"The Gleason Project" (working title), a feature-length documentary celebrating former NFL defensive back and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) activist Steve Gleason, announced its partnership with IMG, a global leader in sports, fashion and media.
IMG has come on board as Executive Producer to help finance the film and develop marketing initiatives with brands and media companies that will increase awareness for the documentary, Gleason's activism, and ALS itself.
Seth Gordon, producer of the Academy Award-winning documentary "Undefeated," will produce "The Gleason Project," which will be directed by J. Clay Tweel ("Print the Legend").
"The Gleason Project" will also benefit from continued support from Microsoft, which is working to investigate technology that can empower people living with ALS.
Gleason played for The New Orleans Saints from 2000-2008. In 2011, at the age of 34, he was diagnosed with ALS and given two to five years to live. That same year, Gleason learned that his wife, Michel, was pregnant, and began recording video journals to share with his unborn son as a chronicle of his life and love. Simultaneously, Gleason committed to continue living his life to the fullest, and has since made incredible strides working alongside leaders in technology and science to help develop new treatments and identify a cure. More than 1,000 hours of intimate footage, from heartfelt scenes to adventures at Machu Picchu, will now become "The Gleason Project."
"I believe part of my purpose is to inspire others; to live life to its fullest, to overcome adversity, and to explore what is truly possible. I believe this film, and the story it tells, is a product of my purpose," said Gleason.
Gleason is considered one of the world's most recognizable advocates living with ALS, building on the legacy of MLB Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig, who began his courageous battle in 1939 and brought global attention to the debilitating disease.
"Very few individuals are brave and tenacious enough to accomplish all that Steve has in their entire lifetime. The fact that he has become a one-man catalyst for a global movement in just four years is absolutely incredible, and we are extremely proud to help bring 'The Gleason Project' to audiences around the world," said Mark Shapiro, IMG's Chief Content Officer. "Steve's universal message of resilience and hope, told through the lens of a sports hero, is directly in line with our mission of supporting sports and entertainment content that has the ability to create meaningful change."
"We are proud to continue our work with Steve and are honored to support the upcoming documentary about his amazing journey," said Chris Capossela, Microsoft's Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. "Like Steve, Microsoft believes in the power of technology to empower people all around the world to accomplish amazing things, and we look forward to continuing to do important work together."
"The Gleason Project" was unveiled at an exclusive preview in Venice, CA on Thursday, April 23. Maria Bello, Clay Tweel, Seth Gordon, Pat Quinn, Rich Eisen, Eric Johnson, and Jessica Simpson were among the attendees at the event intended to help raise awareness and additional support for the film and Gleason's ongoing activism.
Seth Gordon started in documentary film as the director of "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters." Chronicling the intense rivalry between two Donkey Kong aficionados, the film won Best Documentary awards at a number of festivals. In 2012, Gordon produced "Undefeated," which took home the 2012 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature. He also executive produced "MITT" and "Print the Legend" which recently premiered on Netflix. Gordon has also directed the feature films "Horrible Bosses" and "Identity Thief."
"Clay and I have worked together throughout our documentary careers and I'm thrilled to support him in what will be a very special and powerful film," said Gordon.
Clay Tweel's directorial debut, "Make Believe," won the 2010 LA Film Festival Grand Jury prize for Best Documentary before airing on Showtime networks. Additionally, Tweel was a director on last year's award winning "Print the Legend" and premiered his latest documentary, "Finders Keepers," at Sundance 2015, were it was picked up by the Orchard for distribution.
"I am extremely humbled and excited to be a part of this amazing team of people who are coming together to tell Steve's story," said Tweel. "I was drawn to this project by Steve's determination and honesty which gives us the ability to explore the challenges of this disease on a very personal level."
Kimi Culp and Kevin Lake are also producing "The Gleason Project." For over 15 years, Culp has worked as a producer and story developer for NBC, ABC, and "The Oprah Winfrey Show." She has negotiated exclusive interviews for some of the most prominent names in journalism including Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters, and most recently was a partner at Long Story Media, a short form content and creative consulting company. Lake is a film and branded entertainment executive who created and is currently producing "Playing It Forward" with Robert Downey Jr., a series of unannounced street performances by superstar artists to raise money for music education in public schools. The series recently launched with John Legend and the Imagine Dragons.
WME and UTA will handle distribution rights on behalf of the filmmakers. The film is scheduled to be released in early 2016.
About "The Gleason Project"
"The Gleason Project" (working title), is a feature-length documentary film and social action campaign celebrating former NFL defensive back and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) activist Steve Gleason. The film will be drawn from more than a thousand hours of intimate and breathtaking footage filmed over 4 years. "The Gleason Project" will produce a groundbreaking film and share it with millions of people around the world, and create a community that celebrates the gift of fatherhood and advances technology to unlock the human potential of those living with a disability. From online digital engagement and targeted events and screenings, companies and individuals will be empowered to become part of a movement, using both the power of one and the power of collective action to make a difference. "The Gleason Project" executive team is Brett Brewer, Kimi Culp, Scott Fujita, Kevin Lake, Tom Lavia & Thomas McEachin.
Photos from 2014 Gleason Gras at Champions Square. Photos by Alex Restrepo. (New Orleans Saints photos)