USF students raise $80,000 in 45 days on Kickstarter to fund movie project

TAMPA - Like a lot of young men, USF students Omar Erchid and Ahmad Saadaldin are faithful fans of shows like Game of Thrones on HBO and Vikings on the History Channel. The success of those historical dramas made them think it was time for a Muslim hero in prime time. And they'd be the ones to make it.

"I'm a Muslim American and I grew up hearing about Salahadin and his story was very inspiring. So I thought it'd be cool to share that" said Saadaldin.

Salahadin, also known as Saladin, was a 12th century Muslim hero of the Crusades who battled Richard the Lion Hearted and liberated Jerusalem. He's well known to any Muslim school child, but less familiar to western audiences.

The young filmmakers, most all of them USF students, scraped together about $4,000 to shoot the trailer for a future series on Salahadin's life. You might recognize Fort DeSoto Park in some scenes. The producers and crew, all USF students, put together their own costumes and created their own gory special effects.   

To fund the pilot episode this summer, the young filmmakers went to Kickstarter, a web community that connects individual donors with creative projects. The team gave themselves 45 days to raise $80,000 and made it with a few thousand to spare.
 
"If we didn't reach $80,000 dollars within 45 days, all the money is returned back to the donors and you don't get any of it. So it's really all or nothing" said Saadaldin, a 23-year-old senior.

Saadaldin, who plays the title character, sees parallels between the Middle East of today and 1,000 years ago. Though he hopes to bring this story to other American Muslims who may not know much about this part of their own history, he believes the project will have something to offer everyone.

"There's definitely a lot of lessons to be learned, especially in bridging the gap, east and west, by promoting understanding, culturally, religiously, socially," he said.
 
The team hopes the series will be picked up by Netflix, Hulu or a cable channel like the History Channel. Several team members traveled to the Middle East earlier this year to scout locations for the shooting, which will start this summer.

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