A Paper Tiger Burns

In the face of bigotry, a young immigrant to St. Louis struggles to obtain true strength through martial arts while overcoming the demons of his troubled Colombian past.

Empowerment Art’s flagship film, A Paper Tiger Burns, presents topics of great concern facing members of our society today: themes of LGBT discrimination, high school bullying, and immigrant marginalization weave throughout a multifaceted story based on true events.

This startup 501(c)(3) nonprofit completed a 6-year journey to develop and produce this international story for the big screen. Board members and film crew raised funds to travel to Colombia, South America to film in locations of real events that inspired the script, and followed through in completing an epic feature film without a production company’s support.

Empowerment Arts has a mission to create productions about marginalized groups for cultural and educational influence, and we hope this film’s release will be a truly cinematic start to our public outreach.

Click here to go to the film preview.

Comments on select film frames from producer/director, Gavin Culbertson

Production Details

The film was produced by Empowerment Arts over the course of 6 years, lead by producer/director Gavin Culbertson. Gavin founded the organization in 2011 and acted as Executive Director for all functions of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. He managed, as executive producer, all facets of production, wrote the screenplay, directed filming with up to 15 crew members, 22 actors and 80 on-screen extras throughout the production in the US and Colombia, operated camera and cinematography, and edited the film.
•  $53,574 in donations were raised in total to produce the film.
•  International production in Colombia, South America required casting Spanish-speaking actors, filming during a live parade, collaborating with a Capoeira martial arts troop, traveling to Bogota and a small town in Nariño.
•  The majority of filming took place in St. Louis, Missouri at over a dozen unique locations.

Film Festivals

Official Selection of:

Action on Film Megafest

Hollywood Dreams International Film Festival

Awards Won:

Watch the Film

The complete film can now be viewed below on the Vimeo account here.