For those in show business, making a movie is a similar process to building a football team. Or at least, that's what Chris Bickford — the writer and producer of the upcoming feature film 'Kick' — likens it to.
"If we’re talking about building a movie, it’s probably similar to building a football team. It depends on what your budget is and who you can afford," Bickford said in a sitdown with Mile High Huddle and former Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer, who has an acting part in the movie and is helping to get the film made by generating publicity in North America.
Bickford and Russ De Jong, who heads North Films — the biggest privately-held production company in Canada — have approached multiple big-named actors about starring in 'Kick.'
"It’s just a matter of putting the right amount of money in front of them," Bickford said.
'Kick' is a movie that centers around four 12-year-old kids in a blue-collar, steel-working town in the province of Ontario, Canada, who will "do anything to get their team into the Grey Cup for the first time in 20 years." Their hometown team is none other than the real-life Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
In the wake of the post-Super Bowl 50 depredations, many Broncos fans will relate closely with these kids who remain steadfast and faithful in the Ti-Cats, despite 20 long years of losing. The Ti-Cats in the film are led by their pushing 40-year-old veteran quarterback, to be portrayed by Plummer himself.
The film plans to shoot for four weeks, which will be followed by a six-week editing and final production process. Through their own interests and already secured investors, the producers of 'Kick' have more than half of the film financed but North Films is still seeking investors to bridge the remaining gap of about $800,000 dollars to get the process started.
The CFL has been supportive and on-board with 'Kick' as a vehicle to bring some much-needed publicity and media scrutiny to a league that was sent reeling in the wake of the 2020 pandemic. However, after Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's XFL pulled out of negotiations to potentially merge with the CFL, that league north of the 49th parallel could really use a boost.
A feature film like 'Kick' could be just what the doctor ordered. With the XFL-CFL potential merger getting kyboshed this past week, the tabled deal could end up costing the Canadians as much as $100 million, which would have represented a vital cash infusion.
With a sum of $800,000 being all that it would take to get this movie officially in production, perhaps the nine teams of the CFL should come together to invest the balance. As Bickford told me, we're not talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars each team would have to outlay.
"If each team came with tens of thousands of dollars, not hundreds of thousands, but tens of thousands, we’d get the movie made," Bickford said. "So we’re really close."
Perhaps the CFL would be remiss to look this gift-horse in the mouth. With the amount of publicity Plummer's still-viable NFL star power has brought to 'Kick,' the CFL is seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of how impactful this film could be in bringing the Canadian football product to the American masses.
Despite the NFL's revenue dropping from $16 billion in 2019 to $12 million in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, it's still king of the hill on the American pro sports landscape. Conversely, the CFL's traditional revenue (in recent years, not counting the pandemic season) is projected to be around $200-240 million annually. It plummeted precipitously in the wake of the pandemic.
Still, that $200-240 million figure is a drop in the bucket compared to its American cousins. It's anyone's guess as to why the CFL has traditionally struggled to really catch on in the States but having a feature film centered around one of its nine clubs circulating around the United States, with a former NFL star quarterback appearing in a key role, and eventually being streamed to potentially millions and millions of Americans, could cure a lot of the ills in the CFL's post-pandemic existence.
Plummer told me he 'wasn't sure' why the CFL has failed to captivate American sports fanatics in the same way that the NFL has for the past 50-plus years despite the Canadian pro football product being a quality league with guys (many of whom are former NFL vets) playing on contracts worth pennies on the dollar relative to the National Football League.
"I think that the game of football in America, for one, it’s named incorrectly. I mean, we don’t use our feet really," Plummer told me. "For one, Americans like to think that we’re the only ones that play this game but they play a good form of it up in Canada. The rules are different, so maybe that’s what’s kept a lot of people from buying into that or when you play Arena League—that’s a whole different thing, but it’s American. I don’t know why Americans haven’t bought into the Canadian game as much. I know there’s a lot of guys that went up and played in the Canadian Football League during my years. I knew a few of those guys who’d gone up there because they couldn’t fit the prototype or catch on in the NFL so they took their skills elsewhere and had really good careers."
At the end of the day, regardless of a few rules being tweaked between the American and Canadian versions of football, it's still the game that draws the biggest number of viewers and attendees in the United States.
"Football is football to me," Plummer said. "You’ve still got to go beat the guy across from you. I grew up with knowledge of the Canadian Football League. I wasn’t a ‘fan’ so to say, following it. But if the Grey Cup was on, and my brothers were around, we were watching it. Sports was our thing. We loved to watch anything, all things, so I was aware of the Canadian Football League. And I don’t know why... I don’t know what the numbers are but they still play some damn good ball up north."
If the CFL were to take a small chance on the movie 'Kick' and throw in that remaining $800,000 needed to officially green-light the production, there's no telling what sort of ripple effect it could have on the league's public profile in both Canada and America, and how that might impact the bottom line in the years to come.
Like Plummer, I don't profess to be an expert on the CFL and its history but as a movie buff and sports junkie who makes his living covering the NFL, I can speak to countless films portraying American sports leagues — both the fictional and non-fictional alike — that have captivated me over the years. Such cinematic celebrations of their respective sports serve as a sort of marketing ambassador and make the audiences they reach that much more interested and passionate about them.
From great American baseball films like 'The Natural', to 'For The Love Of The Game', to 'Major League', 'Field of Dreams', and 'Bull Durham', to their basketball counterparts like 'Hoosiers' and 'Blue Chips', to hockey opuses like 'Miracle', 'The Mighty Ducks', and 'Slapshot', the list of cherished sports films is long.
There haven't been as many critically-acclaimed football movies, but films like 'Any Given Sunday', 'The Program', 'The Replacements', 'Rudy', 'Remember The Titans', and 'Varsity Blues' are still cinematic staples for many an American fan.
There's no way of reckoning how many casual or even non-fans my list of movies above captivated and converted into paying customers and weekly viewers of their respective sports. Heck, even the slap-stick gem 'The Naked Gun' got me interested in the then-Anaheim Angels as a young kid of the 1980s. That club quickly became my favorite MLB team subsequently.
It's hard to imagine the CFL not doing everything in its power to ensure 'Kick' gets made. I don't have a dog in this fight, except to say that it sure would be fun to see Plummer rallying a fictional locker room of players just like he did in the Orange and Blue from 2003-06.
And no, Plummer hasn't taken up acting lessons. Though, if 'Kick' does get made, he'll follow in the footsteps of some of the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks who went on to grace the silver screen like Joe Namath and Dan Marino. Plummer chuckled at the notion of being compared to a guy like Namath but if this movie gets made, that's something the two former NFL QBs will have in common in addition to their football careers.
"No (chuckles). No acting lessons," Plummer said. "If I was home, [I’d] possibly get into doing a little bit of something but at the moment, I’m not pursuing any acting classes or anything like that. This isn’t too much of a stretch on what I really was—a quarterback that was good at motivating a team to come back from behind, which I did plenty of that in Arizona and some of that in Denver. So I don’t think it’s going to be—like I need to go to acting school to figure out how to motivate a locker room full of football players. ‘Hey, let’s go win this thing, right?’”
If this movie gets made, and it seems destined to become reality considering that 'Kick's' $1.7 million in already-funded equity has it close to its $2.8 million budget goal, Plummer will deserve his fair share of the credit for moving the pigskin over the goal-line. In that event, perhaps the kid from Boise, Idaho will garner a producer credit and end up with two roles of distinction on IMDB.com.
Note: Interested investors can contact the 'Kick' team at email@example.com.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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