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Don Cheadle's $325,000 Indiegogo Campaign To Help Fund His Miles Davis Project Is Now Live!

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by Tambay A. Obenson
June 3, 2014 8:30 PM
9 Comments
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Don Cheadle/ Miles Davis

UPDATE: Not long after I published the below piece, I received an official press release announcing that the campaign is now live. Here's the Indiegogo campaign link: www.indiegogo.com/projects/miles-ahead. At the bottom of this post, you'll find the pitch video.

“We are eager to get the word out about our film and to build a community of people who are just as excited as we are about a Miles Davis movie,” said Don Cheadle in a statement. “While Miles used his horn to communicate and create "social music" we are using social media and today's online platforms to reach out to the music community, the film community and all people who are excited to see an explosive, cool music-filled movie.

Miles Ahead is seeking to raise $325,000 on Indiegogo by July 6 to support the principal photography for the feature length film when it goes into production later this summer. Among the pledge prizes are rare Miles Davis posters, limited edition Miles Davis artwork, a coffee table book of Miles' artwork signed by Don Cheadle, as well as set visits and access to screenings.

As to why he decided to utilize the Indiegogo platform Cheadle continued, “Most studios don't make these kinds of movies anymore, so we are doing it independently. 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 recreate 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.”

“Erin, Cheryl and I, and Miles Davis Properties, LLC are extremely excited to have Don Cheadle play Sir Miles Dewey Davis in the forthcoming movie,” said Miles Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn, speaking on behalf of his family. “Don’s vision and his unwavering passion will undoubtedly serve this project to the highest standard and we are beyond thrilled to have him onboard.”

Cheadle is producing the film through his Crescendo Productions banner, along with Bifrost's Daniel Wagner, and Robert Ogden Barnum. Also producing are Darryl Porter and Vince Wilburn on behalf of the Davis estate, Lenore Zerman and Pam Hirsch.  

You'll find my original piece below.

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It appears that Don Cheadle has decided to finance his long-in-development Miles Davis project independently, after years of uncertainty.

In our last update on the project (November 2012), international film financing, sales and distribution company, IM Global, reportedly boarded the project, with plans to shop it at the then American Film Market (AFM) in Los Angeles. Whether or not it was a successful outing isn't public information; But given today's news that Cheadle has decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign, via Indiegogo, to help finance the project, we can assume that he didn't attract the necessary funding - at least certainly not all of it.

The campaign isn't open for business just yet, but, according to USA Today, Cheadle hopes to raise $325,000 by July 6 via Indiegogo, which will go towards principal photography specifically. He tells the newspaper that he will also be contributing to the film's budget, adding to that $325,000, with funds from his own bank account.

"... most studios don't make these kinds of movies anymore, so we are doing it independently [...] 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 (help with) the logistics of incorporating all the music.''

With July 6 being the due date, I can only assume that the campaign will be made live in the next few days - likely by the 6th of June, for the typical month-long campaign. I checked Indiegogo before publishing this item, and didn't find any mentions of this project, which will be titled "Miles Ahead" and not its previous rumored title "Shoot The Trumpeter," which I previously guessed was maybe inspired by French New Wave cinema pioneer François Truffaut's 1960 crime drama, "Shoot The Piano Player."

Cheadle doesn't share what the total budget for the film is, however.

As for what story the film will tell, Don himself has said many times in the past, that it will definitely not be a conventional biopic, instead calling it more of a "gangster movie," suggesting that he will be taking some liberties with Miles Davis' story. As the USA Today piece states:

Cheadle decided to tell a full story about a few days in the life of the famed jazz trumpeter/bandleader/composer. Miles Ahead, which will feature Cheadle in the title role, tells of the mercurial days when Davis burst from his mid-1970s "silent period" to storm the music scene with a Rolling Stone journalist (played by Ewan McGregor) in tow.

The only official description of the film we've had until today, reads:

After his record label steals his comeback album before he’s ready for it to be heard, Miles Davis hunts it down with a journalist and a junkie jazz musician.

Zoe Saldana and Ewan McGregor will co-star alongside Cheadle in the film. And now that we know that McGregor will play the journalist, can we assume that Saldana will play the junkie jazz musician? Or someone else... Or she may actually no longer be attached. She's not mentioned in the USA Today profile.

But according to a press release I received earlier this month from the Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission, the film is set to shoot in those areas, starting in July of this year, which makes sense, given the fundraising timeline.

The project will be filmed "entirely in Greater Cincinnati in the coming months," said Kristen Erwin Schlotman, film commission executive director.

Added Cheadle in a statement: "We look forward to exploring the culture, musicians and backdrop of this city. We are hoping to work closely with the community to bring this project to (the) screen."

Cheadle will both star and direct (Antoine Fuqua was previously said to be attached to helm).

