basketball. I hope to shoot it independently in North Carolina (where I grew up playing basketball) next summer. My entire life has been leading up to this point, and so I'm asking for your help!
In 2009, the NCAA lowered the age limit on who can be considered an official basketball "prospect" to include 7th graders. While there have been a number of basketball films made about high school, college, or pro athletes, today's recruiting -- legal and illegal -- begins much earlier. It's a fascinating and treacherous world which often leaves big decisions in the hands of little kids.
The film explores sports, education, religion, and sex in America through the eyes of a talented 13 year-old basketball player (sexuality, I should note, is not presented in any sort of exploitative manner, and factors organically into the "learning personal responsibility" storyline). While it is narrative fiction, it explores a very real world.
HERE'S A SYNOPSIS OF THE PLOT:
An amateur video of 13 year-old Terran "TJ" Jackson playing basketball hits the internet and turns his life upside down. TJ is soon nationally ranked among other 7th graders and declared to be "the next Dwayne Wade" despite being in middle school.
As a result of this exposure, free athletic gear and various hangers-on find their way to the doorstep of his small, predominantly-black Christian school. While TJ navigates the religious curriculum -- and simultaneously a sexually active relationship with his girlfriend -- he learns about the youth basketball world and the recruiting machine that powers it. With his newfound fame, he must choose between educational institutes, father figures, and belief systems.
A few years from now TJ could be a millionaire, but right now all he has is basketball. It’s a lot for anyone to handle -- much less a 13 year-old.
Is it going to be good?
It's totally going to be good! I'm very happy to share that the script for "Man-child" was just accepted to IFP's Emerging Narrative Program, which provides mentorship and access to producers. Around 350 scripts applied and only 20 were accepted, so I would like to think this is a solid step toward Not Sucking (percentage wise, that's harder than getting into Harvard. Just saying!). I'm also honored to have been selected as one of 25 filmmakers invited to participate in the inaugural Emerging Visions program at the Film Society of Lincoln Center this October -- also because of this script.
For the IFP event, an oft-requested supplement is a “lookbook,” wherein writers pull still images from existing sources in order to convey what they want the movie to look like. Instead of using still images, however, I decided to make a multimedia look book: a collage of film and TV clips to demonstrate the aesthetic of Man-child. Because it’s intended for producers, it gets a bit technical, but I hope you’ll find it interesting. At the very least, I hope you like the 1970s basketball clip — short shorts are always funny:
If this fundraising campaign is successful, with the help of the IFP and Lincoln Center programs I hope to be able to bring the right personnel on board to make this film as good as it can possibly be, and to reach a wide audience with the film as well.
I talk about myself plenty in the video, but if you'd like a bio of what I've done film-wise so far in my life, here's a third-person bio.
How can I help produce the film?
- The goal of this campaign is to raise $115,000. See the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) at the bottom of this page for exactly where all this money will go -- it's NOT going to me, it's going to the production of the film. As far as movies go -- especially sports movies -- this is a very small amount of money with which to make a feature film.
- The campaign has a hard deadline of 11:59pm on September 23rd.
- If you decide to help, you pledge whatever you want in exchange for cool rewards (for example, a DVD of the film when it's done, an HD download, your name in the credits, a blog post on my web site NoFilmSchool... the list goes on!).
- The more you pledge, the better the rewards! Take a look at the column on the right to see what's available.
- If I make the goal by the deadline, your credit card is charged what you pledged (but not until then). I get to make the movie, you get your rewards, and everyone's happy. I'd be more than happy, obviously -- I'll be more ecstatic than I've ever been in my life, and hopefully you'll feel good too.
- If I don't make the goal by the deadline (falling even a penny short), your credit card is not charged, I get nothing, you don't get any reward(s), and the world doesn't find out what it's like to be 13 year-old, basketball-playing Terran "TJ" Jackson.
What is this 1 frame per dollar thing?
- An 80 minute film is 115,000 frames [24 frames per second X 60 seconds a minute X 80 minutes = 115,200].
- If the movie is longer than 80 minutes -- which it's 99.9999% certain to be -- each dollar will actually equal MORE than 1 frame. I'm estimating a short 80 minute runtime to ensure you're sponsoring at least one unique frame for every dollar pledged.
- No matter what amount you pledge, you will be sent the UNIQUE frames of the movie that you made happen. 5 bucks = 5 frames, 24 bucks = one second of the film (and the full DVD with special features!).
Another way you can participate (other than backing the project) is to SPREAD THE WORD about the project! E-mail a friend, share it on facebook, post it to an online forum, make smoke signals... any way you can get the word out is a HUGE help.
Feel free to ask me any questions you have by using the "send message" link at the top of this page (there are also some answers to common questions below).Thank you for your support!
