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Team Kale

State of the Arts


Published February 29, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.

Everybody loves a David-and-Goliath story. At least, that’s what Burlington filmmaker and playwright James Lantz and folk artist and “Eat More Kale” guy Bo Muller-Moore are banking on.

The two have teamed up to produce a documentary about Muller-Moore’s battle with the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. The corporation claims that the Montpelier artist’s logo, which he has printed on T-shirts and bumper stickers for more than a decade, is confusingly close to the corporation’s own marketing slogan, “Eat mor chikin.”

As of Tuesday morning, Lantz and Muller-Moore had raised just shy of $13,000 — their goal is $75,000 to produce the film, A Defiant Dude — on Kickstarter, the über-popular online fundraising site (which, according to Talking Points Memo, is poised to distribute more money this year than the National Endowment for the Arts). The only drawback to Kickstarter? If Lantz and Muller-Moore fail to reach their goal by 8 p.m. on March 25, they get nothing.

But the two are going ahead with filming now. They aim to have the doc ready by September so they can submit it to the Sundance Film Festival, says Muller-Moore.

It’s an ambitious goal, but not completely far-fetched. Muller-Moore’s story attracted national attention last fall. When Gov. Peter Shumlin announced the formation of a legal fund called Team Kale — and uttered the words “Don’t mess with kale!” — the video went viral in Vermont. And Muller-Moore, with his folksy expressions and hippie look, has unlikely star power.

“I’m an only child and I’m an Aries and I’m not particularly bashful,” he says. “In some way or another, I’ve been building toward this.”

Since receiving the “cease and desist” letter from Chick-fil-A last November, Muller-Moore says his life “has been a 90-day roller coaster.” The Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, he recalls, his website got 350 hits — “a pretty big day,” he says. Then the Associated Press picked up his story. The following day, his site got 37,000 hits.

According to Muller-Moore, the fast-food company “hasn’t backed down an iota. Not a lick.” But neither has he; He’s continuing to print T-shirts and give out free bumper stickers.

So far, Lantz has filmed Muller-Moore “flapping his jaw,” as the Kale Guy puts it, in his Montpelier studio, hanging with old farmers at the Champlain Valley Expo and furtively sipping on a soda in an Alabama Chick-fil-A.

Muller-Moore says he’s been thrilled to get support from “hardworking Vermonters, not necessarily liberal or left-leaning.” An 80-year-old man recently recognized him as the Kale Guy, he says, and told him, “If you lose this fight, I’m giving up on what it means to be American.”

What if Muller-Moore does lose? The film, he and Lantz agree, will still tell a good story. “If they beat me, we’ll document every bit of it and you will see a really bummed artist at the end of it,” he says. “But I won’t have gone down quietly.”

Still, losing his “Eat More Kale” logo would be a blow. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say these T-shirts are a part of my identity now,” he says. But Muller-Moore doesn’t let the thought get him down. “Life’s been a trip so far,” he says. “There’d probably be something else good around the corner.”