I knew that Arsenal Tech’s basketball team’s coming together as family and winning the Indiana High School Basketball Championship as the inner-city school that no one thought could win it all would make a great story.
So I starting taking some baby steps towards making a documentary film about that season.
The first step after the season was my son Julian filing all the footage. Julian was a real trooper, putting hours and hours into putting the footage into files where it could be found. It had been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Julian to be a part of that team, and he was motivated to see the project through.
I recruited my friend David Lichty, a film-lover and film-maker, to help me with the project.
When David heard that the cumulative grade point average of the Championship team was over 3.0 he was intrigued. It blew away the stereotypes of an “ghetto school.” He directed me to go through all the footage and note what parts were good, what parts we should highlight, etc. It took me hours and hours to do this. Finally it was catalogued. I passed my notes on to David who started to compile it into a rough story-line of the season.
First musicians/composers recruited and first showing
I started to ask around for musicians/composers who could help with the sound track. Mrs. Marveda Saunders was a Police Officer who served at Tech. Her son, Eron Harris, was playing Division one basketball, first, I think at West Virginia. Then he transferred to Michigan State. Marveda told Eron about our project and he sent a great song that we are going to use on the sound track.
My friend Donteau Gladney Sr, whose son Donteau Jr. had played on the Championship team, recruited one of his nephews to lay down a few beats which were passed on to us too. We had the beginning of a sound track. But just the beginning.
In October of 2014 we had a rough, and long, 2 hour movie of the season. We showed it to the Tech basketball team. Both David and I knew that we were far from done with the finished product, but we had a good start.
Then the project sat untouched. For almost four years.
My move to Washington State
In January of 2015 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. That rocked my world. We had buried our roots deep in Indy, but now I felt a real desire to be closer to home to help my dad and mom out in mom’s battle with breast cancer.
A pastor job opened up at a Presbyterian Church in Redmond, WA. I applied and got the job. In August of 2015 I drove a big Uhaul truck across the country with my friend Donteau. We had all kinds of adventures in our cross country trip. But that’s another story.
An hour before we got to Redmond I started crying because I knew I was going to have to say goodbye to my friend Donteau, and because we had left our home and a big part of our heart in Indy, with the church and friends there, and with IPS.
I didn’t know that I would ever have a chance to complete the “We are Family Project.” It just wasn’t on my mind. And I couldn’t figure out a natural way to go back to Indy and work on project.
On the Shelf
I put the “We are Family” project on the shelf. I didn’t have the time and energy to work on it. Besides my regular work as a pastor in Redmond, WA I was also starting up my long dreamed of Sunnyshore Studio on Camano Island. David, however, did put some work into the project. Donna Griffin, who taught media at Tech at that time, was very encouraging to us to continue the project. She connected us to a bunch of old footage of players being interviewed, of Tech in the past, and other great material. We owe her a real debt for all of her help!
But besides David spending time with Donna, the project sat on the shelf, until May 2018.
Judah in Indy and Jacob graduating from Purdue
In January of 2018 my third son, Judah, had gone back to be Indy as part of a “gap year” after he graduated from High School. He wanted to have some time to be with his friends, and to have some closure. He lived with my brother Jed and sister-in-law Renae, in their home just a block from Tech high school. Judah had had a great time in Indy. By May he was ready to come home to Redmond.
In May, my oldest son, Jacob, graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree from Purdue. This was a huge accomplishment and my wife, Jenny, and I determined we would fly back to Indy to celebrate it with him.
Finally I had a reason to be in Indy. I took a week vacation and started scheduling interviews.
Our friends, Nathan and Sarah Partain, were on a sabbatical trip. They live one block east of Arsenal Tech, just a few houses away from my brother Jed. This gave us a “base camp” to operate from.
Jacob’s graduation was on Sunday, May 13th. How awesome was that for Jenny! It was great for me too, but especially gratifying for Jenny.
We attended Brian Parks graduation party too. Brian played football at Tech. He received a scholarship to play football at Wabash where he graduated with top honors. At the party I was able to interview Brian, and Ms. Garing, who had been a very popular English teacher at Tech about that Championship season.
The next three days were busy!
Monday, May 14th
On Monday, May 14th, David and I went to work.
For me that morning started out at Peppy’s Grill in Fountain Square where I met two of my friends, Matt Aalsma And Paul Baumgarten.
David had arranged for us to use the studio of his friend, artist Casey Roberts, which is in an old warehouse on Mass Ave, near Tech, to film in.
Casey’s studio was big and artsy and quiet, with space for interviewees to hang out and relax. It was perfect! I am so thankful for his gracious hospitality to let us use it.
