Yesterday, the month-long Kickstarter campaign to finance the proposed Civil War mini-series (or at least, a film), To Appomattox, came to an end, with the production staff failing to reach its unprecedented $2.5 million request. While the project generated a lot of buzz online, in the end, only $77,674 dollars was raised, or roughly 3% of what they were asking. The campaign did garner media attention on the national level as well as 436 backers (including four who purchased above the $4,500 level, something that is impressive), but the question we now have to ask is, does this recent financing attempt and subsequent failure spell the end of more than ten years of pushing To Appomattox? Michael Beckner, according to some social media comments, seems to think that he can still draw network interest over the summer by showing them how many peopled back the project, in addition to more than 5,000 followers on Facebook. However, no matter how passionate the fan base may be (myself included; I pledged $100) networks are only interested in making money, and will no doubt be skeptical to take on such a massive project since no one else has bitten for more than a decade. Perhaps we knew, deep down, that $2.5 million was a lot to ask, no matter what the subject matter, but I think it is rather disappointing that such an underwhelming amount was raised.
For those following the Kickstarter campaign for To Appomattox, about a week after launch, they have made a total of just over $34,000 out of a goal of $2.5 million. While there is still plenty of time to go, and some big sponsors are going to be needed, the success of the financing lies with the little people like us. Every dollar amount, no matter how small, will gradually get this project towards the ultimate goal. However, for those of you with deep pockets, or just want to opportunity to take part in something special, there truly are some amazing and unique return gifts that you will receive in return for your donation, some which no one could have even imagined, such as this one:
“Be Written Into the Film! On consultation, I will create a character just for you with one line of dialogue. This is a SPEAKING ROLE and YOU WILL BE CREDITED. You will also receive the “Official Haversack” and all that contains! [NOTE: On this level THE PRODUCTION WILL PAY FOR YOUR TRAVEL AND ACCOMMODATION.]”
Like Grant in 1864 (or Lee in 1862), the To Appomattox Kickstarter campaign is rolling full speed ahead, with its launch beginning today (for an unprecedented $2.5 million), just about an hour ago. Already I am pleased to see quite a few backers and thousands of dollars raised. I am still contemplating which option to donate to, and will probably go with the $100 “Haversack” option, which includes a DVD set of the series and some other goodies. I am going to keep this post short, because I have written about this series at length already, including just a few days ago with writer and executive producer Michael Beckner himself. After years of waiting, the time has come for US to try to get this series off the ground. It looks promising, but in the end, we need results. The Civil War community, myself included, always complains about a lack of related projects, so now WE finally have the chance to get something made. There is not much more to say than that. If you are a die-hard and want to donate a thousand, or can only spare a few bucks, every little bit counts—and I am sure the production staff would agree. Please click here to check out the Kickstarter page and see all the support options. Over and out.
After years of waiting, it appears that To Appomattox is finally picking up steam, with a realistic chance for this project to finally be filmed. As discussed on this blog numerous times, the series is going the way of a Kickstarter campaign, which will seek to receive funding from fans, in order for the first two episodes to be filmed and shopped as a backdoor pilot. If it is successful, the remaining eight episodes would then be picked up by a network. If not, then they would be released independently as a film. Producer Michael Beckner has done something unique here, and that is getting fans actively involved, not just with funding (which will provide rewards specific to the amount donated) but with the “creative” process as well. Dating back to last year, when I spoke to him via phone, he expressed his sincere hopes that this series would be one “of the people”. The Civil War community is a rabid one; a group of people always craving—no, starving—for projects related to the genre. They also demand historical accuracy, something difficult to attain in mainstream media. But that aside, are there enough potential contributors out there for this money to be raised?
It has been a quiet last few months for me, but finally, thanks to recent history related media projects, including AMC’s Turn, I have found some things to write about:
- It seems like forever, but Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead is finally getting released on Blu-Ray and DVD, next week, April 15. While the film did not do as well in theaters as I had hoped, this project will likely be an immense home video success, much like Gettysburg and Gods and Generals both were. Given the outstanding cinematography, I am expecting a great HD transfer that will be a feast for the eyes. Also, it is worthy to note that because the film garnered a PG-13 rating (and in my view, probably could have gotten just PG), the hope we can have is that this film will make its way into schools for use as an educational tool. The running time, family themes, and accessibility to people of all ages definitely makes this something that can be shown in a variety of settings, from trying to teach life on the homefront to middle schoolers, all the way up to high school and college with its dialogue about politics, anti-war sentiment, and states’ rights.
