Sundance Development Grant Application

Sundance Development Grant Application

Sundance Development Grant Application

Submitted 8 February.

Below is our application for the Summer 2021 Sundance Development Grant. I was a little thrown off that the actual website application form was so different from the standard grant application instructions floating around so I’m leaving this here in case it’s helpful to other filmmakers.

Note that all answers go into a web form with no options for fancy formatting.

Project Description

Story Summary

Give an overview of your story, introducing the main characters and potential plot points. Describe the anticipated story structure and narrative trajectory, or potential character arcs for your film.

The story will be told through narration, interviews with world-renown experts, original 3D graphics, archival footage, and patient vignettes.

OPENING

It’s been over 50 years since President Nixon declared the War on Cancer and over a decade since President Obama pledged to conquer cancer in our lifetime, yet science is no closer to finding a cure to the second leading cause of death in America – let alone understanding the cause. 

The highly anticipated results of The Cancer Genome Atlas project revealed little but confusion. The once heralded treatments targeting genetic mutations have been found to extend life by only months or weeks – at astronomical patient cost. 

The commonly accepted theory of cancer, that it is a disease of genetic mutation, has failed to generate meaningful results and instead spiraled deeper and deeper into complexity and expensive, whack-a-mole treatments.

OTTO WARBURG & THE ORIGINS OF THE METABOLIC THEORY

A century ago, Nobel laureate Otto Warburg discovered a simple, unifying feature of all cancers:  broken cellular metabolism that leads to cancer’s insatiable need for glucose, or sugar. His discovery, known as the Warburg Effect, is the foundation for the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan used as today’s primary cancer diagnostic tool. 

Although there is no question that Warburg’s discoveries are correct, they were marginalized, then forgotten, as research interest and funding focused on the sexier field of cancer genetics.

NEW RESEARCH

A new vanguard of scientists are resurrecting Warburg’s theories and generating shocking but unequivocal evidence that deranged cellular metabolism is indeed the primary cause of cancer. Since the publication of Dr. Thomas Seyfried’s Cancer as a Metabolic Disease in 2012, interest in this research has blossomed despite funding challenges and resistance from the establishment.

THE EVOLUTIONARY MODEL

It is magical and mysterious that such an allegedly random assortment of genetic mutations can occur so frequently and manifest as a disease with such consistent features, or “Hallmarks,” as cancer. In fact, randomness may have nothing to do with it.

The recently proposed atavistic model shows how cancer may be an evolutionary reversion to single cell behavioral programming stored deep in our DNA. Single-celled life displays the same hallmarks and the same metabolic features as cancer. 

THE FUTURE OF CANCER TREATMENT

These findings aren’t just theory. They are saving lives now.

Therapies to target cancer’s damaged metabolism, all of which can be used in conjunction with conventional standard of care, have become increasingly common in the cancer community due to emerging animal research, human case studies, and anecdotal reports of astonishing healing. 

Research for these therapies is struggling for funding and exposure. The large-scale human trials needed for FDA approval can cost over a billion dollars. Low-cost and lifestyle-based metabolic treatments don’t have the profit potential to justify the investment. Nevertheless, through non-profits and patient-funded trials, the first human clinical trial results are beginning to be published – and they are inspiring.

THE EVOLUTION OF CANCER RESEARCH

More research is needed to determine the efficacy of metabolic therapies for cancer – but that research deserves to be prioritized. 

The nature of science is to continually evolve. New theories replace old ones as new evidence becomes available. We cannot allow the entrenched dogma of the genetic model of cancer to prevent science from moving forward and saving lives.

The film will dissolve into a powerful montage of published case study subjects and other vetted survivors who have far outlived their prognosis using safe, low cost metabolic therapies.

Topic Summary

Explain the relevant cultural, historical, political, or social context for the film. Detail the topics, issues, themes, challenges, stakes, or questions that your project will cover.

One month after my 40th birthday I was diagnosed with terminal, stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to my eye, liver, four tumors in my brain, and more than a dozen lymph nodes throughout my chest, neck and abdomen. My prognosis of six to eight months with conventional treatment seemed optimistic. My doctors were focused on making me comfortable. I was dying.

One year later I was cancer free.

