Academy Award-Nominated Filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy Launches Kickstarter Campaign for FAME HIGH

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Campaign aims to raise $125,000 for the national theatrical release of FAME HIGH

“Fame may be fleeting, but the kids in Fame High will stay with you..." Kenneth Turan, Film Critic, L.A. Times

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Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy is taking his MAKE FAME HIGH FAMOUS Kickstarter campaign on the road and providing almost daily updates, photos, and videos as a way to really show the power of seeing his latest documentary, FAME HIGH, in the movie theater.

Scott shot his pitch video vérité-style at the Loft Filmfest in Tuscon on 11/11, then hosted two screenings of FAME HIGH at the St. Louis International Film Festival on 11/17, and another at San Francisco’s DocFest 11/18. He is meeting with audience members and press in each city to produce a dynamic in-person crowdfunding campaign.

FAME HIGH captures the in-class and at-home drama, competition, heartbreak, and triumph that students experience during one school year at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), also known as Fame High. Talented teenagers reach for their dreams of becoming actors, singers, dancers, and musicians. LACHSA alumni include Josh Groban, Fergie, Jenna Elfman, and Corbin Bleu, among others.

FAME HIGH had its initial theatrical release and NYC and LA, where Kenneth Turan of the
LA Times raved:

“Fame may be fleeting, but the kids in Fame High will stay with you. Try as they might, fictional kids (Fame/Glee) can't compete with the real thing, they don't compel us like these earnest, hopeful and winning young people, bound and determined to devote themselves to their art... Kennedy manages to make their problems feel piercingly real and individual, not teen generic."    

Building on this early success, Scott Hamilton Kennedy intends to roll out FAME HIGH on a national theatrical release, with the ultimate goal of changing the conversation about arts education. According to Scott, “It’s a pretty straightforward message: At LACHSA, 83% of the graduating class goes on to college, versus the national average of 63%. Most importantly, FAME HIGH shows that playing an instrument, learning to act, and perfecting dance moves are not just after-school activities, they are lifelong skills that help students to think creatively, experience focused attention, and embrace risk—all necessary skills for the 21st century.”

However, FAME HIGH is not your typical medicinal social issue film; it is a coming-of-age, documentary-musical that follows a group of novice freshman and seasoned seniors struggling to find their voice—not only in their art but in life—with the help of, and sometimes in spite of, their passionate and opinionated families.

Between now and December 18th, Scott is doubling down on the power of crowdfunding by building on his first Kickstarter campaign’s success with a more robust grassroots canvassing campaign, live from the road. After his first campaign raised $28,000 toward finishing funds and expenses for the initial screenings in New York and Los Angeles, Scott was amazed at the power of crowdfunding. He wants to use the funds raised by the MAKE FAME HIGH FAMOUS campaign by releasing and promoting FAME HIGH independently and taking it to at least 15 cities across the country. “As an independently produced documentary, we can’t compete with big Hollywood marketing campaigns to drive audiences to seats. Studios spend on average $35 million marketing one film. Where we think we can compete is through word-of-mouth campaigning and leveraging our online community.”

While the dollar amount is much higher for his second campaign, $125,000, Scott and his team see this number as an exciting outreach challenge; they figure it will take over 800 backers to hit the goal. Rather than spending millions on advertising, MAKE FAME HIGH FAMOUNS is leveraging social media, powered by fans who love FAME HIGH, to hit this Kickstarter goal. But, Scott is clear about the long-term mission, noting, “We don’t want to buy an audience, we want to build a community that will work together for arts education. Engagement is a two-way street, and if an arts-based school we have never heard of is doing something incredible, we want to hear about it. If an advocacy group is close to changing legislation, we want to know about it, If an art teacher or mentor is changing your life, we want to meet them through this campaign.”

Scott and other cast members are available for interviews via phone or Skype.

