Sidetrack Films has partnered with Nike Sportswear for the upcoming release of Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard‘s “Beautiful Losers,” the documentary that debuted earlier this year at the SXSW Film Festival. While the filmmakers and Sidetrack entertained traditional offers from distributors after the film’s Austin premiere, they decided instead to release the film on their own. The shoe and apparel company will assist in funding a five market launch for the film. The doc won the Documentary Jury Award at 2008 Cinevegas and opens this Friday at New York’s IFC Center, before a roll-out.
“Losers” retrospectively celebrates a group of 1990s American artists and creators, including Ed Templeton, Tobin Yelland, Geoff McFetridge, Shepard Fairey, Mike Mills, Todd James, Cheryl Dunn, Kaws, Mr. Cartoon and Rose himself. The decision, to work with Nike in lieu of a traditional distributor, marks an interesting development in the ever-changing ways independent filmmakers are working to get films into theaters, outside of traditional distribution companies.
“It’s difficult because there are so many talented filmmakers out there, people with really fresh and new ideas that I personally feel could bring a minor revolution to the medium of film in the 21st century,” Rose said in an interview with indieWIRE prior to the Nike announcement. “However, for those filmmakers to get financing they have to follow a structure that might as well be for a studio film. Many times non-traditional concepts don’t fit into that system and that’s too bad. In the end it’s the public who loses, because I know there is a huge audience for these types of films — more than I think anyone in the industry is willing to accept. I feel it’s something that is going to have to be spearheaded from within by the filmmakers themselves.”
Rose and the producers at Sidetrack found a way to do just that. There are few rare examples of similar releases backed by corporations. In 2005, Kemp Curly and Kevin Morrison‘s snowboarding documentary “First Descent” was sponsored by Pepsi, and last year, Davis Guggenheim‘s girls soccer drama “Gracie” found funding through Gatorade. However, both those films were released by traditional distributors (Universal and Picturehouse, respectively), and neither had an arrangement as ambitious as the partnership between Nike and “Losers.”
“We looked at a lot of different models for releases from ‘Helvetica’ to ‘The Cremaster Cycle’ to ‘Head Trauma’, at the same time exploring methods such as indie rock tours and get-out-the-vote activities,” producer Jared Moshe told indieWIRE today. “In the end we settled on a hybrid approach that tried to incorporate different elements from each, all focused around the film’s core inspirational message of ‘Make Something from Nothing’.”
Nike Sportswear has a longstanding relationship with a number of the artists represented in the film. They first partnered with Aaron Rose in 2005, with the creation of two limited “Beautiful Losers”-inspired Nike Blazer Hi shoes. Jesse Leyva, who was involved in the movement, is now a Nike Sportswear Design Director. Beginning August 8th, Nike Sportswear will launch a series of community and youth-oriented “Make Something” creative workshops in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, tied to the release.
“Nike’s support allows us to bring ‘Beautiful Losers’ to selected cities as an event, where artists can directly work with kids to foster the creative spirit, while also making the vast Nike base aware of the film,” reiterated Moshe. “This has enabled us to focus on a ground game of inspiring creative communities to become part of the campaign and create a website where supporters, fans, filmmakers, and artists can share their artwork and stories.”
The workshops will work with public school art programs and youth mentoring programs, inviting local youth to join in the events through painting signs, photography, skateboard graphic design, toy design, filmmaking, tattoo art, footwear design and ‘zine making. The workshops will be hosted by artists from within the “Beautiful Losers” DIY art subculture. The work will then form a continually evolving public exhibition. Rose will have the “Beautiful Losers” film crew shoot at ten of the workshops, creating five minute webisodes of the classes, which will be available for free online at both Nikesportswear.com and at Beautifullosers.com.
There will also be a limited collection of “Beautiful Losers”-inspired shoes created in a partnership between Rose and Nike’s Jesse Leyva. “When we decided on the concept of using frame stills from the film, we identified an innovative digital printing technique to create this special collection,” said Leyva in a statement. “There are 22 Nike Dunk Hi shoes each telling a different part of the ‘Beautiful Losers’ story.” Two of these sets will be auctioned off for the Children’s Aid Society.
“We went back to the ‘Beautiful Losers’ documentary and pulled frame stills of what we felt were key moments in the narrative,” Rose explained, in a statement. “We used these moments to tell the ‘Beautiful Losers’ story using the shoes as a medium, with the end result being a collection of works of art.”