“One of his doctors told us that with this disease, they just become like a fighter, you know – they have to be. They fight for life. And so I think he sees the good vs. evil battle in superheroes, and just relates to it.”
California farmer Nick Scott is talking on camera about his son, who turned 6 this month. You may not recognize his boy’s name, Miles Scott. But you likely recall his heroic identity.
He is “Batkid.”
“Batkid Saves City,” blared the headlines and hand-held signs last November. Miles, the fighter who had lived about half his life with lymphoblastic leukemia, wanted to battle crime instead of cancer, even if only for a day. He wanted to be Batman’s sidekick.
The Greater Bay Area chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation offered the Scott family of Tulelake, a small town near the Oregon border, a few options to try to make Miles’s request a reality. The foundation’s Patricia Wilson suggested that Miles, dressed in a mini-Batman costume, could help “save” the City by the Bay, which itself would be festooned a bit like Gotham for a series of staged adventures. The plan was to have about 200 show up – a crowd count that organizers say would about equal the chapter’s largest Make-A-Wish event ever.
Instead, the event swelled, till about 25,000 people lined the streets of San Francisco. Word of this emotional day spread by story and news account and downloaded video — including tweets from celebrities and the White House — till nearly 2-billion people, by some estimates, had witnessed the heroics of Batkid.
Soon, filmmaker Dana Nachman knew who, and what, her next documentary would be.
With great crowd-power comes great possibility.
The month after Batkid Saved Gotham, Nachman met with some of the people who helped make the day happen.
“Patricia does a handful of wishes a year,” the filmmaker tells The Post’s Comic Riffs of sitting with Patricia Wilson, the Make-A-Wish executive director for the region. “She started telling me the story, how this [event] started small. She would ask one person, who would say: ‘Sure, I can do that. And to make it cooler, I could [do] X, Y and Z.’ And then someone else would say, ‘Yes. And… .’
“That was the spirit of this. That really resonated with me.”
After that meeting, Nachman says: “I decided I had to do the film.”
Make-A-Wish put the award-winning documentarian in touch with Miles’s parents, Nick and Natalie Scott, who quickly agreed to the project. Nachman also asked the foundation: “Hey, you didn’t shoot anything of [Batkid Day], did you?” They told her they had three cameras they used that day. And three Go-Pro’s. And she realized, talking with them, that video from the day could be crowd-sourced.
The filmmaker now knew she could make this documentary relatively expensively, relying a good deal on “found” footage. She set the financial goal of her Indiegogo campaign at $100,000.
[Update: The "Batkid Begins" campaign has now climbed to more than $104,000.]
“Watching San Francisco come together to cheer on Batkid was truly an incredible moment,” Indiegogo co-founder Slava Rubin tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “It’s exciting to see the crowd join forces once again, this time on Indiegogo, to make the Batkid documentary happen.”
Act One of “Batkid Begins” already has a road map. As with any inspiring superhero adventure, it is the origin story.
“You’ve got a family of farmers living in Tulelake,” says Nachman, an Emmy-winning news producer turned documentarian. There is a boy — one of two young sons — who has leukemia and a wish. “There is the inspiration,” the filmmaker says, “of his love for Batman.”
Patricia Wilson, the executive director, told the Scott family last year that Make-A-Wish could come to the hometown of Miles, who was then 4. Or, for the love of Batman, they could bring him to San Francisco, where just a small band of volunteers might create a few low-key, Gotham-like adventures.
“All of our wishes are inspired by the ‘wish children’ themselves, as was the case with Miles,” Wilson tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “It’s what makes each wish unique. Miles’ wish was a reflection of his personality and the creativity of our community partners, staff and volunteers.”
Then things began to change course.
“Turning San Francisco into Gotham City was her idea,” Nachman says of Wilson, “but not on this scale. Her initial idea [involved] just two parking spaces and two motorcycle cops … . It was a vision of Miles solving a caper. But it snowballed.”
On a brilliant Bay Area day last Nov. 15, though, the unplannable unfolded. As arranged, Miles was decked out as Batkid — and his younger brother, Clayton, was clad as Robin — as the 5-year-old played sidekick to a tall costumed Batman. Together, they would ride in a beautiful “Batmobile,” foil a villain, save a damsel in distress and get a key to the city.
Then news of the wish hit a blog, Nachman says. And Reddit. And news outlets ran with “Batkid Saves Gotham” headlines. Moved, Bay Area residents streamed by the thousands along Batkid’s route. The newest big-screen Batman, Ben Affleck, tweeted his encouragement.
Batkid — a boy and his one-day dream — somehow touched a large part of the planet.
“We didn’t expect how this wish would resonate with everyone, and how much joy one little boy battling cancer in San Francisco would bring to the world,” Wilson tells Comic Riffs. “We didn’t plan a huge, viral wish. It was always about making this a memorable and life-changing experience for Miles and his family.
“This wish obviously inspired people, and the community couldn’t resist becoming involved, whether in person or online.”
Nachman’s trailer for “Batkid Begins” opens with a gleaming shot of the Golden Gate. An East Coast transplant, she believes San Francisco is one of the relatively few cities — like Boston — that could so spontaneously come together over an event like Batkid Day.
In the late ’90s, Nachman left her job at Fox News in New York “on a lark” to head West, and found work with NBC stations in the Bay Area. Relocating to California as a journalist led to her making a documentary, “Witch Hunt” (2008), about a wrongful child-molestation conviction that roiled the Central Valley town of Bakersfield. The film — written and co-directed by Nachman and narrated by Sean Penn — would win a Grand Jury Award at the Washington (D.C.) Independent Film Festival.
Nachman — who has also made the documentaries “Love Hate Love” (2011) and “The Human Experiment” (2013) — says working on “Batkid” provides a much brighter uplift. It’s a deep joy she is working to capture cinematically for the world to see — from a simple wish planted by a farmer’s son to Batkid’s ability to move us.
“I can tell you that this experience has been incredibly profound,” says Make-A-Wish’s Wilson. “It has been a once-in-a-lifetime, humbling experience I’ve had the honor to share with Miles, his family, my Make-A-Wish colleagues and many strangers around the world.
“For me, the most rewarding experience from this wish is the number of people that now know that Make-A-Wish does this kind of magical experience dozens of times every day in communities throughout the country,” Wilson continues. “Perhaps not to the scope of this wish, but the impact on each sick child is just the same. That’s what makes Make-A-Wish so special — and so critical when a child needs us most.”
And sometimes, a world is collectively reminded just how much it needs them.