Monday, May 20, 2013

The severed leg, the huckster and the documentary

Folks with long memories, strong stomachs and a penchant for the bizarre will remember an incident six years ago in Maiden, where the purchaser of a grill found a severed human leg in it. A custody battle ensued, with the buyer charging people to view the cut-off limb and the, owner demanding it be sent back to him so he could be buried "a whole man."

"Finders Keepers" is a possible response, if a bit of a heartless one, to this dispute. It's also the title of a feature-length documentary now in production and asking for $80,000 in finishing funds at Kickstarter. The filmmakers have to raise all the money or accept none of the donations. (See

I seldom mention movies on that site, because there may be countless locally-themed entries at any time, and many will never be made. But this comes with a pedigree: Producer Ed Cunningham did the Oscar-winning feature "Undefeated," about an underdog football team trying to reverse its losing trend, and "The King of Kong," about two guys locked in a mad war to prove themselves the greatest Donkey Kong players alive.

He and director Bryan Carberry met on the 2010 documentary "Make Believe," about six magicians competing for the title of Teen World Champion. (Carberry didn't direct that one but held various production jobs.) They decided the story of amputee John Wood and purchaser Shannon Whisnant needed to be told. They've already shot thousands of feet of footage and are now keen to finish the project.

Naturally, they focused on the confrontation between the two, which led to a lawsuit and an appearance in front of TV judge Greg Mathis. (No spoilers here, folks.) But they learned about the stories behind the publicized battles, including Wood's desire to keep the leg as a memorial to his late father and Whisnant's attempts to use this bizarre windfall to escape a difficult life.

If you want to back this effort, you can spend as little as $10 (which earns you a thanks on their website) or as much as $10,000 or more. That buys you an executive producer credit, two tickets to the world premiere and after-party, and the right to view two rough cuts of the film along the way and offer advice to the filmmakers about how to improve it.

As I say, I don't recommend contributions to Kickstarter projects or any others in this space. But I enjoyed "King of Kong" and have a powerful curiosity about "Finders Keepers," now that I've heard more about it. I'll get to see the end product if enough donors give Carberry and Cunningham a leg up.