A Lot Like You

A Film by Eliaichi Kimaro

The Burk-Fawcett Bump—Part 1: In the Beginning

October 18, 2011

Connie Burk                                                                 Jake Fawcett

This Friday 10/21, the NW Network will be hosting a screening of A Lot Like You.
Central Cinema, 7-9pm, with post-screening Q&A with filmmakers and Network staff.

Last year, as part of the StrangerCrombie auction, ALLY Executive Producers Connie Burk and Jake Fawcett bid on two items (that I know of):  1) a Stranger review of any movie, and 2) a free screening of a movie of your choice.

Guess who’s been the beneficiary of both?

Several times this past month, I’ve been asked , “So what exactly does an Executive Producer do?”  While Hollywood might have their own read on this question, as a first-time independent filmmaker with no studio backing, those terms were my own to define.

One piece of this film’s story that has never been given its due is the crucial role that Connie and Jake  have played in bringing this film to life.  And given their extensive involvement, this story will have to unfold in several parts… 

Part 1: In the Beginning…
In 2002, I sat down with Connie (my boss at the time) and told her about this idea I had of buying one-way tickets to Tanzania to make a film about my family/culture on Kilimanjaro.  Tom and I had just bought a house, just gotten married. Abandoning this solid foundation we were starting to build for this half-baked impulsive dream was madness. But even with no filmmaking skills, no equipment, and no concrete plans, I was determined.

Of course, the flipside to this conversation was that, in order to make this dream possible, I would have to transition out of my job at the NW Network.  So this moment was painfully bittersweet for both of us.  We cried.  We dreamed.  We figured out a transition plan.  On that day, I was so grateful for Connie’s uncanny ability to show up for me as both my friend and my boss.

Shortly after my last day, Connie and Jake came over to our house with a parting gift on behalf of the Network.  I couldn’t believe it.  The staff and Board had gifted me something I never could have afforded–the Adobe Editing Suite:  Premiere Pro, Audition, After Effects, Encore.  (This is in the days before the Adobe Creative Suite, so each program had to be bought separately.)  This professional editing software could turn my rinky-dink home video project into a bona fide, Gladiator-grade Moviemovie. 

So here’s the true story of the birth of this film:
1.  My dear friend Vassi made me a birthday CD.  Hearing Angelique Kidjo’s Summertime for the first time, the idea for this film came to me in a vision.
2.  I came home and told Tom my film idea.  He said “If we’re going to do this, let’s do it well.”
3.  So I signed up for intro to filmmaking classes at 911 Media Arts Center where my teacher Holly Taylor teared up when I told her my film idea.  She said “Not only can you do this, but I will show you how.”
4.  Then Connie Burk+The NW Network raised the bar with this phenomenal editing software–a gift that said, “We believe in you, and have high expectations of what you’re capable of.”

Fast forward to 2005…just back from Tanzania
It probably comes as no surprise that being a novice filmmaker with 80-hours of footage and no editing experience, I was a high-risk gamble for funders.  The only folks willing to take a chance on us was the NW Film Forum, who signed on to be our fiscal sponsors, and Pacific Pioneer Fund, a foundation that supports emerging/first-time filmmakers.

Now Enter Connie and Jake, who offered to help us out with some much-needed fundraising.  At a time when funding for this film was nowhere in sight, they took this mantle on as their own personal mission. They generously supported our project through monthly donations.  They strengthened my fundraising skills.  Connie developed case statements that formed the cornerstone of our grant applications, fundraising materials, and press kit.

Perhaps most astonishingly, they took it upon themselves to organize a Massive fundraising auction for the film.  This was in October 2006–I remember the date because our daughter Lucy had just turned 6 weeks old.  So you know I was of little use in the planning, procuring and implementation of this event.

The auction’s theme:  From Tanzania with Love.  Connie worked closely with my mother to coordinate the purchasing of Tanzanian arts and crafts directly from Tanzanian artisans and shipping the goods over.  For over a month, the Burk-Fawcett’s first floor was flooded with crafts and crates, as items were sorted, labeled, and catalogued.

In addition to the Tanzanian arts & crafts, Connie and the NW Network staff procured donations from local Seattle businesses:

Simply Frames & Miner Gallery
Viscosity Studio & Gallery
Intiman Theater
Empty Space Theater
Subpop Records
Northwest Outdoor Center
Jillian’s
Tillicum Village
Spectrum Dance Theatre
Henry Art Gallery
Studio Evolve
Le Gourmand
The Majestic Bay Theatre
Tutta Bella
Columbia City Cinema
Café Flora
Landmark Theatres

The auction was held at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center.  Together with the fabulous NW Network staff and volunteers, the auction was flawlessly executed–a marvel of elegance and efficiency.  Silent auction stations.  Live auction by our favorite auctioneer, Matt Smith.  Screening of our trailer.  Swift, effortless checkout.

The event raised enough funds to cover the cost of editing our 30-minute “Sundance Cut”–the work sample we needed to submit our film for consideration to the Sundance Documentary Fund as well as other foundations/grants.

All told, Connie and Jake helped us raise well over $25,000 for our film.

And that is just the beginning!!
Stay tuned for The Burk-Fawcett Bump–Part 2: White House PRIDE and Beyond…

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