In that intervening year I devoted myself to studying the metabolic theory of cancer and researching the cutting-edge, evidence-based therapies that are just now being published. I contacted the heads of promising studies and was a nagging voice in their email inbox. I attended scientific conferences and met with the doctors and scientists who are shifting the cancer paradigm. I’m proud to now consider them my friends.

When I finally achieved complete remission, coloring my overwhelming joy was burning anger that so few people are aware of these published lifesaving treatments — including most oncologists. It’s not their fault. Current metabolic therapies involve lifestyle treatments that can’t be patented and inexpensive, off-label drugs whose patents have already expired. There are no cute pharmaceutical reps to evangelize them to doctors or conglomerates paying for slick TV ads with terrifying disclaimers. Instead, there is study after study quietly published in journals some doctors probably haven’t read since medical school. Those who are aware of the research are unable to recommend therapies that aren’t FDA approved standard of care without risks to their practice.

I recognize that I am incredibly privileged to have the background, education and interest that allowed me to wade through oceans of research to find the science that works.

Survival shouldn’t only be for the privileged.

This film will make the latest cutting-edge research, described by the researchers and illustrated with beautiful graphics, accessible and understandable to the broader community that deserves the same chance at survival.

I have been intimately connected with this community since my diagnosis in 2018 through my blog properties, newsletter, Instagram and one-on-one cancer coaching practice. This project was born from my community’s continually voiced need for a simple, easily digestible explanation of the metabolic theory of cancer and the associated evidence-based therapies. I’m so excited to be able to deliver.

Director’s Statement

Explain who you are as a filmmaker, and if applicable, how this film is expanding or evolving your creative practice. What does success look like for you as an artist? What challenges are you facing? (up to 500 words)

During this past month on the road filming interviews, I’ve received two joyful announcements of remission from women with stage 4 disease who had previously contacted me for help leveraging metabolic therapy. I’ve also mourned the passing of a friend who was younger than me and diagnosed months after me but wasn’t convinced of these treatments. She believed that, if they were valid, she would have already heard about them.

I’m driven by a moral obligation to make this information known to as many as possible. Given my decades of experience in digital media, I had a general understanding of the attention economy but didn’t fully comprehend how profoundly corporate and institutional gatekeepers control access to information and how easily a filter bubble can transform a human life.

I began my mission with a blog and social media presence that grew quickly before I sought training and certification to provide coaching to those interested in pursuing these treatments but unable to find support. Interaction with my community has made it clear that this documentary is urgently needed. Frighteningly, misinformation and confusion are becoming more accessible than fact-based science.

My driving goal is to raise awareness of marginalized but evidence-based metabolic cancer therapies that can be used in conjunction with conventional treatment and can save lives now. Each life extended or improved is my measure of success.  

Secondary, but still incredibly rewarding, is the opportunity to share a story that is, frankly, captivating in its ability to simultaneously entertain and educate, inform and enrage. 

There have been challenges in navigating this period of production and trying to complete work as quickly as I can while juggling neurological disability, frequent mild seizures, and the need to break regularly to treat my post-treatment brain radiation necrosis. So far, so good and I love every moment.

I hope that this documentary is only the beginning. I’ve learned so much on my journey that I’m eager to share. Filmmaking has become my life’s purpose and I’m forever grateful for this opportunity. I intend to continue weaving together science and cinematic beauty into stories that help people improve their health for as long as I’m able.

Artistic Approach

Describe your creative vision for the finished project. What are the visual and audio elements that will bring your film to life? Explain your intended use of cinematic language or any particular artistic approach that informs the storytelling. Describe your creative process.(up to 500 words)

Shot in 6k resolution and finished in 4k, this documentary will be unique in its powerfully dramatic, cinematic approach that will prove that cellular metabolism is anything but boring.

Immersive 3D graphics will make biology concepts simple to understand but magical to behold. The visual language will draw a parallel between the cellular and the cosmic. Rather than focusing on the exact chemical processes behind the metabolic theory of cancer, I’ll illustrate a simplified version that focuses on the essential purpose of those interactions and thrill of scientific discovery. The viewer experience will be more akin to looking through a microscope or telescope than flipping through a textbook. I’m in the midst of finalizing a partnership with Random42, an exceptional medical animation studio with a deep portfolio of documentary work, to provide the graphics.

