How I Built a Platform For Movie Studios To Support Education

I found my diary from when I was 10. I turned it into a script. Then, I made a movie.

John Cusack narrated. Our soundtrack was 80s gold. We won Audience Awards and Best Feature Film—at over a dozen amazing festivals. We played at PIXAR. Played at Harvard. Played around the world.

And then, we were orphaned.

Independent film distribution collapsed. Blockbuster Video went bankrupt. Releasing arms shuttered. No films were bought our festival year. The dream of being discovered—vanished. Money to pay back investors...gone.

Studios loved seeing Summerhood, but told me a traditional marketing campaign would cost 2000 times more than the film would earn, (our actual financial forecast). It wasn't going to be worth enough money to them. And they all passed. None of this was supposed to happen...

First you kick some stuff. Then you kick yourself.

And then you kick some walls down…

But, even in small amounts, I realized that money generated from our film screenings would have great value to people who really needed it; namely schools and charities—and that is when I came up with FILMRAISER.

The FILMRAISER model provides critical funding to school programs by arranging advance screenings of upcoming Hollywood movies as local fundraisers—with underfunded schools across the country getting to keep a meaningful percentage of the theatrical box office funds. Different from existing social action campaigns for films which hope to inspire action, the FILMRAISER model is integrated such that seeing the film—whether it's "SPIDERMAN" or "FED UP"– IS the action. Schools are already using the box office to pay for critical student programs like art, athletics, drama and music. Many have even directed the funds to support a charity that is important to them.

After successfully testing the model in Canada for two years, I moved to Los Angeles and brokered partnerships with Regal Cinemas and United Way Worldwide to launch the company with Summerhood as our first release.

We are now in over 6000 schools — K-12 plus college, and working with studios—helping them to market their movies in a meaningful way, and benefiting schools as we go. With FILMRAISER, traditional advertising costs are converted into fundraising dollars that students can use to pursue their own passions, as I did in making my first feature.

The same year we launched FILMRAISER, traditional methods of school fundraising vanished. Canadian schools banned junk food altogether, including chocolate bar fundraisers, citing health concerns like childhood obesity and the steep rise in diabetes —the United States soon followed. Fundraisers that annually provided $2.5 billion dollars worth of critical support for education were eliminated. Students needed us more than ever.

Meanwhile, studios repeatedly hemorrhage $25-$80 million on disposable marketing campaigns for each new film—costly efforts that offer no guarantee on turnout.

The synergy was obvious.

Summerhood is a wonderful film and FILMRAISER is a socially responsible approach to marketing. No more wasted advertising dollars. It’s a groundbreaking initiative that has Hollywood investing in local communities—helping students build self-esteem and achieve personal goals, often inspired by the films students rush to see.

The studios that rejected my bring us their films to market.

It’s a Hollywood ending for Summerhood.

And a hopeful beginning for schools in need.


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