‘Traficant’ filmmaker sure he’ll reach goal

By Amanda C. Davis


With just days to go, Los Angeles filmmaker Eric Murphy is optimistic he’ll reach a $25,000 fund- raising goal to help finish a documentary about former Congressman James A. Traficant Jr.

As of Saturday night, Murphy had raised $18,740 pledges on Kickstarter.com, a fund-raising platform for creative projects. Kickstart allows only 60 days for fundraising. The deadline for pledges is 9:25 p.m. EST Wednesday.

At least 112 people have volunteered to contribute, with a few pledging $1,000 or $2,500.

There are incentives to donate. Depending on the level of the donation, Murphy is offering hand-written thank-you notes, signed DVDs of the documentary, Traficant T-shirts and two jars of his mother’s hot peppers. Pledges of $5,000 or more will receive an executive-producing credit.

Murphy, who grew up in Warren, estimates that at least 75 percent of donors have a Youngstown or Warren connection. Colleagues have ponied up a “good chunk of the money,” he said, and the rest are people he doesn’t know.

Murphy has spent about $10,000 of his money already and has met with network agents and producers who may be interested in airing it. He also has plans to enter the documentary in film festivals.

The 90-minute documentary, “Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown,” explores the rise and fall of Traficant, who served seven years in federal prison for bribery, racketeering and other charges. He was released in 2009.

Traficant is not involved in the project, which includes interviews with Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, former Youngstown Mayor Patrick J. Ungaro, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, Vindicator columnist Bertram de Souza, FBI agents, judges and “Modern Family” star Ed O’Neill, a Youngstown native.

Murphy, 35, said the project should be wrapped up in late 2012 and that he’s grateful for support he’s received from the Mahoning Valley and beyond.

“Reaching the $25,000 goal is very important because it creates momentum for the project moving forward,” Murphy said by telephone last week. This will demonstrate to potential distributors the film is legitimate and already has cultivated an audience, he explained.

Cleveland-based comedian Mike Polk Jr. is listed as a donor and says he believes in Murphy’s project. The two attended Warren’s JFK High School together and have stayed in touch since.

They support each other and both know how hard it can be to work in a creative field, Polk said.

“He’s always supported me in any of my ridiculous comedic pursuits,” he said. “I’m happy for him and proud of what he’s doing.”

To view the documentary’s trailer or contribute, visit www.kickstarter.com and type “Traficant” into the search field.

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