A sweeping original score by Clearside Music will emphasize the dramatic, life-and-death stakes of the research being presented. The style, reminiscent of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, will reinforce the almost sci-fi feeling of the research being presented and the urgency of bringing it to light.

The camera moves and cinematic lighting will add energy and intensity to expert interviews, avoiding dull “talking heads.”

The humbling credentials of the world-renowned experts reporting on their published research will underscore the credibility of my thesis that science must evolve in the face of new evidence. 

Short “video diary”-style, self-recorded vignettes from cancer patients and caregivers will connect the science to the real world experience of the more than half of Americans affected by cancer. These vignettes will serve as a reminder that this isn’t an ivory tower academic exercise. Real human lives are at stake now.

Narration will assist with the exposition and transition of themes, as well as explanation of some cellular processes. While I felt it important to feature the actual scientists at the forefront of this research, these scientists are overwhelmingly older white men. In contrast, people of color are disproportionately affected by the issues of nutritional and medical access discussed. I do not want to create the perception that this is a white person problem or, worse, a white person solution. In addition to representing diverse cancer patients in the vignettes, it’s very important to me to connect with a narrator from a traditionally underrepresented community to serve as our guide through the story. 

Overall, the experience of viewing this documentary will be as dramatic, thrilling and inclusive as the future of cancer that is being reshaped.

Project Stage and Timeline

Explain the current status of the project. Outline the projected production timeline from the project’s current state to the anticipated completion date. Your timeline should detail major project activities, production schedules, and anticipated post-production and release dates. If you have applied to this fund previously, please share how your project has progressed.

I am currently in mid-production and have filmed 7 of 13 interviews. Two of the 13 have been postponed until May 2021 due to COVID restrictions but this will not affect the final schedule. The first trailer will premiere May 2021 with the intention of attracting an A-list narrator. The rough cut will be ready in July and the final documentary will be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival in September for premiere January 2022.

PRE-PRODUCTION – COMPLETE
Oct 2020-Jan 2021: Research, outreach to featured experts, purchase and training on equipment, scheduling, outlining

PRODUCTION – IN PROGRESS
Jan 2021: Northern & Eastern US interviews (Christofferson, Seyfried, Weinberg, Kelley, Apple, Meakin, Poff) – Complete
Mar 2021: Western US interviews (Kalamian, Scheck, Davies, Winters, Longo), Canadian interview (Fung), Final patient video diaries collected and vetted

POST-PRODUCTION
May 2021: First theatrical trailer complete
Jul 2021: Rough cut complete
Aug 2021: All graphics delivered, Score delivered, Final cut complete
Sep 2021: Sound mixing & online

MARKETING & DISTRO
Jan 2021: Launch website and social media – Complete
May 2021: Trailer premiere
Sep 2021: Submit to Sundance
Dec 2021: Engage publicist & agent; launch content and social marketing campaign
Jan 2022: Premiere at Sundance
2022: Festival circuit, secure distribution

COVID-19 considerations*

Please reflect on how COVID-19 has impacted your film and how you plan on moving the project forward with COVID-specific limitations in place.

I’m writing this from an AirBnB in the Florida panhandle, far from my home in Seattle but on track to complete interviews as scheduled. COVID-19 considerations added a unique challenge given my history of lung cancer. Nevertheless, this story cannot wait to be told and, if anything, the pandemic makes it more urgent.

To reduce COVID-19 risk, I filmed using a two person crew from the same household (my husband and me) who travelled cross country by car. Interviews were held in large, loft-style warehouses where we were masked and 6 feet from the subject at all times. These considerations increased costs relative to shooting in less well-ventilated locations and limited our laboratory B-roll options.

Over half of the planned interviews are done; enough to make this film. I intend to complete the remaining interviews following the same precautions as above. My interview with Dr. Jason Fung in Toronto is the primary risk due to Canadian travel restrictions.

COVID restrictions are not expected to interfere with any post-production or marketing activities. Even in cases where conferences and festivals are closed, I’m confident that my team and I can effectively market online.

Intended Audience

Describe the audience you’d like your film to reach and why. How do you plan to reach your target audience?