As we all know, the production company for the still-in-limbo To Appomattox miniseries project, Sony, has recently severed ties with them after years of holding the rights got absolutely nowhere. There are a good number of people following this massive Civil War project who feel they are being misled by the people in charge, but after speaking to a source close to the situation, the individual was very clear that peoples’ anger should be directed at the company who “held them hostage”, not the other way around. This was not a deflection of my questions, but a rather comprehensive explanation of all that has been going on over the last five years, and I believe it to be true—if I didn’t, I would not be writing this. It was a lot to digest, but I am of the opinion that the producers of To Appomattox and their cast and crew still have the utmost enthusiasm in the project, and that it certainly is not dead. There are a few concerns that need to be looked at, but overall, I do think they are now moving in the right direction.
Because I used to write for the To Appomattox fan site, I contributed this to their blog today to help celebrate the one-year anniversary of when we started it, which was a very exciting time. A link to the entire article, as well as Steven’s contribution, can be found at the bottom.
It’s hard to believe that it has already been one year since Steven Hancock and I started the unofficial fan blog for the To Appomattox mini-series. Just a year ago today, the two of us had hopes of pooling our resources (I was blogging about it on my site, while Steve was doing it on his Civil War Diary) to create a blog where coverage could be contained to one place. We soon approached the “father” of the project, screenwriter and executive producer Michael Frost Beckner, and told him of our idea, and he gave us his full blessings. It was truly a wonderful experience, in getting to talk to so many great people, including interviewing Beckner himself (in addition to having him contribute a ghost story for my blog’s October “Haunted History” series), as well as historians/advisers J. David Petruzzi and Cary Eberly, and the actor playing Gen. Charles F. Smith, the always-wonderful and passionate Patrick Gorman.
The producers of the To Appomattox/ Grant Vs. Lee mini-series project have asked excited viewers to concoct short video notes telling why the series is important to them and why they are looking forward to it. These videos will then be compiled and presented to the prospective network at their next meeting. This is definitely something new and creative, and a great, interactive way to get viewers involved with the production process. Several of the actors have also made videos, including Jason O’Mara and Richard Speight, but the most recent one comes from our friend Patrick Gorman, one of the most underrated character actors out there, who I have had the pleasure of meeting, and interviewing on several occasions for his work as General John Bell Hood in Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. For this series, though, he will be switching sides to play a “Yankee” general, Charles F. Smith. Patrick is also a big history buff who loves the Civil War, and explains in this short video why a mini-series of this magnitude is so important:
As you all know, I used to write for the unofficial fan blog of To Appomattox, and still wish them the best of luck in production and plan on covering it from a far on here once filming begins, but I just have to say that I am not too crazy about the name change, the mini-series now shifting over to Grant Vs. Lee. I can see why the title was changed, because the majority of television viewers in this country can probably barely pronounce the word “Appomattox” correctly, let alone know what it refers to, however, I think that the new title they have come up with is a bit too gimmicky and hokey for my liking, sounding like something the History Channel would have produced, and you all know how I feel about them and their Civil War productions. Grant Vs. Lee is definitely better for marketing, because most people (or at least I certainly hope so) know who Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant are. Even the casual reader of history and anyone who paid attention in school knows them, so I can obviously see the marketing angle they are coming from. The rumor is that ongoing network negotiations have forced the title change, and that comes as no surprise, since respectful titles and historical authenticity must go out the window for the almighty dollar. Thankfully, it is being reported that the script has gone unchanged, which, unless you want to really be fanatical, is all the matters.
Just a few moments ago, I heard back from Donald Eaton, who served as First Assistant Director for Gods and Generals, and whom I interviewed the other day. He sent me a rather large follow-up response to our interview, throwing some more information our way about what went on behind the scenes, as well as his works on some Civil War books of his own. Unbeknownst to me, he is actually an accomplished author, as well as having more than thirty years in the film and television industry. He received a Google Alert on his computer when the link to our interview went up, which prompted him to tell me, “I had no idea how extensive [your blog] was. Congratulations on your efforts and hard work”, as well as send the following message. He invited me to share it with all of you if I wanted, and I thought it was very interesting, so here it is. The rest of this article is his words, even though presented in plain text—I just did not want to italicize something that long. Please enjoy, because it is some really good stuff!