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Kickstarting Columbine: Wounded Minds

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You might not think to use the same word to describe Columbine survivor Samuel Granillo, comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.

But now you can: Kickstarter.

From first-time, amateur filmmakers to the Hollywood establishment, Kickstarter has become a viable funding mechanism for projects at any level. Since its inception in 2009, more than 23,000 film project campaigns have been launched on Kickstarter. Of those 23,000, approximately 8,870 campaigns ended successfully, accounting for more than $88 million.

In their own words, Kickstarter is "a funding platform for creative projects." Projects are created and managed independently. An individual with an idea and Internet access can build a page, set a funding goal and deadline, and come up with a few rewards for donations. The key point is that you need to meet your stated funding goal, or you don't get any of the money pledged. Today, Kickstarter-funded film projects appear at cinema hotspots such as Cannes, Sundance and SXSW.

Goldberg's I Got Somethin' To Tell You is a documentary about a stand-up comedian, Moms Mabley, a pioneering, African-American stand-up comedienne from the early 1960s and '70s. According to an interview with Indiewire.com, Goldberg turned to Kickstarter because, "I have limited funds. I have family. I take care of a lot of people on one check. So I needed some help." Goldberg successfully raised nearly $74,000 for her project.

Kaufman, the writer behind Being John Malkovich and other iconic indie movies, enlisted the website to fund his latest project, Anomalisa, a stop-motion feature about a motivational speaker whose life is hollow and empty. Kaufman launched his Kickstarter campaign as a way to "produce [a] unique and beautiful film outside of the typical Hollywood studio system ..." Kaufman's campaign ended successfully having raised more than $406,000.

Granillo, 30, says his proposed film, Columbine: Wounded Minds, is an attempt "to seek out a solution to find counseling for those directly affected by the shootings of Columbine High School and still experience posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD). We also wish to give a voice to those who went through the event directly, by someone who shared the same experiences." Granillo hopes that this project can help develop a formula to help those in need of mental health counseling find free services.

Granillo, who now works as a freelance camera and production assistant in the film and television industry, hopes to raise about $200,000 for the entire project, but for now, he is attempting to raise $7,000 to travel to Los Angeles for an interview with Richard Castaldo, another Columbine survivor.

In an email sent out prior to the launch of the Kickstarter campaign, Granillo wrote of Castaldo:

His story since has been one of continual struggle as he tries to pursue his dreams in music while struggle with physical and emotional wounds. The financial "help" originally given to him and his family after the shootings has done nothing but bring more tragedy to his life. His story provides an excellent cross section of why the current support plans for survivors are not sustainable or helpful. His dream is to make a difference in the world and we hope to help him get there by making a difference now and helping him find healing.

He states on his campaign website that any additional funds over $7,000 will be used to travel to Newtown, Conn., to interview people there in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. Granillo realized he needed to expand the focus of the film and visit communities such as Newtown in order to "offer support from one surviving group to another."

This is Granillo's second attempt at raising funds for Columbine: Wounded Minds. Although he classified his first attempt as "very successful," the project failed to gain the necessary funds by the allotted deadline. Granillo appears poised to meet the deadline this time. (He has raised almost $6,200, with 12 days to go.)

But nothing was clear on April 20, 1999. Granillo and 17 others spent nearly three hours trapped in a cafeteria closet during the shootings before being rescued by SWAT team members: "We ran past pools of blood and dead bodies as we were moved to safety by police officers and firemen," Granillo writes. "The next several eternal hours were spent finding and reuniting with friends and putting the pieces together. What we discovered, as the night approached, was that some of our closest friends never made it out."

Granillo has a story to tell and appears to have a compelling focus and persistent voice. So why Kickstarter? Granillo wants the story to be about people, for people. Not a "story" to be pitched, molded, packaged and sold. It is about a human spirit that, while indomitable, is still fragile and, at times, poorly understood. It is not a story that some people may not want to hear, but maybe it is one they need to hear.

So far, it seems that the people are speaking. At least on Kickstarter.

Research assistant Charles Trowbridge contributed to this article.