Kickstarter as a platform is evolving so fast that one multi-million dollar Veronica Mars campaign later, the $125,000 that filmmaker Ryan Koo raised in 2011 for his debut feature MAN-CHILD, almost seems quaint. At the time however it was the largest amount that a narrative feature had ever raised, and, more importantly, as a non-celebrity with an unknown project, Koo’s success served as an inspiration to countless other filmmakers.
Koo had the advantage of an audience of course. As the creator of the popular filmmaker website, No Film School, Koo has a passionate fanbase to serve as a base for his efforts, and for the Kickstarter campaign they were integral in evangelizing on his behalf via a clever social marketing campaign that targeted influencers in the Basketball niche the film hopes to reach. Now, a year and half later, Koo has a finished script, an experienced producer on board (Chip Hourihan), and is aiming to shoot this Summer. However, as the project developed, Koo realized that he needed more money to achieve his vision.
That is the genesis of Amateur, a prequel to his proposed feature. Koo hopes that the exposure that can be garnered from an actual piece of content versus a fund-raising campaign can attract even more high-level support in the form of traditional financing or creative involvement. Being a regular reader of Short of the Week, he’s aware at how much industry pays attention to the web, and this shoestring short is a way of getting attention and serving as a proof-of-concept of his vision for MAN-CHILD. Koo addressed this logic in a blog post to his supporters a couple of months ago.
In the interest of transparency it must be stated that Koo is a good friend to our site, and that his blog post prominently references our article “How We Launched Our Film Online“. Still, because of the interest in MAN-CHILD from the Kickstarter campaign and because of the transparent way he has shared his process and reasoning behind making this short, Amateur is newsworthy independent of its success or failure as a film. In a pleasant turn however, I did in fact enjoy the short quite a bit.
As Koo will readily admit, Amateur is not primed to take the internet by storm. A 9 minute short that is conversation-based and takes place largely at a single location, it is a writer’s piece. Dominguez is a hustler, a street agent that is trying to get a star high school player to transfer to a new high school. He approaches him randomly in a gym and works to ingratiate himself, promising money, gifts, and help for his family. This is the world of MAN-CHILD, the shady under-belly of amateur athletics, where slick, successful boosters try to get in with teenage phenoms on the rise. The hit rate is low, but you only have to ride the coattails of one success to make the whole process worthwhile.
The film hinges on a reveal at the very end. The reveal elevates the film as the first 8 minutes were, somewhat painfully, on the nose, and I feared that the entire film was trite and cliche-ridden—a dumbed-down introduction to the world of high level amateur athletics designed for a lay audience that comes in without a previous understanding. Koo has something more sophisticated in mind however, and the twist ends up lending a clever double-meaning to the film’s title. However it is a shame to progress through 8 relatively mundane minutes to reach this cleverness, a faith in payoff that doesn’t always get rewarded by impatient internet audiences. I would have liked to see more overt signals embedded in the film that complicate the progressing narrative before the reveal.
Still, in establishing a realistic atmosphere through the cinematography, and demonstrating a nuanced and knowledgeable take on the world depicted, Koo has certainly whet the appetite of this reviewer for MAN-CHILD. I look forward to seeing how this short is received, how it furthers the project’s goals, but most of all, I do really want to see the feature! Follow the project at www.manchildfilm.com