If you follow the Reddit-grams and some prominent Facebook pages in the jiu-jitsu community, you may have noticed a recent scandal brewing. One of the most active content producers in the jiu-jitsu community, Hywel Teague, has been accused of scamming the BJJ community by offering to produce a special documentary about red belts, accepting a large sum of money and failing to produce his promised and paid for product.
As anyone who has followed Hywel Teague for any period of time knows, he is involved in a lot. For a long time his main outlet was a project called BJJ Hacks, which put out absolutely excellent and professional content. Teague is one of the most active content producers in our community, currently working primarily for FloGrappling. Love them or hate them, they are a main source for jiu-jitsu related media right now. They live stream most of the major events that our community puts on (for a price,) and Teague takes care of a large portion of what goes on behind the scenes.
At this point, both the accusers and Teague have spoken their minds.
For starters here are the two sources of information that anyone interested in this issue should be aware of:
The Reddit posts in order of date:
The original post about the inception of the campaign May, 2012
3 years ago
1 year ago
11 months ago
5 day ago…
The Red Belts documentary is/was a bold proposition. From his official statement from BJJHeroes:
“To be brutally honest, I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went. I thought it would be a relatively simple project that I could crank out in about six months. I didn’t realize the complexity of the project or the logistical difficulties of producing the film.
In short, there were issues with some of the grand masters themselves – these are all men over 70 years of age, some were easier to work with than others, and some would not work with each other at all.
There were technical issues, such as hard drive failures, and necessary upgrades to equipment, but these were resolved and very little footage was lost, and it was easily replaced.
The main issue is the fact that the money didn’t go as far as I thought it would, meaning I could only work on the project part-time while also supporting myself via day job work. I have plenty of experiencing of budgeting for complex editorial projects, but this one took me by surprise.
It is important that people understand, however, the project is not done. It will get finished.”
As a critic of this situation, I am slightly biased toward Teague. I think that his contributions to the community have earned him some benefit of doubt. However, the crowd sourcing goal was reached 5 years ago. 5 years is a long time.
Moreover, one of Teague’s claims falls flat in this writer’s eyes:
“Of the $17,417 raised $6441.53 of that went on Indiegogo processing fees and the costs of manufacturing the rewards. That left just under $11,000.
Filming and editing a documentary to the standards we wanted required better equipment than we had at the time. A camera that wouldn’t melt in the tropical heat – yeah, I fried a memory card once during a +40° filming session – as well as a computer with sufficient RAM to handle those huge video files. There was the hard drive failure that cost over $1500 to recover the data. And then the expenses of producers, translators, backing up huge amounts of data (which was double backed up) and so on.”
Sorry but cost assessment is part of the initial setup. It’s better to slightly overestimate and deliver a finished product than under-estimate and as a result flounder.
A viable option may have been to release clips as they were filmed to the backers of the campaign, give them a chance to watch the process as it unfolds, however frustrating it may be. But instead, Teague opted to wait for a finished product (which doesn’t yet exist. Over 5 years later…).
It’s a tough situation but ultimately, Teague is responsible for the results or lack thereof. He has been given a considerable amount of money by the jiu-jitsu community to undertake a difficult task. One should also bear in mind that his initial willingness to do this may have opened up other doors and avenues, placing him on top of the BJJ media food chain.
Regardless of what has already transpired, we hope that this resolves amicably and Hywel Teague gives his backers something for their money that we as a community gain some satisfaction from.