An Inspiring Journey

Dear Kids of the Gulf Supporters,

I’m writing today to announce where things stand with the project. In short, I failed to deliver on the original vision, and for this I’m deeply sorry. More sorry than I can ever put into words, actually. The support we received means more to me than anything I’ve experienced in my life. It was humbling to be entrusted with the vision for this film, and it pains me that I wasn’t able to bring it across the finish line.

I hope that some good can come of this situation, but I simply cannot hold on any longer with any real hope of completing the film in the foreseeable future. It hurts to admit it, but it’s a necessary step. Despite this admission, I have to say that the journey up to this point has been the most inspiring thing I’ve ever been a part of, and I owe that all to each and every person who contributed and helped develop the project along the way. Thank you all so much for making it possible to have this experience, bumps and all!

I feel compelled to share the full story of how it got to this point, so please let me explain.

4 years ago, I had a series of powerful experiences. The first was coming face to face with myself as a leader while working with a very special horse named Mikey out at Vista Caballo. Up until that point, I had never given myself permission to truly lead, despite countless ‘management’ positions throughout my life. It was in the summer of 2010 that I knew I had something big to offer this world – the same Summer that the horrific BP oil spill wreaked havoc on the Gulf coast.

I took my newly discovered leadership realization and led a documentary expedition along the coast in the immediate aftermath of the spill. From then on, I was hooked. I felt that I was called to share the stories of those who continued to suffer from this tragic event. For the next year, I followed the story and continued to make connections with people who were directly impacted. I just couldn’t let it go.

It was about that time that I was introduced to Devon and Devin, two kids that had a burning desire to make a difference along the coast. I pitched them the idea of making a documentary film that chronicled their journey of discovery and bonding with oil spill victims along the coast. I didn’t have the resources to do it yet, and I certainly didn’t have the professional experience, but I did have a deep-seated desire to make it happen, and thought it was possible.

I asked a couple of people with more experience with film if they wanted to partner on it, and they said yes enthusiastically. Away we went on the voyage of fundraising and soliciting support. It started strong, but we lost momentum during our first fundraiser. It was my responsibility to make it happen, and I simply wasn’t up to the task at the time.

Despite only raising a little over 20% of our goal, we had a chunk of money to get started, and we began the process of production by filming Devon and Devin along with Ian Somerhalder at the first IS Foundation event in Atlanta. We figured it was an opportunity to get them all together in one place, so we invested in a shoot. This was followed by a series of other shoots both in Atlanta and in Athens with experts connected to the oil spill.

The results of this effort can still be seen in our promo reel on, but the truth is that we never gained any steam after that. In hindsight, the mistake was holding out for a bigger investment to get the film done ‘right’ the first time. We kept thinking that we could do it the way we envisioned, but the funding never came.

Ultimately, it was me that was responsible for making it all happen, and I didn’t pull it off. I pinned my hopes on one connection after another, thinking that the missing pieces would eventually be found and we would get our mojo back. I even stood in front of an audience of 1,000 enthusiastic people in the summer of 2012 talking about our work and how incredible the project was. It was a highlight for me, and an experience that I’ll never forget.

People from all around the world believed in this film. We received notes of encouragement from people on 6 continents, and there seemed to be a serious appetite for the story. Why, then, has it never been completed? I’ve asked myself that over and over again for the past 2 years.

I gave all I had to give to the project. I ran out of money, out of momentum, and felt like I had run out of time. I started a new company in 2012 and threw myself into that effort, thinking that I had to stabilize myself financially before going any further with the film. Note: there is a reason that on every single airline flight, they take you through the safety drill, which always includes the bit about ‘put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.’ I didn’t approach this project that way. My ego got the best of me, and I wanted to help everyone else, despite not having my own world stable.

I was attempting to lead from a position of weakness, which was a foregone disaster. I didn’t ask for help soon enough, and by the time I did, I was in a jam. I never wanted to let anyone down and so I kept the truth about the situation from the incredible supporters who had allowed the project to get off the ground, from my friends, my family, from Devin and Devon, and ultimately from myself. I kept thinking I could make it work. I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘I can’t get it done.’

Well, here’s the unvarnished truth: I can’t get it done. I thought I could, but I cannot. The project needs more experienced leadership and some serious financial backing. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to admit, and even as I write these words, feelings of shame and guilt are coming over me like waves hitting the shore in a storm.

To everyone who believed in this project, I’m truly sorry I didn’t fully deliver. To those that gave money in our fundraising campaigns, I’m heartbroken and embarrassed that I couldn’t bring the film to fruition. To Adam, the film’s Director and to Devon & Devin, I deeply apologize if I let you down. You all inspired me so much with your dedication, and watching everyone work together on this was a remarkable experience for which I will always be grateful.

Short of a miracle, the project will need to be put on hold indefinitely at the end of July. If that’s the way it goes, we will take the remaining money that was not spent on the original production and donate it to local Gulf coast organizations that are doing the important work of rebuilding coastal communities that continue to suffer, in the name of Kids of the Gulf.

I’m sorry it has come to this, and I hope to have a chance to create something positive out of this experience. Even as I lament not having a finished film, I’m reminded of all the positive things that did come up throughout the project. I know there were a lot of great connections made, and Devon and Devin really dreamed big and put so many good vibes out into the world by wanting to do this at all. At the end of the day, we had a positive impact, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

Hopefully more good can come of this, and I’m open to any ideas on how to turn this into something positive. One thing is clear, though: I could never do that if I didn’t first let all of this go. It is the only way for this wound to heal.

Thank you all so much! Your dedication is truly inspiring. Please keep doing amazing things out in the world. We need your voices now more than ever.

In Humble Gratitude,

Brandon Sutton
Creator & Executive Producer
Kids of the Gulf

Category: From the Film Makers · Tags:

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