Add Don Cheadle to the ranks of filmmakers turning to crowdfunding to empower passion projects. Cheadle has aligned with Indiegogo to raise $325,000 in funds by July 6 to enable him to make Miles Ahead, a movie about jazz legend Miles Davis. As he has intended to do for years, Cheadle will star, produce and make his directing debut, and he’s got Ewan McGregor ready to star with him. The story they’ll tell is about a few dangerous days in the life of Davis, as he emerged from a silent period to conspire with a Rolling Stone writer to steal back his music. The intention is to shoot this summer.
Now, the knee-jerk temptation will be to sound a sour note about a famous star of screen (Iron Man 3) and TV (House Of Lies) for going the crowdfunding route, as was done when Spike Lee and especially Zach Braff did it. I don’t expect much blowback here. It’s not a lot of money he’s chasing, and Cheadle says that he in fact has put a lot of his own money at stake on a project he’s been trying to get made for years (I first wrote about it back in 2007). He’s also got the jazz man’s estate behind him. And frankly, there should be a movie made about Miles Davis, one of the pioneers of an inherently American art form. It would be hard to find someone more passionate about that than Cheadle.
“Most studios don’t make these kinds of movies anymore, so we are doing it independently,” Cheadle said in a statement. “I’m personally putting a big chunk of money into our budget as well as putting all my fees back in. But the extra money we hope to raise on Indiegogo will help us re-create the multiple time periods we’re dealing with and with the logistics of incorporating all the music. We are excited to get people talking about the movie early, raise awareness, and set into motion the groundswell of support we hope will continue through to the film’s release.”
Of course, Cheadle stands to recoup his investment if the movie gets a distributor and does well, something that seems almost a certainty given his stature and that of the subject. For their contributions, donors will receive posters, limited edition Miles Davis artwork, a coffee table book of Davis’ artwork signed by Cheadle, set visits and access to screenings. I’m sure this crowdfunding thing will sort itself out eventually, but it has always troubled me that if one of these things actually became a big hit, those who funded it will be on the outside looking in. But Hollywood was built on the Other People’s Money adage, so what are you going to do?