October 11, 2015

“Crowd Funding” for From the Rough

Yesterday, I went live on a campaign to promote From the Rough through the Indiegogo “crowd-funding” site. You can view and contribute at igg.me/at/FromTheRoughMovie/x/3364292

Indiegogo and Kickstarter are the most well known sites for creative projects, although there are over 400 others. Both sites help film producers and other entrepreneurs promote their product and get small amounts of moneys from lots of people.

We tend to think of “crowd-funding” as a new concept enabled by the Internet, but the first well known American “crowd-funding” project was led by Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher of The New York World newspaper, to raise funds to build the Statue of Liberty. Governments and wealthy business people refused to contribute sufficient funds to the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty to support the construction of a statue designed by French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. Pulitzer solicited funds through his newspaper, and received 160,000 separate donations, many for less than a dollar. Without his “crowd funding” campaign, we would not have a Statue of Liberty beckoning visitors to the United States of America.

From the Rough does not pretend to be the next Statue of Liberty, although it resembles that project in a few key respects:

  • Most powerful people did not have the foresight to understand the power of the statue and how it would inspire people everywhere and forever. To government and business officials, it was another nice-to-have, but non-essential, civic initiative. However, the public understood its potential impact far more. From the Rough is a film that has been seen by thousands of people, most of whom have felt a strong emotional connection to it, and, in test screenings, have rated it highly. Wealthy and powerful investors and film industry insiders have had the same blind spot to the film’s potential that government and business people had to the message represented by the Statue of Liberty. The film, the crowd-funding campaign, and, ultimately, the film promotion campaign are based on the principle that the collective wisdom of the audience understands and connects with our content far better and is more astute than insiders and so-called “experts.”
  • The Statue of Liberty had trouble getting traction with wealthy and powerful people because it was designed to be timeless, not fashionable. From the Rough is a timely film, but its true value is in the timelessness of its messages. This film is designed for longevity, not solely to create a big media event at the time of its release.
  • The Statue of Liberty does not celebrate one famous individual or group; its genius is in welcoming and celebrating the countless millions of people who had come and would continue to come to America, be attracted by its promise, and most importantly, benefit all of us. From the Rough is designed to celebrate one extraordinary, but unheralded person, Coach Catana Starks, who represents the many other people who make a big difference in all of our lives.
  • The Statue of Liberty celebrates people who leave familiar situations to take on the challenges of grappling with completely unknowable risks. From the Rough is about a woman who represents every person who has the courage to leave a familiar environment with limited potential to try something riskier and unfamiliar with much greater potential.
  • Most important of all, the Statue of Liberty represents the promise of America to take people who could not fulfill their full potentials in their countries of origin and give them the opportunity to realize that potential. That is why it inspired Emma Lazarus’ famous poem, which contains the line about “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” From the Rough tells the story of a woman who find golfers who are downtrodden in their communities of origin, but whom she develops into a successful team and into successful adults. That is why our sub-heading describes From the Rough as a “great American story.” It celebrates the values the Statue of Liberty was designed to celebrate.

There is another parallel to the Statue of Liberty process and the challenging process of getting funding for From the Rough. Both projects took a long time to get to the finish line, and many people involved at the beginning were long gone by the end. The Statue of Liberty project was first conceived by Bartholdi in 1865 and finished in 1886.

I first conceived of a film on Coach Starks’ life when I learned about her story in 2004. Many of those with me at various stages of the project helped move it along, but moved on to do other things. I thank them for their contributions, but recognize that something this transformational requires a vision and a tenacity that inevitably creates frictions and challenges among the people who support it. The long path to fruition also causes people who are supportive, but less emotionally invested in the project, to move on to other things, which is regretful, but inevitable.

What is timeless about From the Rough? Why should ordinary people want to contribute the way they did for the Statue of Liberty? The answers are relatively simple:

  • We need to celebrate the accomplishments of extraordinary, but unheralded, people so that we get more people aspiring to do extraordinary things without being obsessed with celebrity status. Writer Jeff Goins, in his recent blog, “Celebrating Unsung Heroes,” said it simply and eloquently in arguing about the need to recognize people who have not sought recognition:

“We need to recklessly lavish love and appreciation on those whose work is unrecognized by our celebrity-worshiping culture. We need to go to special lengths to show someone that they matter.”


  • We particularly to celebrate those who give up secure positions to take on unknown and potentially very risky challenges.

Too many people aspire to be secure, to reach a position of power, wealth, and influence, and, unfortunately for them, to be accepted within defined social boundaries. The breakthroughs that make life better for all of us do not come from those people. They come from those who take risks, and are willing to accept the ridicule of the crowd. Steve Jobs is probably the most celebrated of those outsiders, and he truly believed that we are most likely to make a difference and fulfill our destiny when we strike out on our own, not follow the crowd. If you receive an email from me, you will note that I have used part of one of Jobs’ most famous quotes:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

  • We need to celebrate those who make a difference in the lives of others by helping them fulfill their full potential.

Coach Starks made a difference in the lives of everyone she touched. The campaign we will have for From the Rough will prominently feature those whose lives she touched, alongside those who participated in the project. One particular person I want to call out is Trevin Hunte, a New York-raised vocalist, who was a finalist on The Voice, and who is introducing a new song in our film.

In many ways, Trevin’s path to fame is consistent with our crowd funding and film development campaigns. He grew up in very modest circumstances, was strongly supported by his family, but was not heralded by any people with the power to help him succeed as a singer, even though he was immensely talented. He benefited from the votes and the popular acclaim he received on The Voice, but he also had particular influences, particularly his parents, who kept him going because they believed in him.

In looking back on my life, it now makes more sense that I have undertaken and stayed with this project. Like many things I have previously accomplished or are currently trying to accomplish, I have always supported empowerment of the many over control by the few. The Dossia personal health management system transfers control from healthcare providers and insurance companies to consumers. Pitney Bowes empowers mailers and mail recipients, and gives them an ability to manage and control government-owned postal services. I have always supported educational systems and principles that empower students to learn and parents and teachers to enable them to learn. We all need, and many of us have, that special person, like Coach Starks, who makes a critical difference in our life path. I had them, and, for me, Coach Starks stands in for all of them, because they are too numerous to thank individually.

Today is another step in a journey to empower people who care about inspiring entertainment content to have a voice in getting the content they want and deserve, and to celebrate the values From the Rough represents. Entertainment is powerful in shaping every country’s culture, just as monuments like the Statue of Liberty are.

The Indiegogo campaign is both an outbound promotion for the film project from us, and a chance for you to have a voice. While we want however much money you can give, the number of contributors is perhaps more important. It would be a far more powerful message if most contributors made small contributions than if one person contributed millions of dollars.

Take advantage of it, because there are few better opportunities for you to make a difference.

Welcome to the journey! And spread the word! There can never be too many people supporting our core values.