CONTACT:
Scott Hamilton Kennedy, Director of FAME HIGH
Phone: 323-270-1666
Email: scott@blackvalleyfilms.com
Press Contact and Crowd funding producer: Kiley Kraskouskas
kiley@thinkingforwardmedia.com
571-421-4901

ABOUT FAME HIGH

FAME HIGH captures a year at the prestigious Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA). LACHSA is a tuition-free public school offering a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum and conservatory-style training in the visual and performing arts. LACHSA’s teachers are working arts professionals, and some famous alumni include Josh Groban, Corbin Bleu, and Fergie. At a time when the arts are being cut from so many schools across the country, LACHSA is a shining example of the importance of arts in education. Named one of the five best arts high schools in America by the Kennedy Center Network of Creative Alliances for the Arts and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, LACHSA sends 83% of its graduates to higher education. A stunning contrast to the national average of approximately 63%.

But FAME HIGH isn’t a medicinal, issue-only documentary. It is a highly entertaining, moving, and inspiring film that plays like a great coming-of-age musical. It follows two freshman and two seniors as they, and their families, struggle to find their voice as actors, singers, dancers, and musicians. At the world premiere at the Tribeca International Film Festival in NYC in 2012, audience members from eight-year-old girls to eighty-year-old men were laughing, crying, and cheering at the screen.

FAME HIGH’S MAIN CHARACTERS

Senior Grace is a beautiful ballet dancer who dreams of attending Juilliard and dancing professionally, but her conservative Korean family sees no future for her in the arts. While she has skills to rival the nation’s best, Grace’s lack of confidence and fear she will disappoint her parents troubles her at every turn, especially when they forbid her from dating. Grace must decide if she’s going to break tradition and reach for her dreams or buckle under the pressure.

Senior singer and songwriter Brittany and her mother left their loving family in the tiny town of Baraboo, Wisconsin, to attend LACHSA with the plan for Brit to make it as a pop singer. Small-town naiveté sways Brit to believe she’s closer to her goal than she really is, and academics are put on the backburner. Will her senior year find Brittany breaking out or failing out?

Freshman Zak, a talented but vulnerable pianist, is driven by his father to become the next Latin-jazz master. But Zak is worn down by the endless practicing and semi-pro gigs. Without a mom to balance the equation, Zak fights depression and contemplates whether he wants this dream for himself or for his Dad.

Artsy and eclectic, freshman actress Ruby’s quirky humor and cynicism are endearing. A child of the theater with talent to spare, Ruby struggles to balance her working professional life with honing her craft and enjoying just being a kid at FAME HIGH. The crossroads of fame and the real world are not easy to maneuver, especially at thirteen.

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

We live in a culture that puts a very high premium on fame. The ideas of overnight success, exposure, and acclaim are aided by glossy reality television and a celebrity-obsessed populace. FAME HIGH is the counter argument to this illusion. It shows the unending hours of training and discipline needed to hone one’s craft. FAME HIGH is where ambition and reality suffer a high-speed collision with no one walking away unscathed.

I have been a fan of and fascinated by the performing arts all my life. Starting at a young age when my two sets of parents exposed me to a wide variety of live music, theater, and cinema in both the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. I went on to study theater in college and started directing music videos soon after graduating. But it wasn’t until after finishing my first documentary, OT: our town, that I wanted to bring these worlds together: a raw vérité story mixed with the magical performance vocabulary of musicals and music videos. A high school for the performing arts was the answer.

I researched several arts schools before finding LACHSA, one of the most top-rated in the country, with an acceptance rate that rivals the Ivy League. It is also a public school with a diverse racial and socio-economic population, a rare combination in most inner city schools in the United States.

Because of my prior experience filming high school students in a performance setting with OT: our town, LACHSA—which in the past had turned down almost all requests to film—opened their doors to our project. I began by observing LACHSA classes, interviewing students and teachers, and after a few weeks the story came to life before my eyes. I discovered incredibly talented teens trying to fulfill their dreams of becoming actors, singers, dancers, and musicians. Serendipity struck when I met producer Leilani Makuakane ,who had attended LACHSA in her youth, and FAME HIGH was on its way…

FAME HIGH could easily be compared to some of the other performance entertainment on TV and in theaters (Glee, Save The Last Dance, even American Idol), but we have never seen it captured like this: a fun but raw high school movie, with performance elements and lots of soul. We came to call it this unique hybrid: a Robert Altman-esque, coming-of-age, documentary-musical. A completely real unpretentious engine fueled by the wonderful zing of the performing arts. We sure hope you enjoy it.