Also worth noting, Herbie Hancock was on board as executive producer and musical supervisor.

I'd expect Cheadle to address some of these unknowns in the Indiegogo campaign write-up/video, or as he does press for it. We'll let you know when it goes live, which I suspect will be any moment from now.

By the way, there's a second Miles Davis film in the works, which George Tillman Jr is attached to direct. The film will be loosely based on Gregory Davis' book, "Dark Magus: The Jekyll and Hyde Life of Miles Davis" (Gregory Davis being Miles Davis' eldest son). 

The plan for Tillman's project, which will be called "Miles Davis, Prince of Darkness," is to produce a more conventional biopic (the producers previously mentioned "Walk The Line and Ray" as potential models that they'll follow).

Again, here's the Indiegogo campaign link for Cheadle's Miles Davis film: www.indiegogo.com/projects/miles-ahead. Underneath, you'll find his pitch video.

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9 Comments

  • OL'SKOOL | June 8, 2014 10:43 AMReply

    Questions: What are the 2 best black musical icon movies?

    Answer: "Ray" starring Jamie Fox and The troubled life and career of the jazz musician, Charlie "Bird" Parker, starring Forrest Whitaker.

    Why? Acting, directing and music score. And, both were well told stories. In reference to "acting" both had an excellent supporting cast... and Forrest & Jamie killed it. re: Directing, Clint Eastwood has a passion and love for Jazz. In reference to "Ray", Ray Charles (the person, the musician) was still alive, so his input was priceless.

    Audience for both films? Hmmm, "Bird" didn't do as well as "Ray" (financially speaking), why?

    Now, Mr. Cheadle's Miles Davis biopic/film? Audience? Well, we all know how and what Miles felt about white people. Just something to think about. Also, who in this generation has or is listening to Jazz?

    Which way will Cheadle go and why? Ham-fisted like The Butler? Corny and questionable acting like the James Brown biopic directed by Tate Taylor and written by Steven Baigelman, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth?

    Opinions? Disagreements?

  • Al Cooper | June 4, 2014 10:59 PMReply

    A fictional Miles Davis movie would be a waste of time and money. As a DJ, Jazz lover and collector I have been looking forward to a movie about Miles. But I cannot support Mr. Cheadle with this project. I should start a crowd funding drive and raise enough dough to take over this project and rewrite the script based on Mile's autobiography...

  • Donella | June 4, 2014 1:50 PMReply

    I like Cheadle, but I'm not overfond of his movie concept, using gangsterism and reimagination of details to excite the "fans." I'm also leery of Ewan McGregor's principal position, wondering if he'll be the "James McAvoy" of this piece standing in for the mainstream audience and providing the gaze through which to view the dark strange creature.

    George Tillman Jr's take on Miles Davis sounds more like what I'm interested in seeing. I'm predicting that Davis will be presented as a complex human instead of a fetish.

    It is somewhat bizarre that Davis's nephew is connected to one project while Davis's son is connected to another.

    Still, maybe his legend runs so deep that there is room for two explorations of his life and contribution to music.

  • Donella | June 6, 2014 3:50 PM

    I think I'll have a hot afternoon of Sketches in Spain, thanks all the same! ;-)

  • stp | June 5, 2014 8:29 PM

    Well if it don't excite you then grab a cup of some smooooooooooooth jazzzzzzzz. Who here wants a Kenny G movie made? I'm for it!

  • black canseco | June 4, 2014 12:33 PMReply

    the concept sounds like a horrible idea to be honest. Miles is such a compelling and powerful artist with such a mysterious background that a conventional biopic would be fine, in my opinion—we don't know enough about Miles' life to be bored by it. Everything I've read about Miles—his views on race, music, art, etc are so interesting that I'd be all in for a "Life of Miles" flick.

    maybe with a figure with a more established life story or one whose "real story" is more boring, but... I dunno yall.

    but this weird action-y thing sounds a little too clever by half.

    but hey, I hope he gets the loot. Don Cheadle might be the only known established actor that could do justice to a Miles Davis character.

  • SAVANNAH MORGAN | June 4, 2014 11:37 AMReply

    JEAN VIGO MY DEAR:

    Equity financing has to be recompensed. Crowdfunding is one big ole Christmas gift with a red bow on the top!

    got it!

  • jean vigo | June 4, 2014 12:59 AMReply

    I hope this is just a way to generate some publicity for the project. I find it really sad that a great talent like Don Cheadle can't find the outside equity to make a film about a legend. With Ewan MacGregor and Zoe Saldana in the cast, too? Must count for something in pre-sales? I know studios balk at these projects, but the indie financing world?

    But, some "geniuses" thought Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs was worth a a $12M budget. Go figure.

  • Miles Ellison | June 3, 2014 11:10 PMReply

    I hope the description has changed.

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