One reason Man-child takes place at a Christian school has a lot to do with the reality of the situation. Many basketball powerhouses are private parochial institutions, which in many cases have an advantage over public schools because they can recruit the best players from anywhere in the country (whereas the public schools are supposed to abide by geographic boundaries). Therefore one reason it's a Christian school is representative: a disproportionate number of the top basketball schools in the country are Christian.
There's another reason, and that has to do with the themes of the story. There is a science versus religion conflict in the film, as I believe schools are the front lines of that conflict in our country. Do we teach religion in class or not, do we teach sex education in class or not, and how do these choices affect kids? Also, regarding sports in particular, you often hear athletes thank God for a victory, but do they in turn blame him for a loss? I'm not trying to get on a personal soapbox, but I would like to raise questions. Finally, the 13 year-old protagonist is at an age where he is wondering about these things.
No. Only I will be able to see your pledge amount.
That's totally cool. There is a button that you can select if you don’t want any reward. Also, if you want some of the rewards but not everything listed at a given level, that's fine too. Thanks!
YES! Once you donate to the campaign, you may want to change your incentive reward to a different one, or increase your pledge amount. To do so, come back to this page and sign in. The green “Back This Project” button has been replaced with a blue “Manage Your Donation” button. Click it and you can enter a new amount, or choose a new incentive.
Kickstarter says for pledge levels with multiple rewards to input the date the LAST reward will be delivered, which can be a bit confusing. To be clear: if the campaign is successful, there should be virtually no delay for delivering consultations, blog posts, and the like. But as far as finished DVDs are concerned, I can't know for certain when that will be -- only that we WILL deliver them ASAP. The film will be shooting next summer (when kids are out of school and thus available to act full-time), going into post-production immediately afterward, and then will likely hit the film festival circuit for several months before coming out in theaters. It's a long process that no one can accurately predict, so I went with a round estimate of two years from now.
Don't worry if you move in the meantime -- we'll contact you when the time comes to find out where to send the rewards.
If the campaign successfully raises the exact amount of the goal, the project would be left with $105,800 after Kickstarter and Amazon Payments take their cut. I'll have slightly LESS money with which to produce the film, which means that your $5 actually produced even MORE than 5 frames of the movie. The only situation where your dollar would equal less than one frame is if I raise more than $115k.
By that I assume you meant $115k, not $115.00. If by some miracle the campaign exceeds its goal, I'll remove the $1/frame incentive and the rest of the rewards will stay (backers can still get downloads, DVDs, etc., they just won't be sent a unique clip). This way earlier backers will still be rewarded with their own unique frames. You still will have made the movie possible -- remember, I get absolutely nothing ($0.00!) if the campaign doesn't make it all the way to the goal. But, seriously? $115k is a lot of money, and exceeding it seems unlikely to happen (except in my dreams).
Yes sir or ma'am! Even in very hypothetical/preliminary form this will be pretty long, but here we go: as I say in the video, $115,000 qualifies this as a "microbudget" film. Movies are really expensive; Hollywood spends $100 million on making a single movie all the time. So believe me when I say it's going to be a challenge to make this for "only" $115k! Especially because it's a sports movie -- it's not one guy in a room talking, it's a lot of people running through carefully choreographed actions in a gymnasium in front of a crowd of spectators. I drew up the budget below myself, but note that I am NOT a producer. Once there's a producer attached, they will come up with their own budget, which will undoubtedly be higher than mine, and then we'll have to raise more money or make tough decisions about what we WANT in the film versus what we absolutely NEED.
One thing some indie movies do to cut down on the budget -- and to be egalitarian -- is pay everyone on the movie $100/day. This isn't a lot of money, given shoots run 12 hours a day (or longer), so it works out to be about minimum wage. You try to get good people to work on your movie for cheap because they believe in the project, or they believe in you. A director of photography, for example, can easily fetch 10 times this amount. But we're not shooting a commercial here -- we're shooting a story that I feel a need to tell and hopefully it will appeal to crew members as well.
The single largest expense is going to be the shoot -- to pay everyone to show up, act, shoot, crew, and otherwise work for 12 hours a day.
Let's say the average cast AND crew size on any given day will be 15 (some days will be 40, others will be 10), with unpaid extras on the bleachers (this might be optimistic, but stay with me). A reasonable estimate to shoot the whole film is 30 days (there's a lot of action in the film, and that takes a lot of time to stage, rehearse, and get right). Average cast and crew of 15 people X $100/day each X 30 days = $45,000. And note that we're drastically underpaying most people, especially the crew (Director of Photography, Camera operators, Line producer, Sound guys, Assistant Director, Data Wrangler, etc). Hopefully because I'm a known filmmaker and I *think* people like working with me, I can get talented people to work for below what they're used to. $45,000.
