This is the final piece on the experience at the Silverdocs Film Festival. In case you’re late getting here, to gather context you can catch my review of the film from Tuesday and Wednesday’s interview with the filmmaker. After the screening of the film on Monday night, there was a Q&A session with the film subjects, filmmaker Kris Belman, and Producer Harvey Mason Jr. The session was moderated by NPR’s Michele Norris. This is my recap of the Q & A, as well as some photos from the after-party (though nothing really exciting, as I left the open bar after-party to go home and write my film review – lame!)
Moderator: One thing I noticed sitting with you guys, and spending time with you previously is how amazingly close you all are. I’m really drawn to your relationships – how do you see your relationships?
Romeo: It was weird. They gave each other birthday gifts still when they were 15, 16 years old. I mean who does that?
Willie – We still see each other often, when we have time.
Romeo: The four of them (Dru, Willie, Sian, LeBron) are like sisters.
Moderator: Coach Dru – did you worry about pushing the boys on the court to where they couldn’t handle it at such a young age?
Coach: No. They pushed me. Their thirst and love for the game was so great that they sucked it up like a sponge and responded to everything. It was unique. They all truly loved the game.
Moderator: What was it like to see yourself younger?
Sian: I was on edge. I didn’t know if we won or not. Made me feel really good to see it.
Moderator: (to Romeo) What made the difference for you to finally fit in with the guys?
Romeo: Just being around them, being around good people you get their good traits and it’s hard to separate from that. We spend so much time together that we’re like one big family. We can finish each other’s…
Lebron: (not so slyly butting in) finish each other’s sentences. (laughs)
Moderator: Why was LeBron’s house the place to go?
LeBron: It was a Chucky Cheese for kids. My mom let us be responsible and have fun. Being an only child, it really let me add the brothers and siblings that I never really had.
Moderator: LeBron – I’d like to touch on when you had to deal with the Hummer and accepting the jerseys. It was a very difficult time for you all. What have you learn from that?
LeBron: You have to to through bumps in the road to be successful. If that’s the hardest thing I have to go through in my life, it’s going to be pretty damn good.
Moderator: How was neighborhood response to your switching schools to St V’s?
LeBron: It was especially tough for Little Dru. He lived 3 streets away from Buchtel. A lot of people thought we gave up on the African-American community. The thing is, to us we just went to live on a dream we couldn’t accomplish in middle school. We heard about it all summer time on the court. You play ball with those guys, and you’re making runs and they just talk. We won though. Oh, and by making runs I mean playing basketball, not what happens when you eat bad food. (Laughs) But we still had to go and face those people in the places we lived, barber shops etc.
Coach Dru: It really brought them all together and made them even tighter. They were vilified for making the decision. Around town, they always went together everywhere to avoid problems.
Moderator: Coach, you pushed the boys a lot and mentioned wondering if you made them miss out on their childhood. Do you still worry about this?
Coach Dru: It’s a decision we made. For my son it was tough. We struggled because I was – I don’t believe in doing anything unless you want to be the best. We’d drive to Cleveland three nights a week to practice. We were gone traveling on weekends. Sometimes you do wonder and question if it worked.
Moderator: Kris – How do you build a dramatic arc when ending isn’t known?
Kris: I set out at the start to void stereotypical doc. I wanted to avoid preconceived notions and have story and make it like a narrative. As a filmmaker I was like “this is good drama”. In reality, nobody more frightened than me. If they didn’t win the national championship, the whole movie could have gone in one swoop. To make things worse, Coach almost don’t give a halftime speech (in the last game).
Moderator: How was music chosen?
Harvey: We listened to lots of music, and really wanted to maximize emotion. We sat down and thought about what we could do to make it feel like ‘Gladiator’.
Moderator: How has your friendship been with LeBron, with him being up on a pedestal all the time?
Sian: I feel like I see LeBron every day. Because I do. Every day we look at the TV and my son screams “It’s Uncle LeBron!!” Our bond so strong that when they’re all over (Dru and Romeo play professionally in Germany), we come back together and laugh nonstop.
Willie: We just pick up where we left off.
Moderator: What do you want to share with a young kid that wants to be their best on the court?
Romeo: Have fun and work on and off the court. It’s hard to walk away. Stick to a passion – from basketball to tuba. Stick to it
Willie: Be a student-athlete. Represent your school and yourself. It all starts in classroom. Win the right way.
Coach: Hold on to your dream. Continue to dream. If you’re true to your dream and work at it, it can happen.
Sian: Have heart. Have stick-to-it-iveness.
Dru: Do what inspires you. If you have that dream, hold true and go after it.
LeBron: No matter what you want to be – a basketball player, a sprinter, a nurse or a fireman, whatever – once you have the love for it, do what you can to accomplish it. I put it in my mind that I wanted to be the best and did what I needed to be that. I was inspired by my friends. Once you get that feeling, well, what do you want to do sir? (asks crowd members what they want to be). There you go. That’s your talent. Go get it.
So ended the Q&A. From this point, the went from the Silver Theater to the Discovery Communications building to attend the after-party. We were led across the street by the Blair High School Marching Band, who was playing the STVM fight song. The marching band lined the stairway going into the party. The stairs were darkly lit, with a smoke machine billowing dry ice smoke down the steps. Once inside the party, we were greeted by a giant version of the film poster and a basketball hoop. There was some guy on stilts with a basketball hoop on his head that kids were shooting at. There were plenty of folks taking video of the crowd and the people involved with the film.
The menu included exquisite mini hot dogs, pulled pork sliders, mini-burgers, and quesadillas. Out back on the patio, DJ Wale was playing for the crowd. Note – it’s always fun watching 55 year old film buffs try and cut a rug.
A few things that I figure I’ll make note of here, since we’re going all TMZ on y’all these days:
– LeBron showed up around 6:15 (same time as me, though I took the Metro and walked a quarter mile to the theater. He took a limo and walked 8 steps. Then again, he can probably walk about a quarter mile in 8 steps). He mingled with the media outside before coming into the theater at about 7:15 with the guys and his girlfriend.
– Our favorite Brian Windhorst was an invited guest of Lionsgate Films. He was in the film and was in attendance at the screening.
– About 15 faculty and staff from St Vincent-St Mary’s were in attendance at the film, also invited by Lionsgate. I thought this was pretty cool, that the people who helped mold these your men were brought to celebrate the film with them.
This concludes my coverage of the event. Though I’m sure you guys don’t care to hear it from me, it was absolutely awesome to attend. I’ve never been to a film festival to begin with, let alone as a member of the press. The accessibility of the people involved with the film was great. I’m really grateful to have gotten the chance to see the attend the film and Q&A, meet up with Kris, and to have been in contact with the wonderful people that run Silverdocs. Thanks again to everyone at Silverdocs and Lionsgate – everything was fantastic. One last reminder that DC area folks can catch the Sunday evening screening of the film. Otherwise, you can catch the film in October in NYC, LA, and Cleveland. More info is available at More Than A Game’s website.
Lastly, here’s the preview for the film in case you haven’t already seen it: