WHAT IT IS:
A film about people who really want their school to succeed . . . Over four and half years, with a series of grants and my own money, I tracked the first freshman class of an idealistic start-up high school called BCAM (Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School) in the neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. My goal was to make a film that showed the school's experience from the inside, through the eyes of parents, teachers, and the kids themselves.
This past spring I asked for your help with this film, currently titled Growing Small, a reflection of its “small school” mission, and you pitched in. With a rough cut version of the film almost finished, I am once again making an appeal to all of you who question how a community ensures the future of its children.
We need $50,000.00 to complete the film; but we are setting our goal on Kickstarter for $10,000.00. If we are as fortunate as we were with our previous Kickstarter campaign and reach our goal before our 30 days are up, we will keep the campaign going and see how far we can get. Our projected completion date is late December. That’s when we’ll submit to partner non-profits, festivals, and distributors. These are the people who will bring it to YOU.
WHAT’S THE STORY:
In 2006, James O'Brien, former point guard and D.J., realized his dream to create a small public school in his own neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. The mission for his school was to embrace the culture of its community, create an environment that students were excited to come to everyday, and form a supportive extended family that nurtured their individual needs, both emotionally and academically. I had met James twenty years earlier when he was just starting out as a Teach for America educator, and was invited to teach a video course that first year. Instead I made this film.
BCAM and 3 other small schools were each given a single floor of a building that formerly housed one failed, large public school. Beginning with only eight faculty members, BCAM opened the doors to its' first class of 104 freshmen. The school grew one grade per year to reach a full student body of 400 and a staff of 50, four years later.
It was an eye-opening and remarkable experience to witness. The BCAM community embraced the idea of the film (and me) providing almost unlimited access to life in school and at home from the start and through the thickest challenges. I was there from the first day--which began with a Chinese gong and ended in a soul train dance line--through to the first graduation of seniors at The Brooklyn Museum.
The film combines on-the-fly interviews, verité footage, and material shot by the students themselves. Incorporating their work gives the film a voice of authenticity – not just what I observed and what makes for a good story, but what the kids saw in their own experience that was important.
As the school evolves, idealism confronts reality. There were students who fell off the grid, parents who became disillusioned, and educators forced to question their whole approach to teaching. And of course, there were students, teachers, and parents who burned out from the frustration of trying to make it all work in a broken system. But there were many positive developments as well – and undeniable success. I took an unblinking perspective and was surprised by the hopefulness that came from the community's commitment to individuals rather than theories, and its' willingness to learn from mistakes and not quit!
I’ve been lucky to work with a remarkably seasoned team including Jack Lechner (producer: Miramax, Radical Media), Josh Braun (sales agent: Man on Wire, The Cove), Essie Chambers (former executive at Nickelodeon and Centric), Penny Falk (best editor Sundance 2010) and Anthos Media (executive producer: Particle Fever, Sloan Prize Sundance 2007). Their experience will help the film go the distance, to become an honest and provocative document of a movement and a system that rarely gets depicted without bias or a hero. Which brings me to…
WHAT IT ISN’T:
Growing Small has no talking-head interviews with education policymakers, or political sound bites that push a specific agenda. No argument is made for a magic-pill “fix” for public schools. The film strives instead to be a realistic and honest snapshot of the efforts of a particular inner-city school and its community. We believe that this structure will engage the broadest possible audience--- including students, parents and teachers across the country living in neighborhoods similar to Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy; and hopefully inspire these constituencies to renew their commitment to finding solutions to our national education crisis.
WHERE WE ARE NOW:
Over five years, we shot over 650 hours of footage, and filming was completed in June 2010. We’ve been in edit for ten months and are less than two months away from completion. We are applying to festivals and envision a premiere in early 2012.
WHERE WE WANT TO BE, MEANING HOW YOUR $ WILL HELP!
The film’s total budget is $199,000, and we have received support from New York State Council on the Arts, Gucci Tribeca Fund, Brooklyn Arts Council, and Amber leaf-Dunham Foundation----in addition to many individual donations. My own funds covered the rest.
We need funding now to complete post-production – which means covering the expenses of final edits, scoring, sound mixing, graphics, and color-correction. Your help at this critical juncture will ensure that Growing Small remains on the path to reach its audience. We are almost there, and you can help us cross the finish line.
CAN WE EXCEED THE GOAL?
Yes! Exceeding the goal is, well, our true goal.
WHAT IF THE MONEY ISN'T RAISED IN TIME?
If our goal isn’t met before the deadline, we don't receive any of the pledges. Your credit or debit card will not be charged. And we will be sad.
HOW CAN I CONTACT YOU?
You can send me/us a message through the Kickstarter website by clicking on "send message" at the top of the page just under the Growing Small heading, or on "send message" above the bio on the lower right hand side of the page. Or, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
WANT TO GIVE MORE OR GET A TAX DEDUCTION?
If you are the kind of funder, donor, or executive producer who’d like to discuss participation at a more significant level, please contact us directly through Kickstarter or at email@example.com. Also, if you would like your donation to be tax deductible, please contact me as well BEFORE you donate.
WHEN WILL I GET MY GIFT?
When the film is complete, our first step will be to make DVD's and send them out. We anticipate that will be by January 2012. If you got premiere or festival tickets, we will be in touch regarding specific dates and locations. All other gifts will be mailed when and if the campaign makes its goal. if you have any questions, let us know!
IS THE FILM'S TITLE STILL A WORKING TITLE?
Yes, and we are open and eager to hear any ideas you have. Don't be shy, send them to us. If we use your title, you will be given a special credit at the end of the film!
- (30 days)