An interesting development on this project that I was informed of over the weekend (thanks Christine!).

For those who’ve been wondering what the status of the Taraji P. Henson sports drama, From The Rough, is, and whether you’ll get the chance to see it eventually, well, it’s still not very clear. 

Last I reported on this, in May, courtesy of a report from Main Line Media News in Ardmore, PA, where the film was apparently scheduled to screen, here’s what we learned:

The film was shown at some film festivals and awards events in 2011, and, in its current version, is being prepared for theatrical release in 2014. Its Ardmore screening will be the first time it is seen in the Philadelphia area, Critelli said. Its next showing here will be in July, during the National Urban League conference, hosted by the Urban League of Philadelphia. Critelli said the current version runs 92 minutes, trimming about 25 minutes, and focuses even more clearly on the coach’s character and “her transformation as a leader and mentor to young people.”

The National Urban League Conference in Philly, took place from July 24-27th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Over the weekend, I learned that an IndieGoGo campaign was set up by the film’s producer/financier Mr Michael Critelli, to raise $500,000 to help with the film’s release. But with 7 days left, the campaign has raised just over $3400, not even 1% of the goal. So, clearly, with a week to go, I don’t think this will be a successful campaign.

Here’s what’s written on the campaign’s page:

The movie is complete and ready to be released. We are just beginning our awareness building programs.  

We need your help to get the movie out into theaters in America and across the globe. The money we raise through this program will enable more theaters to show the movie and so more people can be inspired by Coach Starks. It costs us over $1,000 just to get the movie onto each big screen. 

Every pledge is one more fan, one more person who wants to send a message to Hollywood, to distributors, to prospective investors, and to exhibitors that movies like From The Rough have broad appeal and need to be supported.  

As a thank you for your generous pledges, we have put together some exclusive and exciting ‘perks’ for you, including:

    • Having your name on the movie and DVD credits 
    • A phone call from one of the movie’s stars
    • VIP access to a movie premiere and after-party

We understand that not everyone can contribute monetarily. There are other ways to help out! Please help us and get involved by spreading the word about our movie. Please visit the website and sign up to receive our newsletter, like and share our Facebook page, follow us onTwitter, and spread the word to all your friends and family.

I checked out the film’s Facebook page to find questions from fans, asking when the film will be released – questions posed as recently as last week. The reply from the film’s Facebook fan page staff is that the film will be out by the end of this year, and that a date will be announced eventually.

Assuming they are depending on the $500,000 IndieGoGo campaign goal, to release the film later this year, the release outlook doesn’t look all-that great right now.

Recall that this is the film which was at the center of a battle for control between director Pierre Bagley and financier/producer Critelli, which was documented on this blog.

With regards to that, let me briefly bring you up to speed.

We’ve been following the film’s progress since 2010/2011, and so there’s a lengthy dramatic back-story to this, which I really don’t want to revisit, but I’ll see what I can do in as brief a write-up as I can.

From the last conversation I had with Mr Bagley, early in 2012, the film’s producer/financier, Mr Critelli, was the primary roadblock in getting the film out. Bagley stated that Critelli believed that the film could be a wide-reaching, commercial hit, and he intended to act on some revisions that will “broaden” its appeal. Clearly Mr Critelli did just that.

I should note that the film’s release date had already been pushed back at least once. It was initially announced that it would be released in 2011.

From my conversation with Bagley, it was clear to me that he believed the film, as it was, already had some broad appeal, given the international cast, which also includes Tom Felton – “Draco Malfoy” of Harry Potter fame – who, as I’m told, has quite a large following given the global success of that film’s franchise. Although Bagley did say that the target audience for the film is the “urban female market,” and it tested very well with that group in preview screenings of the film, scoring quite high marks.

It was also clear to me that Bagley wanted to get the film released and in theaters without any further tinkering, and was doing what was within his power at the time, to see that objective eventually met.

This was a battle between both gentlemen – Bagley the director and Critelli the financier – that began in the summer of 2011. Up until then, Bagley said that he and Critelli were clicking on all fronts; there weren’t any problems; Critelli’s desire to “broaden” the film’s reach wasn’t even part of the conversation then.

But something obviously happened along the way to influence Critelli’s solo decision-change; and that something, Bagley told me, was Critelli’s family – the wealthy family who coughed up the $6 million to fund the flick.