David met me at the door. And we got to work right away.
We had some technical difficulties, no pun intended, and my friend Paul Baumgarten graciously stopped by and helped us get one of our cameras in order.
Our first interview was with Dr. Eugene White, President of Martin University. He had been a past Superintendent of IPS and gave us great perspective on IPS and what the Tech victory had met.
On Monday I also interviewed Bob King, who was a parent of a Tech student during the championship season, and who also was a reporter for the INDY Star, covering IPS. I also friend, fellow IPS dad and huge IPS sport fan, Josh interviewed Josh Bowling.
For lunch my friend, local icon, historian and artist, Kipp Normand, joined David and I at La Prada on New York Street. I was able to twist Kipp’s arm hard enough to get him to promise to come back on Tuesday for an interview.
On Monday evening I interviewed Donald Mosley who was a Tech Student in 2013-2014 and part of the student sport reporting team that covered the basketball team. He has a great voice and had a striking perspective on it all.
Early on Tuesday morning my son Judah and I walked to Tech and took some great footage of the school in the morning and as students began to arrive on campus. What a beautiful campus Tech is!
On Tuesday morning I interviewed Kipp, who provided lots of insight about Indianapolis and IPS history. At 11:00 I interviewed Kyle Neddenriep who is an Indy Star Sports reporter and who had followed Tech closely their championship season. It was very interesting to hear his perspective.
At 1:00 David and I went to the impressive history center at the Tech to meet with Linda Hill, who was a sophomore at Tech when they went to the went to the final at Muncie Central and lost; she was at the Championship game in 2014, watching the clock, as the game got close and closer. When Tech won she cried. We had also scheduled and interview there with Ken Kenipe.
Ken had met his wife Joan in the 3rd grade. He graduated from Tech in 1949 (after just three years); Joan went four years to Tech and graduated in 1950. They started going to games when they were freshmen in 1946. They haven’t missed any games apart from a few years when they lived away from Indy. Ken and his wife had been recently written up in an article in the Indy Star as Tech basketball fans. Finally, we had scheduled to interview Sarah Bogard, who was the principal at Tech for a number of years before they won the championship. She created the Arsenal Tech museum and is a wealth of information about Tech and IPS.
Unfortunately, we had our wires crossed. They had planned to meet with us on Wednesday. So David and I spent a couple of hours researching, and getting footage of the impressive array of historical artifacts in the Tech history rooms.
We also stopped and took video of the Championship Logo on the Tech gym floor.
That evening I interviewed Coach Keith Dabney and Coach Jason Delaney. It was great to get their perspective on that historic season. Late that evening my son Julian Dorsey arrived from George Mason University in the Washington DC area on the beginning of summer break. He had just come off finals week, and hosting a major UNICEF event, and hadn’t slept much the last couple of days. But he was a good sport and would help us out on Wednesday.
We interviewed Julian first thing in the morning. Then we went back to Tech and interviewed Linda, Ken and Sarah. Those were great interviews.
In the afternoon I interviewed Coach K. Then my dear friend Donteau Sr. stopped by, bringing his son, Onnie Harlin, whose big brother, Donteau Jr. was a part of the team and who had basically been a “gym rat” who hung out with the championship team that whole season. Onnie was just a kid in 2013, and now he was a grown up man, heading off to college in the fall.
I also interview Justin Parker, “JP”, who had been one of the star players on the team that season. It was great to here his perspective now four years after.
Over those three days, Monday through Wednesday, we were able to capture an wealth of incredible, diverse, thoughtful interviews. One theme was heard through each interview: Tech’s victory had mattered in significant ways.
We got most, not all however, of the interviews we wanted. A few days later, David interviewed Kevin and David Van Horn, twin brothers and Tech alumni, and their dad. They were huge fans that championships season. David said that the interview was absolutely delightful. At the end of their interview, the twins asked David if they could help us out financially and gave him some money. That was super encouraging.
We are continuing to get interviews of coaches and players, family members and fans as we are able. As it stands we have an incredible amount of footage, and, what’s more important, an inspiring story.
There is an important story in Tech’s championship season. A story about players and coaches in an inner city school coming together as family. It is a story for all those urban kids who are told “you can’t do this.” It is a story about people coming together – black and white, rich and poor – around a team and as a team.
We have the video footage. Before us now is the hard work of recruiting a team of musicians and composers to write songs to make the film come to life. Before us is the hard technical work of video editing, hours and hours and hours of that. And before us is the great challenge of raising funds to pay our musicians and video editors. We are committed to see this story through, and to tell it to the best of our ability. We have come this far. We have confidence that we will carry on to tell this story. We do this because:
WE ARE FAMILY