‘Batkid Begins’ leaps into Slamdance with a pow!
January 20, 2015
On Nov. 15, 2013, the world watched as 5-year-old cancer survivor Miles Scott became Batkid and captured the Riddler and Penguin after rescuing a damsel in distress in San Francisco, California.
An estimated 1.86 billion people tuned in to cheer Scott while the event unfolded on TV, their laptops and an array of social media.
Ironically, filmmaker Dana Nachman, whose "Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World" documentary will screen at Slamdance on Jan. 24 and Jan. 27, did not see any of the coverage.
"I didn’t even know it was happening," Nachman said with a laugh during a telephone interview from her office in Santa Clara, California. "I was working on another project that day and wasn’t on social media that whole week. So I missed the entire thing."
Nachman heard about Batkid the next day.
"I was on a conference call and these men were talking about it like they were little kids," she said. "They explained it all to me and I looked it up."
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The images of Scott, donned in a Batman costume following around an adult dressed as Batman, being cheered on by crowds that lined along the streets of San Francisco, struck a chord in Nachman.
"I was finishing up a film about a very dark subject and my kids had asked me to do a film that they would like in terms of uplifting and fun," she said. "When I saw this, I thought what a great documentary this would be like."
However, Nachman didn’t think she could do it.
"I thought someone else was already doing it, but a week later, a friend of mine, who I used to job share with at NBC told me she was trying to get an interview with Batkid," she said. "I told her it would be a great documentary and she told me she was going to call Make-A-Wish and see if they wanted to meet with us."
Two days later, Nachman and her friend found themselves talking with Patricia Wilson, executive director of Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area.
"I asked a couple of questions and we talked for four hours," Nachman said. "After five minutes, though, I knew I had to make a documentary."
The two biggest questions Nachman asked were what did Make-a-Wish intend the wish to be and if anyone had filmed it.
"They said they were just looking for 200 to 300 people to show up, which struck another chord to me because this was so organic," Nachman said. "Then they told me that they had hired someone with a five-camera crew and that’s how it all started."
The timing was right, according to the filmmaker, because some others reached out to the nonprofit about a documentary.
"I don’t know why they chose me, actually," Nachman laughed. "But we did hit it off."
One of the conditions of making the documentary was to have the film done by the first-anniversary of the event, Nov. 15, 2014.
"Despite the fact that all my other films take three to four years to do, I said, ‘Sure, I can do that,’" she said with another laugh.
Still, the pressure of making the film based on a globally renowned event wasn’t lost on Nachman.
"There were some times when I would start thinking about the task, but I was so busy making the one-year deadline that I couldn’t have a fit in my mind," she said. "I just had to do it. I told them they would have a cut to see on the anniversary, but it wouldn’t be the final cut."
Nachman decided to raise money through crowdsourcing.
"My goal was to raise $100,000 over Indie Go Go over the summer," she said. "Then I had a private investor fund the rest of the project. He just came out of the woodwork so I could do the film."
The initial $100,000 was for the bells and whistles regarding the film’s animation and the soundtrack.
"I wanted to have the animation to cover Miles’ backstory, which was the sad part when the family learned he had leukemia," Nachman said. "I wanted to animate that section because it was in the past and that type of treatment would make it more imaginative, especially for families. I wanted it to be accessible for kids."
The rest of the film was made by using existing footage, except for the interviews.
"[The Scotts] are the nicest family on the planet and the wish couldn’t have happened to a more deserving family," Nachman said. "They don’t want to be celebrities and come from a tiny town on the Oregon/California border.
"The father is a farmer who married his childhood sweetheart and Miles is the oldest and has a younger brother," she said. "They are the kind of people that you want to do something special for."
Unlike her other projects, Nachman’s treatment for "Batkid Begins" didn’t change from start to finish.
"I never veered away from my vision of how to present the story, which was different than my other films," Nachman said. "I think part of the reason is that we also did this one quite quickly."
The filmmaker is looking forward to the Slamdance screenings.
"I’ve never been to Park City for either Slamdance or Sundance," Nachman said. "My goal was never to go unless I had a film in one of the festivals. Now, I do, I get to go and experience it, rather than watching it on the Internet.
"The event is still on the minds of people, so to have this opportunity to show it at a place where the entire film world will be is exciting," she said. "I love the film and I hope others do, too."
Slamdance Film Festival will screen Dana Nachman’s documentary "Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World" on Saturday, Jan. 24, at 12:50 p.m. in the Ballroom Theater at Treasure Mountain Inn, 255 Main St., An additional screening will be held in the Inn’s Gallery Theater on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 4:40 p.m. Tickets are available at the festival box office at Treasure Mountain Inn. For more information, visit http://www.slamdance.com.