CREDITS

Director/Camera: Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Producers: Leilani Makuakane Potter, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Editors: Jillian Moul, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Executive Producers: Rick Rosenthal, Chip Rosenbloom, Leilani Makuakane Potter, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Original Score by: Doug DeAngelis
Supervising Sound Editor: Paul Hackner
Consulting Editor: Yana Gorskaya-Richaud

WITH
Grace Song
Brittany Hayes
Zak Astor
Ruby McCollister

OUR TEAM

SCOTT HAMILTON KENNEDY is an Academy Award nominee for The Garden, a documentary which tells the story of the South Central Community Garden, the largest of its kind in the U.S., and its complicated struggle for survival. It premiered at AFI Silverdocs film festival, where it won best documentary, and went on to win other awards (Florida and Camden FF, MMPA Diversity Award) and garner rave reviews from the likes of Kenneth Turan of the L.A. Times: “Excellent! Its lessons about the levers of power and politics, and how easy it is to get co-opted, are relevant everywhere. The Garden is a potent human drama.”

Scott is a writer, director, producer, cameraman, and editor who has worked on everything from music videos and commercials to motion capture animation, scripted and reality television, and fiction and non-fiction film. His journey as a filmmaker began at Skidmore College, where he majored in theater with a concentration in directing. Scott went on to establish himself as a director of music videos, commercials, television and promos for clients ranging from Tony Bennett to CBS, Mattel, Showtime, and even the low-budget legend, Roger Corman.

Scott’s debut documentary, OT: our town, tells the underdog story of the staging of the first play in twenty years at Dominguez High in Compton, California, and the attempt to produce Thornton Wilder's Our Town. OT won numerous awards at top film festivals and garnered rave reviews along with being ‘short listed’ for an Oscar nomination, nominated for Best Documentary by the Independent Spirit Awards, and awarded a Human and Civil Rights award from the National Education Association (NEA).

A sought-after speaker and educator, Scott has taught master classes in film at universities such as Carnegie Mellon, USC, and the Claremont Colleges. He is currently developing several narrative projects, including an adaptation of The Garden. His feature script, Up River, a coming-of-age action/adventure movie about the Los Angeles River, went through the highly competitive FIND Directors Lab and was featured on the Black List.

Scott grew up in Berkeley, CA, and now resides in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles with his wife, Catherine Borek, and their two daughters, Tessa and Eden.

LEILANI MAKUAKANE POTTER is a producer, entrepreneur, and choreographer. She worked with Scott Hamilton Kennedy on educational outreach for OT: Our Town and production supervised The Garden, which was nominated for an Academy award for Best Documentary feature in 2009.

She attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and minored in Dance at the University of Iowa. She went on to perform, teach, and choreograph dance in musicals and theater, later becoming a successful entrepreneur and business owner. Having worked in a variety of genres from independent film to commercial promos, Leilani is passionate about documentaries and their power to impact the world around us. She has produced and directed several short documentaries on youth and the arts.

Leilani is currently developing several documentary projects about the Native Hawaiian diaspora, sustainable communities, and hula’s impact on restoring Hawaiian identity. She recently returned to Honolulu, Hawai’I, where she lives with her husband, Tony, and is the first female senior pastor at Grace Chapel of Honolulu.

JILLIAN MOUL is a Primetime Emmy Award nominee who has been editing for over a decade. Her work includes the Paramount Pictures feature documentary Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, narrative feature The Olivia Experiment, Oscar short-listed feature documentary On Native Soil, the HBO doc series Brave New Voices, Morgan Spurlock's doc series 30 Days, and The Sundance Channel doc series Big Ideas for a Small Planet. One of the episodes she edited, for the latter, won the Environmental Media Award in the documentary category.

Jillian majored in Theatre at the University of Hawai'i and traveled the world performing in plays and musicals. She then studied Film & Television at UCLA and fell in love with storytelling through the art and craft of editing.

Jillian is currently producing and editing a feature documentary, Surviving Home, about military veterans of different generations. She lives with her husband and producing partner, Matthew Moul, and adorable babies—their cats—in Los Angeles, CA.

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