If you were browsing Twitter -- or really, the entire Internet -- on November 15, 2013, then you definitely remember the heartwarming story of Miles Scott. Of course, you probably know him better by his secret identity: Batkid.
Even if you were following all of Batkid’s exploits across the city of Gotham that day (definitely not San Francisco, no sir), odds are that you don’t know the whole story of the most elaborate Make-A-Wish of all time -- which is why this Friday (June 26), the documentary “Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World” will give all of us a window into the caped cancer-fighting crusader’s true origins. Pack yourself plenty of tissues, because you’re going to cry harder than a newly orphaned billionare when you see this movie.
To better understand why Batkid made such a incredible impact, MTV News sat down with “Batkid Begins” director Dana Nachma; Patricia Wilson, the executive director of the Make-A-Wish Greater Bay Area; and Mike Jutan, a software engineer from Lucasfilm who took on the role of the Penguin. What they had to say was amazingly inspiring.
Hooray For The Internet!
Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that gives children with life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to live out their wildest dreams does its fair share of wishes that shut down city streets. So nobody expected Miles’ story in particular to blow up the way it did -- least of all software engineer Mike Jutan, who joined the cause at the request of his friend EJ Baker (he played the grown up Batman) and who’s an avid social media user.
“I figured people would want to see behind the scenes stuff,” Jutan said, noting that he’d already been posting photos for about a week or so before the story got picked up. “They say the ground zero was the photo of EJ’s cape that I posted when we were rehearsing two weeks out. And then it exploded.”
From there, the story became a viral sensation -– and proved that despite all the harassment, nasty comments, and privacy concerns, sometimes the Internet really can be a force for good.
“People want to participate, and people believe in community, and people want to do community service for others and do good for others in general,” Jutan said. “We’re still kind of in the infancy of what [the Internet] can be used for, but I think we can set a conversation about how there are some really positive things that can come out of connectedness. It’s not all bad, and it’s not all about the new negative privacy settings on Facebook.”
From Phenomenon To Film
(From left to right: Mike Jutan, Patricia Wilson and Dana Nachman)
The one person who wasn’t following the story as it was happening? “Batkid Begins” director Dana Nachman, ironically.
“I was in a cave on some island somewhere, didn’t hear about it," she joked. "No, I heard about it after and I thought, ‘What an amazing documentary that would have been. Somebody’s already got to be doing it, what a bummer!’”
But surprisingly nobody WAS doing it yet, so Nachman stepped up to the challenge, combining interviews of the passionate people behind the scenes with footage that Make-A-Wish took of the event for fundraising purposes, as well as video from Miles’ family, the local San Francisco TV stations. Oh yeah, and lots – LOTS – of video from volunteers and onlookers watching.
"Everybody was a newsperson that day,” Jutan said. “Everybody had their cameras, everybody was tweeting it, 35,000 people came and were part of it. So everybody was in the moment, and there was a lot of news there that got to talk about the grandness of it, and the fact that it happened in itself was a crazy news event.”
The Legend Continues
Since Batkid first took the world by storm, Wilson says that the number of wish requests in the Northern Californian chapter of Make-A-Wish has increased 40%. The number of donations has gone up as well, too – and luckily the types of wishes being requested haven’t gotten that much more elaborate.
But what the team behind Batkid’s wish hope is that rather than giving money, people will instead be inspired to volunteer for their own local Make-A-Wish chapters (which you can do by typing in your zip code at Wish.org, if you’re so inclined). “For charitable organizations, I assume they want money, but personally I’d rather give my time and energy and my dedication and my skills,” Jutan said. “That’s more interesting to me than just writing a check. What I learned from this is that it’s very possible to just give whatever you’ve got.”
“The other fun thing about Make-A-Wish is you get to see the results,” Wilson added. “For other charities, you do something and maybe it goes to some research to fight a disease, and that’s amazing. But at Make-A-Wish you get to put on a costume and you see the child, and you know it has a real story and somehow it is much more personal. So it’s gratifying, it’s addictive almost, because you just think, ‘I want to do more. There’s more children to help.’”
“Some of my colleagues are saying that people are actually citing volunteers from my organization and citing Batkid because they want to get involved in their community and their community’s small acts of kindness,” Wilson said. “That is incredible. If you had told me in the course of doing my job that that could happen, I wouldn’t have believed you. Short of giving birth to my two children, it’s the most profound experience of my life.”
Securing BatKid’s Legacy
In putting together this documentary, Nachman says, “My goal was to make a film so that the spirit of the day could live on forever -- for people who didn’t see it the first time, or who saw it in 140 characters, not the whole story. That was my goal and I hope I achieved it.”
“To see those kinds of people being interviewed, the amount of work that went into it -- I was certainly aware of it, but I wasn’t aware of the scope because we were in the middle of our own giant thing. So it was pretty amazing to kind of watch that and to see the depth,” Wilson said. “It was the kind of event that people like to tell you what they were doing that day.”
“They say two billion people saw it through social media and online,” Jutan said. “It’s insane.”
“That’s just on Twitter,” Wilson noted.
“Just on Twitter? We’ll have to do better next time,” Jutan joked.
"Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World" hits select theaters on June 26.