By Jeanne Sager
GLEN SPEY It’s the underdog story to beat all underdog stories.
“Fat Kid Rules the World” started as a book for teenagers not about sparkling vampires or love-lorn werewolves but an overweight teenage boy, a boy who’d been beaten down by a world full of bullies. His redemption comes not in some Hollywood perfect ending of weight shedding and the discovery of a Prince Charming face but through an unlikely friendship and the discovery of of all things punk rock.
The book won author Kelly “K.L.” Going awards for a brave venture into the gritty real world of teenage America.
And now the author of myriad children’s books who hails from Glen Spey is pitching a battle to get “Fat Kid” to the big screen.
The book has been made into a movie, an independent film directed by actor Matthew Lillard, a Hollywood star best known for turns in “Scream” and “Scooby Doo.” He was cast to read the audiobook version of “Fat Kid” nine years ago, and in an “Ask Me Anything” session on social news site Reddit, Lillard confesses the connection was instantaneous.
“Twenty pages in I was crying because I was so moved and I optioned the rights,” Lillard explained. “It took nine years but I finally got it made. Finally.”
The cast is top-notch. The so-called “Fat Kid,” a character named Troy Billings, is played by Jacob Wysocki, whose powerful performance helped fuel the TV show “Huge” to cult status before it was cancelled by ABC Family. Playing his father is Billy Campbell, known for his roles in TV’s “The O.C.” and “Once and Again.”
“The casting is brilliant,” Going tells the Democrat. “They literally could have just walked out of my brain!”
The film itself garnered rave reviews at the South by Southwest Festival, including a coveted Audience Award.
So what’s the problem?
“In Hollywood, everyone has to be gorgeous and skinny,” Going explains. “This is a fat kid who is saved by punk rock.”
Getting a production company to take a chance on Fat Kid has been difficult… to say the least.
But neither the author nor Lillard are ready to see their story suffer the fate of a direct-to-DVD release, likely to be seen only by someone tired and bored, poking through their Netflix queue.
So they’ve begun a Kickstarter Campaign, an online fundraiser, to fund theater release of the film. Their $150,000 goal is daunting, but with 11 days to go until the fundraiser’s official end on June 16, they’re at $106,000 and marching forward on faith in the film, and in the story behind it.
“It’s never really been a question to me if people would support the film if they could see the film,” Going says. “We all feel like the fat kid at some point; this is all of us.”
Asked if the message of what it means to be a bullied kid in America especially in light of the renewed focus on its devastating effects on our kids has resonated with viewers, Going said the message hasn’t been tied to the film yet, but it should.
“My dream all along is to get that message out to kids: we’re all the fat kid. It doesn’t matter what you look like,” she explains.
In that sense, the fight against the Hollywood standard to get Fat Kid into theaters through grassroots efforts like Kickstarter couldn’t be more apt for the story. This underdog, this fat kid, is trying to show he’s worth it. Will America accept him?
For more from K.L. Going, including a sneak peek at the author’s (and mother of 2-year-old Ashton) new picture book, Dog in Charge, visit her site at www.klgoing.com.
How to help ‘Fat Kid’
Want to help “Fat Kid” get movie distribution?
Check out the Kickstarter campaign before June 16 to make a donation at www.kickstarter.com/projects/1499648032/fat-kid-rules-the-world-0.
You can also check out the film on Facebook or at the movie’s site, www.fatkidrulestheworld.com or get to see the movie itself this Friday, June 8, at the Rooftop Film Festival in New York City.