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Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers #29: Bert Marcus Searches for the American Dream in Sports Documentary ‘Champs’

Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers #29: Bert Marcus Searches for the American Dream in Sports Documentary 'Champs'

Sports movies tend to focus on the strenuous nature of professional athletics and competition, with few of them ever really managing to depict a larger, more worldly topic. Such is not the case with Bert Marcus’ boxing documentary “Champs,” which tackles social issues as the American dream and the perpetual distance between wealth and poverty that many athletes (such as Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins) and non-athletes alike still struggle to overcome.

Tell us about yourself. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and although I have constantly sought out new adventures and travels, no matter where life leads me, there is no place like home. From a young age, I brought humor and fun into most facets of my life, which led to journalism and student government in high school, which in turn grew into working at Clear Channel radio with on-air personalities and then attending college and starting my own business. My path in filmmaking is constantly geared towards telling phenomenal and thought-provoking stories through the most entertaining lens, with the highest production value, in order to captivate, inspire and facilitate an audience’s understanding.

What was your biggest challenge in completing this project? One of the largest obstacles I had to overcome in finishing my film was telling the interwoven stories of “Champs” in a succinct manner. The film itself covers giants – one of the most pivotal American sports, three of boxing’s greatest heroes and some of the most prevalent social topics in the country today. The sport, each fighter and every distinct social topic could have an entire documentary on its own. Like a complex puzzle, I spent countless hours assessing the most little-known, yet fascinating aspects of these men’s lives while matching their experiences with the relevant social topics I wanted to delve into. All the while, boxing was the perfect vehicle to showcase the personal and larger themes, without making this a movie solely about boxing, solely about a fighter’s life or solely about a social topic. In the end, I think I achieved a unique balance, but it took a lot of time, energy and passion to get there.

What do you have in the works? I am excited to have two new documentaries in the works with phenomenal talent, messaging and social impact. In addition, I am also embarking on my first feature narrative project. I am thrilled to expand my brand and vision in a new creative outlet, while maintaining a similar aesthetic and style as my documentaries.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via which platform? And if not, why? I did not crowdfund for the project, although I think it’s an incredibly interesting and modern way in which to raise capital. Through my company, Bert Marcus Productions LLC, I have been able to raise a $15 million film fund, mainly sourcing from Wall Street, private equity firms, biotech companies, hedge funds and professional athletes. In addition to my fund, I raised capital for “Champs” from people that are true advocates, genuinely and passionately engaged with the topics of the film. I would say that my guiding philosophy is to match innovative, top tier talent and the highest quality equipment and cinematography techniques with the right investors and distributors, so that each investor is connected individually and personally with the project. This project is no different and I am fortunate enough to have passionate supporters.

What camera did you shoot on? “Champs” was shot on the highest quality cameras and lenses, like the Red Epic & Alexa, which is unusual for many documentaries. The impetus behind utilizing such high-end equipment for the film comes from striving to give a documentary film the same entertainment value as a first class narrative feature film. I want to break away from what is expected in the genre and visually stun the audience by heightening the production value and artistic look of the movie. In my opinion, there is no reason that a lower budget film shouldn’t give the audience an enhanced visual experience that only goes towards enriching the story.

Did you go to film school? If so, which one? I actually went to school for radio at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. When I was in high school, I got my first job working in radio with Clear Channel Communications. I began as an intern, but worked my way to producing radio shows, which I thought was incredibly fascinating. From meeting remarkable talent to hearing their stories on air, I began to cultivate relationships and think more broadly about storytelling, not just in a short interview, but also in a larger format. What would it be like to unearth the deeper thoughts and interviews of the talent? What if I was able to weave various stories? This was the start of my inspiration for documentary filmmaking.

What films have inspired you? “The Spectacular Now,” “Rushmore,” “Waiting for Superman.” “Fight Club,” “Risky Business,” “Senna.”

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about
their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and
what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up
to the 2014 festival. Go HERE to read all the entries.

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