Op-ed: A little good news, bad news on the way to getting my dreams onto the big screen

With a little faith — and a little hard work — anything’s possible. 

Working as a film producer wasn’t something I intended on doing. Like a lot of things in life, it just kind of happened. I wanted to make a movie that I’d written and sometimes the best way to get anything done is to just do it yourself.

How hard could it be?

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Quentin Tarantino’s struggles as an independent film producer are well-documented. Early on, he struggled to raise his first $5,000, spent years working minimum wage at a nondescript video store, and was subject to an unrelenting avalanche of rejection letters.

The naysayers didn’t dissuade me. I had a pathological work ethic and an early industry start as a minor child star on Nickelodeon’s You Can’t Do That On Television! I also had a couple of university degrees and studied at the Vancouver Film School. Plus I’d created a TV series that was signed in Los Angeles by the same company that made Keeping Up With the Kardashians. 

I could get a movie produced. I knew I could. 

Things initially moved fairly quickly. I wrote my first movie The Consultants and people seemed to like it. The Academy Award winning writer of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut called the writing “manifestly wicked.” Polish filmmaker Andrzej Sekula, known for Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and American Psycho, wanted to direct it, saying he could make it “a masterpiece.”

So I partnered with Russ De Jong, the owner and CEO of Toronto’s North Film Co. They’d been in the business for 15 years, had made a lot of money, and had worked with actors like Tommy Lee Jones, Heather Graham, Matthew Modine and Ellen (now Elliot) Page. 

Finally, I had “made it.” Or so I thought. 

It turns out, the hardest part of getting a movie produced is getting it financed. 

Realizing I had to court investors, I went where the money was and dove headfirst into the world of pro sports. I set up meetings with current and former players, executives, agents and managers in the NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB.

I was a kid who had grown up in a single parent welfare home and was now meeting with people who earned half-a-million dollars per basketball game. Sometimes, these calls would make me physically sick; asking your childhood heroes for money can be demoralizing and humiliating. 

I eventually decided to put The Consultants script off to the side and write something with more mass, commercial appeal. So I wrote Kick, a semi-autobiographical story about four 12-year-old Hartford kids from the wrong side of the tracks who pin their hopes on a football kicker who misses more kicks than he makes.

It was a wise choice. 

Sports Illustrated did a story on it. As did USA Today and the Toronto Sun.

Then a pro bowl player from the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts introduced me to his deep-pocketed friend and bam! I had my first investor. My team and I celebrated. A couple more people came on board and suddenly we had a quarter-million U.S. dollars and were on our way. 

Still, it can be a grind looking for that one key investor who’ll get on the ride with you. On the plus side, we have concrete selling features. Our investors share 50 per cent of the movie’s profits and get 30 to 40 per cent of their investment back automatically in the form of tax credits from the government. And, of course, there’s always the hope that we’ll make the next Slumdog Millionaire, which had a box office of US$378M.

We’re in a scramble to shoot Kick this summer. Our immediate goals are to bring in a few more smaller investors and, just as importantly, to entice both Jon Bon Jovi and former NBA MVP Steve Nash to jump on-board with us on the business end.

I believe both goals are achievable because, after all, with a little faith — and a little hard work — anything’s possible. 

Chris Bickford is a screenwriter and producer based in Ottawa and Toronto.

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