By Ray Pride



Steve James directs, Martin Scorsese to executive produce

On November 20th 2013, Life Itself, a new documentary about the life of Roger Ebert, will launch a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo seeking support for an innovative pre-release led strategy which the film’s producers hope will unite the global community of the late film critic’s fans.

A key feature of the campaign is the ability for supporters to obtain a private streaming link to view the film in advance of its theatrical release, planned for early in 2014, thus making contributors the first audience to view the completed film. The campaign also includes theatrical screenings and other exclusive rewards, though it intends to maximize community and audience involvement by focusing on the opportunity to “pre-buy” early access to the film as a mode of celebrating Roger Ebert’s legacy and impact on cinema.

The film’s Indiegogo campaign page ( states: “we are offering a private pre-theatrical streaming experience of the film as the central reward for our partners in the campaign. Everyone, everywhere will have the ability to support the film and participate in its actual premiere. This is exactly what Roger stood for and exactly what Roger would have wanted: accessibility for all.”

The film began production in December 2012, four months before the death of the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, film critic and screenwriter. It is based upon Ebert’s own memoir, Life Itself, and recounts the surprising and entertaining life of the world-renowned film critic and social commentator – a story that’s by turns personal, wistful, funny, painful, and transcendent.

Steve James (Hoop DreamsThe Interrupters) directs the film which is being produced by Zak Piper for Kartemquin Films with Martin Scorsese, Justine Nagan, Gordon Quinn, Kat White and Mark Mitten as executive producers.  It will be theatrically released in 2014, with CNN Films presenting and CNN holding first-window broadcast rights to the film.

Ebert played a major role in both Scorsese and James’ careers. He was an early champion of Scorsese’s directorial debut Who’s that Knocking at My Door, and authored the eponymously titled book on the filmmakerAlong with Gene Siskel, Ebert also was the first to champion James’ Hoop Dreams which he eventually named one of the best films of the 1990s along with Scorsese’s Goodfellas.

After the project was first announced – through Roger Ebert’s Twitter account – in September 2012, Ebert stated that “I believe Steve James’ Hoop Dreams is one of the greatest documentaries ever made, and my hopes for this [new documentary] are high.”

The producers are seeking a total of $150,000 through the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform, with the campaign ending at 11:59pm on December 20, 2013.

“We also intend to contribute towards charitable causes that represent Roger; what he stood for as a critic, a progressive voice, and someone who bravely battled cancer and disabilities: The Ebert Foundation, and The Roger Ebert Film Studies Center at his alma mater, the University of Illinois,” says the film’s campaign page.

Link to site:

About Kartemquin Films

Kartemquin Films is a collaborative center for documentary media makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society. With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on over 47 years of being Chicago’s documentary powerhouse.

Kartemquin sparks democracy through documentary. Their films, such as The Interrupters, Hoop Dreams, andThe New Americans, are among the most acclaimed documentaries of all time, leaving a lasting impact on millions of viewers.

The organization has won every major critical and journalistic prize, including two Emmys, a Peabody, duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and an Oscar nomination.

Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon