Producers for the faith-based feature film, "Kind Katie," about the life of Ringgold teen Katie Beth Carter, recently launched an online equity crowdfunding campaign to finance the picture.
Carter, an 18-year-old college student adored by all who knew her, lost her life in September 2016 in a car accident while returning to Jacksonville State University in Alabama after visiting her family in Ringgold over Labor Day weekend.
The community was and is still devastated by the loss of the of its daughter, friend, and dancer who dedicated her life to helping and loving others.
Katie Beth's impact on everyone she knew was beautiful and powerful, and quickly evolving into a movie project for Atlanta-based producer Jon Graham, who says Carter's story is one he gravitated to immediately.
"When we learned of her death, we were of course devastated," Graham said. "She was an ordinary girl who did a lot of extraordinary things. We thought, 'wow, this is a story that really needs to be told'."
The movie tells the true-life story of Carter, who dreamed of becoming a Marching Ballerina at Jacksonville State. Unexpected disappointments and challenges filled her senior year of high school and seemed to derail those dreams, but instead led her to a life of greater impact. She made the team and danced in one university game before her death.
Graham says he didn't know Katie Beth, but knew the family having attended college with Carter's parents, Jason and Amy. Graham even officiated the couple's wedding years earlier.
The story of Carter's passing hit local media outlets due to how beloved the teen was. Both Jacksonville State and Heritage High School held vigils with hundreds of people in attendance.
"She was just so good to everybody and really loved people," Graham said.
Graham says what really got the idea to make a movie about Carter rolling was how much people supported her family and her memory after the tragedy occurred.
Singer Taylor Swift donated $5,000 to assist with the family's funeral expenses, and local Catoosa County students pushed a fundraising effort to build a school in Carter's honor in Nicaragua.
"What got my wheels turning was all the big stuff that came out of that," Graham said. "She meant so much to so many people."
Graham and his business partner, Joshua Sims, are currently in the process of raising funds for the "Kind Katie" movie, which allows for investment rather than straight donations as is the case with a lot of crowdfunding efforts.
"We are the first faith-based film using equity crowdfunding," Graham said. "Typically, you make a donation and you get some sort of recognition. With equity it’s an SEC-regulated investment opportunity."
Graham says before the equity launch, the "Kind Katie" team had raised nearly $85,000 since October of last year toward its $1 million goal.
"Our production budget is about a million dollars," Graham said. "We've raised $70,000 on the portal and an additional $15,000 to go with it."
Graham said he plans to film in the communities where Katie Beth grew and flourished as a person.
"We went to Nicaragua in February and filmed a little documentary about the school that was named after her, and we plan to film in Catoosa County when we're funded, so that it'll bring money back into the community," Graham explained.
The 18-minute documentary, which can be found on KindKatie.com, features footage from Katie Beth's childhood, as well as interviews with friends, family, teachers, and residents of Nicaragua.
Graham added that his team will hold a reception for investors later this month in Ringgold.
"We are going to be having a reception for investors on April 24th at Patriot Hall," Graham said. "We’re looking for folks who are really interesting in possible bigger investments; product placement, local hangout, restaurants, things like that to highlight those opportunities.
Graham says that shooting won't begin until the film is completely funded. When it's done, he hopes people will support the movie like the have the Carter family.
"It needs national attention and I hope its as successful a film as I can imagine," Graham said. "We have 250 investors from 34 states so far, so it’s nice to see a nationwide support. When we have a film to distribute, that's when we'll need people to tell all their friends and get them to a theatre...we’ll have a little army."
Updates and information about the film's progress can be found on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/kindkatiemovie/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1883612108552370), or at KindKatie.com.