This film is intended for anyone whose life has been affected by cancer, especially the one in two American men and one in three American women who will be diagnosed in their lifetime and their loved ones.

I have been intimately connected with this community since my diagnosis in 2018 through:

  • My blog properties, including cancerV.me, totally over 40k monthly average users
  • My newsletter with over 1k subscribers
  • My Instagram, @mostlyveganketo, with over 19k engaged followers
  • My one-on-one cancer and nutrition coaching practice, Jones Wellness

This project is a response to my community’s clear need for a simple, easily digestible explanation of the science behind the metabolic theory of cancer and the associated evidence-based therapies. 

I’m also fortunate to have high-profile supporters, including the authors featured in this film, who are eager to promote it to their audiences. Other synergistic partnerships are planned focusing on exposure through social media marketing, content marketing, guest posting, podcasts, and traditional earned media leveraging both my personal contacts in the media industry and those of the publicist I hire in the months leading up to premier.

Impact

Required for applicants applying for funding through the Sundance Institute | Kendeda Fund only. What is your impact strategy? What are your social, cultural, or policy change goals? How are you building partnerships with organizations in your issue area? 

A substantial percentage of any profits will be donated to the Foundation for Metabolic Cancer Therapies to further research in this field.

My hope is to premiere concurrently with the launch of a website and database to help people find medical practitioners in their area who offer integrative metabolic cancer treatment. My connection to the Metabolic Health Initiative, the Foundation for Metabolic Cancer Therapies, and The Charlie Foundation will help facilitate this.

Key Creative Personnel

Provide brief biographies for the director(s), and if attached, the producer(s), cinematographer, and/or editor. For each key creative team member, include information about relevant expertise and the individual’s role in the project. Bullet list names and titles of any confirmed advisors who are attached.

MAGGIE JONES, Director & Executive Producer

Maggie Jones has over 20 years of media experience, most recently as Vice President of Newsroom Systems for South China Morning Post and Vice President of Product for Tribune Publishing and the Los Angeles Times. Her work in journalism has honed her keen nose for a good story. She is a stage 4 cancer thriver who credits metabolic therapies, along with conventional targeted therapy, with miraculously prolonging her life, which she has now dedicated to raising awareness of metabolic therapies.

BRAD JONES, Editor & Producer

Brad Jones has over 20 years of editing experience and has worked on everything from a Peabody Award winning documentary to the highest-rated shows ever on MTV and CMT. 

ADDITIONAL ADVISORS

  • DANIEL LOYD, Assistant Editor
  • WARREN HENDRIKS, Sound Designer
  • CURTIS FRITSCH, Sound Editor
  • CAPACITY STUDIOS, 3D Graphics Consulting
  • Music by CLEARSIDE MUSIC

ATTACHED EXPERTS

  • SAM APPLE
    Author of Ravenous: Otto Warburg, the Nazis, and the Search for the Cancer-Diet Connection and “An Old Idea, Revived: Starve Cancer to Death.”
  • TRAVIS CHRISTOFFERSON 
    Author, Tripping over the Truth, Curable and Ketones: The Fourth Fuel and Founder of the Foundation for Metabolic Therapies
  • PAUL DAVIES, PhD
    Legendary physicist, astrobiologist and co-originator of atavistic model of cancer
  • JASON FUNG, MD
    Author of The Cancer Code, The Obesity Code, The Diabetes Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting and Managing Director of the Public Health Collaboration (Canada)
  • MIRIAM KALAMIAN, EdM, MS, CNS
    Author of Keto for Cancer 
  • JESS KELLEY, MNT, ONC
    Co-author of The Metabolic Approach to Cancer and founder of Remission Nutrition
  • VALTER LONGO, PhD
    Author of The Longevity Diet and cancer researcher at University of Southern California
  • CHARLES MEAKIN, MD 
    Medical Director, Care Oncology Clinic
  • ANGELA POFF, PhD
    Co-founder of the Metabolic Health Initiative and cancer researcher at University of South Florida
  • THOMAS SEYFRIED, PhD
    Author of The Metabolic Theory of Cancer and cancer researcher at Boston College
  • ADRIENNE SCHECK, PhD 
    Cancer researcher at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Phoenix Children’s Hospital
  • ROBERT WEINBERG, PhD 
    Legendary cancer researcher at MIT, discoverer of the first human oncogene, discoverer of the first human tumor suppressor gene, and co-author of the seminal “Hallmarks of Cancer,” the most cited cancer research paper of all time. 
  • NASHA WINTERS, ND
    Co-author of The Metabolic Approach to Cancer and Program Medical Director of Pow(H)er Program global healthcare authority.

