Dave Blackburn accomplished plenty in his life, but there was one project he didn’t get to finish: his own.
The late Santa Monica resident was a decorated fastpitch softball player who traveled across the country and around the world for the sport he loved. He threw 70 no-hitters in his career, won four gold medals with Team USA in the World Maccabiah Games and was inducted into the International Softball Congress Hall of Fame.
When he died last May, Blackburn was putting together a film about all he experienced on and off the diamond.
So longtime friends Curt LaFurney and Brian Hanish of Hollywood-based Paradox Productions are now crowdfunding through GoFundMe for the final phase of the project, “The King and Me,” which they said is nearing completion.
“We’re trying to finish what Dave started,” said LaFurney, the documentary’s co-director and editor. “It’s his legacy. It’s the last thing he was working on. As his friends, we’re committed to finishing it.”
LaFurney has whittled down more than 130 hours of Hi8, VHS, Digital8, Betacam and digital video into 100 minutes that include everything from Blackburn’s upbringing to the retiring of his No. 7 Maccabi jersey in 2013, when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the international tournament’s championship game.
Blackburn discovered his love of softball as a young child while watching his father Ernie compete against legendary pitcher Eddie Feigner.
He was inspired to tell his life story after suffering life-altering injuries in a 2010 car crash while on his way to a tournament in Arizona. He broke more than two dozen bones, including his sternum and pitching arm, and sustained two collapsed lungs as well as bruising on his heart and nerve damage in his leg.
Blackburn spent about two months in a coma and eight months recovering in Phoenix-area hospitals and nursing homes before returning to Southern California, where he had lived so he could play softball year-round.
“I got a phone call from him letting me know what happened, and he came to an epiphany that he survived so he could tell the story about his life in fastpitch,” said Hanish, the film’s producer and cinematographer. “He asked if we would help him make this movie.”
Hanish and LaFurney obliged. They raised $35,000 through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and began conducting interviews with people across the country. When Blackburn was invited to throw out the first pitch, Hanish accompanied him to Israel and shot more footage for the documentary.
A second crowdfunding initiative followed Blackburn’s death in 2014, which came a year and a half into his work on the project.
Hanish and LaFurney said they have been funding the production of the film for the last six months, which is why they’re making one more request of those who knew Blackburn and those who feel his story would resonate with an audience beyond the sports community.
“It’s not just about fastpitch softball,” LaFurney said. “It’s about the camaraderie that’s forged throughout the competition and the spiritual awakenings that Dave experienced by going to Israel. It has a much bigger scope than just softball. It’s about 30 years of a man’s life and what he experienced. His vehicle was softball, but what he got out of it was much much more.”