For more than three years, filmmaker Eugene Martin gained inspiration from the Philadelphia-based Anderson Monarchs, the only all-black, inner-city girls soccer club in the country and the subject of his upcoming documentary film.
In the past few weeks, Martin has been inspired again – this time by the Philly soccer community as a whole.
With significant help from the Philadelphia Union and their supporters’ group, the Sons of Ben, Martin raised more than $25,000 in 35 days to ensure his film will be completed in time to be submitted for next year’s independent film festivals.
“I don’t think I can put the exclamation point on it enough,” a grateful Martin told MLSsoccer.com. “That [soccer] community, I think, now feels like it’s a part of this project, which was sort of like a dream of mine.”
The fundraiser was set up through Kickstarter, an online company that facilitates this kind of “crowdfunding” but only ensures you get the money if you reach your target goal – in this case, $25,000 – by a certain deadline. Martin really felt the pressure, describing the all-or-nothing proposition as “exhausting but exciting,”
Martin specifically credited the local blog Philly Soccer Page for driving up traffic to the film’s website (http://theandersonmonarchs.com), women’s soccer player Joanna Lohman for supporting the project from the beginning, and the Union organization for making a direct pledge in addition to featuring the fundraising drive on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Above all else, the film’s director expressed his gratitude toward the Union’s vociferous supporters’ group.
“The Sons of Ben were an absolute force,” said Martin, a former longtime Philly resident that now teaches film at the University of North Texas. “There’s no question in my mind that they were singlehandedly just about the biggest factor for this movie. It was an incredible surprise.”
This is not the first time the Sons of Ben have shown their charitable side. In January, the group donated $2,000 to another soccer documentary, “Gringos at the Gate,” in addition to their ongoing “Help Kick Hunger” fundraiser.
In this case, the Union fans championed Martin’s film because the obstacles overcome by the Anderson Monarchs serve as a reminder of what makes soccer great.
“The Monarchs story is one that many of us can relate to since a good number of our members are involved in youth soccer and know the struggles we deal with on an everyday basis,” said Sons of Ben vice president Matt Ansbro, who spearheaded the fundraising initiative. “The girls on this team are writing their amazing story and the success of the program, a local program to us, in the face of adversity [is remarkable].”
Martin, a longtime soccer fan and one-time soccer coach, intends to use the extra money to whittle down all the footage he’s shot over the past few years and put the final touches on what will be his seventh full-length documentary. His goal is for the film to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
“I’m at a place in the movie where I’m really starting to finish,” Martin said. “I’ve been working on it a long time. I just needed to raise these funds to get the finish line.”
WATCH: Anderson Monarchs Documentary Trailer