Fundraising Strategy & Grant Impact

Fundraising Strategy

Describe the overall fundraising strategy for the film.

I committed to starting this film with my personal savings to demonstrate that I have a story that needs to be told, the access to highly credible sources, and the production chops to make it compelling.

Now I’m seeking resources to make it as good as it can be in order to secure wide-distribution and reach as many as possible who can benefit. Moving forward, I’ll depend on rolling grants and donations to cover the costs of each stage through the end of production, post-production and marketing.

I’m asking the Sundance Institute for $40,000 to cover most post-production costs. (The majority of graphics costs are expected to be covered by an Epic MegaGrant.)

Even partial funding would be incredibly impactful to improving this film. With a more finished film to showcase and the prestige of a Sundance grant of any amount, I feel confident in securing additional funding to cover any final post-production details, marketing and promotion through grants, private donations and crowdfunding.

Grant Impact

Should you receive a grant, describe how any granted funds would be spent and how the funds would help you move forward with your project.

This grant will be used to fund the final production and post-production services that will make this story more engaging and accessible. This includes:

MATERIALS RELEASE
I’ll depend primarily on original B-roll or fair use archival footage but need assistance paying for a small amount of stock, news archival and laboratory footage.

SOUND EDITING
I’ve attached an award-winning sound designer and experienced sound editor to clean up audio and add sound effects to make the visuals even more engaging. This grant will pay their discounted rates.

ORIGINAL SCORE
I’ve attached an experienced film musician. This grant will pay his discounted rate.

EDITING SYSTEM AND ONLINE
I’m shooting in 6k resolution raw format for maximum production quality and flexibility but need financial assistance for color correction, online and output.

VOICEOVER RECORDING
I’m optimistic about securing an A-list narrator willing to donate his or her talent to this cause. The grant will go towards studio costs of recording voiceover.

STARTUP GRAPHICS
An Epic MegaGrant is expected to cover the majority if graphics but some Sundance funds may be used for early mock-ups.

Even partial funding will allow for a better final film with improved chances of impactful distribution.

Work Sample

Current Sample

Production and post-production applications require a sample that demonstrates characters, story arc or structure, and visual treatment. This should also reflect the current stage of the project. Production applicants must provide a minimum of 10 minutes of edited footage. Post-production applicants must provide a minimum of 20 minutes of edited footage.

What should reviewers be looking for in your sample? Explain what is present and absent in the sample, and how it will differ as a finished film. Describe how it is representative of the intended story, style, subject, or other aspect of the project.

This current sample was cut while my husband and I are on the road filming interviews. While five days of frantically transferred and pieced together footage is in no way representative of the final film quality, it does demonstrate:

  • The quality of interview footage that is being captured.
  • A sample of the original music.
  • Some of the topics that will be addressed within the story.
  • My ability to convey science through a story (Otto Warburg/ Warburg Effect story starting 0:11) and that I have a story to tell (raw hard cuts starting 8:27)

Not representative are:

  • Color correction, sound design, sound editing, graphics, coverage & b-roll. Note that the graphics are not representative of the science being described but reflect the style of art we’re planning. 
  • Pullaways to explain the science are missing.
  • Presentation of patient vignettes is not as planned. 
  • Voiceover and script. The finished film will have a less neurologically-impaired narrator.
  • The rest of the story. Being mid-production with intense time constraints means I can only offer a small taste of the story that is taking shape. It’s very rough and extremely early but the story is there.

Prior Work

As a first-time film director, I’m submitting previous, documentary-style work by editor and producer Brad Jones. This sample demonstrates Jones’s ability to integrate interviews with archival footage, graphics and driving music into a coherent and exciting narrative that is able to maintain interest and reset topics through changes in pace. The topic of science fiction presented in this sample isn’t too far removed from the stranger-than-fiction science presented in the documentary.

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