Then we've got to feed everyone -- $15/day per person X 15 people X 30 days = $6,750
Renting equipment: my equipment isn't good enough to shoot this movie. Especially because there are a lot of SLOOOOOWWW MOOOTIIOOONN shots. We're going to shoot it on something called a RED camera, which can do great slow-mo. But we have to rent it, because a fully equipped RED camera with good cinema lenses costs more than this campaign's entire goal! So at $500/day for a camera package (a conservative estimate), a 30-day shoot = $15,000.
Then there's all the sound equipment. And all the lights and other supporting "grip" equipment. Another $300/day for all of that equipment = $9,000.
I was quoted that a MK-V steadicam operator (the particular kind of steadicam we'll be using) costs $1,000 a DAY! Yeah, right. No way we can afford that, so I'm going to try to find someone for a third of that. We won't need him the whole time, so let's estimate 12 days = $4,000. This guy will be the highest-paid person on the shoot...
Insurance, transportation, and legal. Oh geez -- we're already at $80,000! For any movie -- especially a sports movie with child actors -- you need insurance (in case anyone gets hurt or you break the oh-so-expensive camera). This actually isn't that bad -- we'll budget $5,000 for insurance. But then you need to get all your actors to the shoot location. I'm not even going to account for lodging, as hopefully if we're shooting in NC I can call in a bunch of favors, and "borrow" living rooms and guest rooms, etc. But it costs money to fly/drive everyone there and back -- say $2,500. Then we need to protect ourselves legally, which is a huge part of this whole thing. There are some issues with saying the brand names of certain shoe companies or showing their logos. So let's say $5,000 for all the legal fees and paperwork that we have to file (at a lawyer's hourly rate of $300, this is only two days of their time).
Location fees. The story primarily takes place in one school and gym, but the team does hit the road to another gym, and there's a big scene at a stadium at the end. Wherever possible we'll try to find free locations or film at an actual basketball event (the last scene), but the fact is that we're going to need to pay someone to take over their gym for weeks at a time. Spread across several locations, say $10,000.
Post-production! This is where you take the dozens of hours of footage that you shot -- the good takes, the bad takes, and everything in between -- and choose the best takes, and start fitting everything together like a puzzle. This takes better equipment than I have in my apartment (which, either through renting a space or buying it, costs $), and I'd like to hire an experienced editor to work with (if we run out of money, I'll do it myself). There's a lot of data, hard drives, etc. and you don't edit a sports feature with just one person. You need an assistant too. I'm going with $10,000 (that's over several months) for editing. Which, again, is low -- we'll need at least $10k of equipment alone, but maybe our editor will come equipped.
Once everything is done editing -- again, this takes several month of tweaking and tweaking, maybe even a year -- you've got to do Color Correction. I'm good at doing this for the web, but theatrical RED footage is another matter entirely. $5,000 on the optimistic side!
The sound mix. I personally have no idea how much this costs, because to date I've done stuff that was going to the internet, where people don't have great speakers, and I painstakingly did it myself. But theaters have a lot of (good) speakers and you can hear every mistake, and I can't do this myself -- not in a million years. So we need someone to do the sound mix and do the Foley as well (Foley is when you create sounds and dub them in, like bouncing basketballs for example). It's been said that a film with shoddy visuals and good sound is accepted by the audience, but a film with bad audio is unwatchable. There's a lot of basketball action, crowd noise, there's even a singing choir, and other complicated stuff, so I think for a surround-sound mix with foley and dialogue and all that, it'll probably run $10,000.
The soundtrack! I've got a musician in mind, but I don't know what it costs to get a score. For a movie this cheap, let's say $8,000. The musician deserves way more but you can see we're running out of money!
And then there's the music that is used in the film -- music heard over the radio, that a player listens to, that is played in the background -- this can cost a lot of money, so we'll be using more independent-leaning songs. But still. This could run half the budget. We'll make do with what we can.
As you can see, we've already run out. The total above? $130k. I've left out a lot of things -- uniforms for all the players, shoes and other wardrobe items, hair and makeup, the 10% contingency costs -- but hopefully we can get someone to contribute the uniforms. This isn't a fashion shoot and we don't have the budget for it, so folks will do their own hair or makeup or, in many cases, wardrobe (it'll look more realistic, anyway).
I hope this brief breakdown shows where the money will go. You'll notice there's no "what I'm paying myself" line in there -- as long as I can eat with everyone else, I'm happy. I own enough pairs of pants to get through the year; I don't need any more pants. So I'm putting everything into the film.
This is independent film: when we do a proper breakdown of the script, I'll be forced to make tough choices in terms of what we can spend money on and what we have to do without.
The point is, $115k is going to be tight. Some people will hopefully work for free, meaning some of those figures above can be cut down. Other things are going to cost substantially more than my estimates above, so we're going to be pinching pennies every step of the way. There's no congressional "pork" in this budget -- your contribution, no matter how small, will make a big difference.