Filmanthropy Strikes Again with "Kicking It"

Last year at Sundance, I interviewed film folks including Ted Leonsis who was premiering his very solid Nanking, and gaining visibility for the term 'filmanthropy', which he coined. (See the interview with Leonsis, Kevin Bacon and others.)

‘Filmanthropy’ describes the intersection between filmmakers using their craft to advance social interests and philanthropists eager to leverage their gifts in new ways.

In addition to conducting interviews on filmanthropy, during my week at Sundance I met a variety of directors who responded with enthusiasm to the idea of creating systematic linkages between filmanthropists and directors. I sent my idea to Leonsis but got no response.

This year, Leonsis was back with "Kicking It", a doc that chronicles the 4th Annual Homeless World Cup, where 500 homeless soccer players from 48 nations traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, to represent their countries. The players came from such disparate parts of the world as Afghanistan, Russia, Kenya, Ireland, and the US. In the film, the teams are joined by Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, who declares homelessness the new "apartheid." For seven days of fiercely competitive matches, the teams vie for the championship cups.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t picking up for the phone for others. (I’ve still got the concept paper if anyone else is interested.) Here’s what the Washington Post has to say about how Leonsis got involved in Kicking It:

Susan Koch, a longtime Washingtonian and experienced filmmaker, got the idea while trolling the Internet and started work on the project in January 2006. But after 200 hours of filming around the world, she ran out of money and called Leonsis for help.

"I knew about 'Nanking' and his interest in philanthropy," Koch said. "I got together with Ted, and we just really clicked."

"I liked her," Leonsis said.

He e-mailed his posse -- including fellow Capitals owners and other business partners -- and in less than 24 hours, he had made the financial, marketing and philanthropic connections needed to turn Koch's idea into a full-fledged venture. Raul Fernandez of ObjectVideo, Mark Ein of Venturehouse Group, BET co-founder Sheila Johnson, former AOLer Jack Davies, Capital One co-founder Nigel Morris and former Sporting News chief executive Rick Allen have chipped in with cash, business advice and marketing expertise.

Stories like that keep hope alive for all of us who dream that Daddy Warbucks might be just around the corner.

I didn’t hear if Jeff Skoll made it to Sundance but did manage to catch two films from this most prominent of filmanthropists and his Participant Productions: The Kite Runner and Charley Wilson’s War.

Both were rock solid (even though Kite Runner was panned hard because, really, what could meet the demands of one of the best American novels in recent memory?)

Kudos to Leonsis, Skoll and all the filmanthropists. I just LOVE to learn and be entertained at the same time.

Susan Herr

Posted at 1:16 AM, Jan 29, 2008 in Arts and Culture | Global Philanthropy | High Net Worth Donors | Philanthropic Strategy | Permalink | Comments (1)


An exciting trend to be sure! Video storytelling can be effective even on a smaller scale. One example: The Frieda C. Fox foundation ( works with grantees to craft short videos that can be used in marketing and fundraising materials. A low budget appraoch that has high returns for featured organizations.
~Tricia McKenna

Posted by: Tricia McKenna