Overtime, Bagley said that Critelli’s position hardened; he couldn’t quite articulate his position and intent, other than he wanted to “broaden” the movie’s appeal, and he said he’d find someone to assist him on that, eventually bringing in Michael Uslan, who served as producer or exec producer on almost every Batman movie that had been made until then, since Tim Burton’s 1989 film. Although it wasn’t entirely clear what Uslan’s influence was to be here.

Bagley of course wanted final cut; it’s his vision, and he believed that, unlike the business-minded Critelli, he, Bagley, had the necessary creative sensibilites, and was more in touch with the film’s target audience. And so, as Bagley saw it, this had become very much a matter of that age-old industry question we ask from time to time: who gets to tell, or who has creative control over “our” (as in black) stories? Critelli is white; Bagley is Black, if it’s not already clear by now.

Critelli is also former CEO of Pitney Bowes. He retired from the company in 2008.

I asked Pierre where it all stood the last time we spoke, and he said Critelli had likely already begun work on making the changes he felt would “broaden” the film’s reach (Critelli’s son co-wrote the screenplay along with Bagley, by the way).

And what did Critelli have to say in response to all this? Read on below:

I am extremely passionate about the film and the story and want it released broadly, because of how Coach Starks indirectly made a profoundly positive difference in my younger son’s life. My son’s white, Swedish chess coach, who made him believe that anything was possible and inspired him to become a national chess champion, learned a great deal about how to coach young people from being one of Coach Starks’ golfers. I found this story in 2004, and, over the next 5 1/2 years spent several hundred thousand dollars acquiring the right to film it, developing the story, and getting multiple drafts of a screenplay produced. My older son ultimately produced the screenplay on which the film is based. It is a project that has engaged every member of my family, including my daughter, whose harp playing appears on the soundtrack. All of the $7.5 million provided to produce, edit, and promote the film has come from me. Because of how much I admire Coach Starks, I want her story to be presented on thousands of movie screens and to be seen by as many people as possible. I want the film to be as timeless as a Hoosiers is for basketball or a Remember the Titans is for football. I want it to honor her work as much as possible. Getting the movie to be as good as it can be is financially and creatively challenging. It is not a science, but an art, which is why more than 8 of every 10 films lose money for people like me who pay to get the film produced. One reason films lose money is that people in my position only begin to get paid after the theaters or other direct retailers to consumers get their money, after the distributors take their share, after the performers get box office bonuses, and, in the case of non-theatrical revenues, after performers and production crew members receive pension and residual contributions. Most of my investment also comes behind those who would propose to provide funding to get the film into broad-based theatrical release, which, in this case, is well over $10 million, and which we do not yet have. Given the exceptionally high risk of any film investment, I want to be as confident as possible that we have the best and most commercially viable film we can have before we release it. No external investor has made an offer to me to provide the millions of dollars needed for broad advertising, distribution, and screening in over 1,000 theaters. Although I have received extensive feedback about potential changes to the film to make it more commercially attractive, whether changes will be made, and what changes might be made, should not be discussed in a public forum. These subjects are better addressed privately between business and creative partners. What will always guide me is my sense of duty to those who gave their best efforts to the film as production and creative people, investors, Coach Starks, those whose lives she transformed, and those who will pay to see the film when it is released. I am highly confident that this film will get released and be successful when it is as good as it can be.

I should note that, I was invited to screen the film by Critelli’s reps, if only to see exactly what his concerns with the movie were at the time, but that never happened. I don’t recall why exactly. There’s an email trail that ends in March 2012. So I haven’t seen it.

I also asked Mr Bagley about Taraji P Henson’s involvement in this, since she is the star of the film, and has a rather large following. He said, at the time, that Taraji, who would get a substantial piece of the back-end, was aware of the situation, but he hadn’t asked her to get involved. I’m not sure how much she could really do, even if she did get involved. Money and control seemed to favor Critelli.

It’s also not clear if Pierre Bagley is still involved at all. The changes Michael Critelli wanted to make appear to have been made, but Bagley’s name is still on the project as far as I know.

It looks like they’ll be self-releasing the film, or maybe releasing via some sort of service deal with AMC Independent or Freestyle Releasing. Or maybe Robert Johnson’s Image Entertainment, or Jeff Clangan’s/Lionsgate’s CodeBlack will pick it up.

By the way, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that the late Michael Clarke Duncan co-stars in the film. As do Letoya Luckett, Henry Simmons, and others.

There you have it! I’ll be on alert for any updates on release dates, cities, and I’m sure a new trailer will be cut.