With Glenn Beck poised to help fundraise for Tim and Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), we knew we wouldn’t have much time to acquire funding for the film, and quite honestly we were in a bit of a panic. How would we ever sell an unproven film concept about rescuing helpless children from the clutches of evil? We didn’t even know where to begin. However, Tim’s problem was where to begin, not ours… we needed to find the funding for the project… and if I can be vulnerable for a second, both tasks were monumental and pivotal for the success of one another.
In the early days of O.U.R. there was an impressive Green Beret Medic named Jaron Tree. He approached us suggesting that we meet a friend of his who was running a first aid company called MyMedic. They had recently received an infusion of capital from a mysterious investor, so Jaron thought that perhaps his friend would be willing to connect s. We sat down for dinner and discussed it, Jaron was right… The meeting was set up and a conference call was underway for us to speak to this investor, Ryan Welch.
Chet, Jaron, Ryan, and myself had a meeting over the phone; it was extremely brief as I remember it. There wasn’t any small talk… just straight up, Ryan wanted to know what the opportunity was. We told him the players that were involved with the production, gave a general overview of the project, and proposed a partial investment to help get us going. He immediately asked how much of the project had been funded, we said none of it and that left us in a precarious position to be sure. He wrapped up the meeting by saying “I’m flying in to meet with you guys on Monday” – we had no idea what was in store for us next.
Monday came and Ryan was true to his word. It was September of 2013 when we met in a tall glass building in downtown. We flew Gerald R. Molen in, our Executive Producer, for the meeting and together, Chet, Jerry and myself presented the project to Ryan as best we could. We had very little to back up what we were saying other than our track record as filmmakers and Tim Ballard’s resume with Homeland Security.
I started this blog by saying; “You may not believe in miracles but you will when you finish reading these stories.” Well…
At the end of our presentation Ryan asked when we would need the money. I winced as I informed him that O.U.R. would be going on their first rescue operation on Thursday, which meant we needed to be there to film it. Ryan got up and said he needed a few minutes; he stepped out of the room and into the hallway. The tension was palpable as we wondered what was going to happen next. Ryan was only 29 years old at the time and we seriously considered if this was even real since most investors are well into their 60’s or older. The large glass door opened smoothly as Ryan walked back into the room, determined. “I’m in 100% and the money will be in your account tomorrow… under one condition – you have to save at least one child”.
Ryan spent the next few minutes telling us about why he was so decisive. It’s a story in itself but the thing that struck us most was when he said, “This matters more than anything I’ve ever heard of and if we only saved one child from this… it would be worth the cost of this film.” Ryan definitely understood why he was at that table at this particular time in history and we knew that we had just witnessed a miracle. We would save lives because of this.
That night, Ryan called me and wanted to meet Tim. Mark Stott was Tim’s next-door neighbor and one of the original founders of O.U.R., he drove to my house with Tim, where Chet and I joined them. Tim was getting visibly nervous about the reality of quitting his government job and going full time with his vision of O.U.R. Who can blame him? The guy’s got 6 children of his own to care for. That’s enough to send the bravest man into a tailspin. When Ryan heard about Tim’s fears, he calmed him by offering to supplement his meager non-profit income to match what he was previously making at the government, allowing Tim to jump in with both feet. Another miracle.
For those of you who think this sort of thing happens every day… say hello to Tinkerbell next time you see her cause you’re been living in a fairytale! This was a miracle that we were all brought to this point in space and time to achieve one common goal… to rescue children.
Lest you forget, all of this happened within just a few weeks. Normally it takes years to raise money for a film project. None of us had ever seen anything like it. We never will again.
Chet, Jerry, Tim and I will forever be grateful to Ryan, his incredible wife Sarah, and their entire family who risked everything to fund The Abolitionists with nothing more than faith to go on because maybe, just maybe, this would allow us to save them all.