Ed Cunningham's film chronicles fight over amputated leg

For most people, playing in the NFL would be the pinnacle of their wage-earning life.

Ed Cunningham’s NFL career is just another line on his long and varied résumé.

Cunningham, who spent five seasons as a center for the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks from 1992 to 1996, went on to produce several outstanding films, among them “Undefeated,” which follows a struggling high school football team and won the 2012 Academy Award for documentary.

He also produced “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” which chronicles the ongoing controversy about who holds the world-record score in the 1980s video game Donkey Kong; and “New York Doll,” detailing the history of the band the New York Dolls through the eyes of eccentric bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane.

Cunningham’s latest documentary might be his most bizarre — and he’s reaching out to the public to help finish it.

The film is called “Finders Keepers,” and it’s about a Southern entrepreneur who mistakenly buys a mummified human leg in a barbecue smoker grill. He then decides to claim legal ownership of the leg, and sues the now-homeless amputee for ownership of it.

“My hope for this film is that it falls in line with what we’ve done already,” said Cunningham, a college football color analyst for ESPN and ABC who learned of the leg-lawsuit story while covering an Oklahoma Sooners game in Norman.

“We find really interesting stories that might seem a bit absurd, but we look for the humanity in them,” he explained.

Cunningham began tracking the story and filming in 2008, but eventually shelved the footage when it became too expensive to continue to self-finance the project.

After studying more than 50 hours of footage, director Bryan Carberry convinced Cunningham to revive the project, and, along with producer Adam Gibbs, they have launched a Kickstarter campaign to complete the movie. [Kickstarter is an online pledge system for funding creative projects.]

The campaign to raise the required $80,000 ends Friday, and as of Sunday night, more than $55,000 had been raised.

The group is offering different “rewards” depending on the amount of the pledge. A top-tier pledge of $6,500 or more, for instance, entitles the benefactor to an official co-producer credit and input on the film’s final cut.

 More modest prizes include invitations to private screenings of the film, “thanks to” credits, autographed “King of Kong” posters, T-shirts, DVDs and the like.

“I didn’t just want to take donations,” Cunningham said. “The ability to actually work with an audience as we’re crafting a film is invaluable. It’s such a cool way to do it.

“This is about building an audience for a film, then when it’s ready, they all get to come see it first.”

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