On Friday, January 22, Sunnyshore Studio released the documentary We Are Family that tells the story of the Arsenal Technical High School (Indianapolis, IN) basketball team that came together as a family and against all odds won the state championship and inspired a city in doing so. You can watch the movie here.
We caught up with Director and Producer Jason Dorsey to ask a few questions.
Sunnyshore Studio: Congratuations on releasing We Are Family. How do you feel now that the movie is out?
Jason: I’m very happy, relieved, and hopeful. Happy because we were able to tell this inspiring story. Relieved because it has been a long and hard journey. It feels great to be at the end and to have the movie available to the public. And hopeful because I think this is an important story at many levels. I hope that it has an impact not only on the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), Tech Alumni, and Indianapolis but even more broadly.
Sunnyshore Studio: Why do you think it is important?
Jason: For at least three reasons. First, because it captures a real life story of a bunch of kids from the hood who came together as a team, as a family. They had a dream. And the achieved amazing things. As Mar Mar Dabney and others say at the end of the movie, it gives hope to kids in the hood that they can achieve great things; that the can come together around a common cause and do more than they ever imagined. Mikey Jones says he can be an example to younger kids because he lives on their street, they seem him in the store, etc.
Second, in many ways this film was made for more than just the Tech family but really for the entire IPS family. No IPS team had won the Indiana High School Basketball championships since Broad Ripple did in 1980. It was always the Township Schools winning, or the parochial schools. When Tech won in 2013, it broke the glass ceiling. It showed all the other IPS high school coaches and players that they could do it. In the movie, Victor Bush says that he thinks Crispus Attuck’s victory a few years later was partially inspired by Tech. He thinks there will be other pockets in IPS who will achieve high level success as they believe that it can be done. This matters a lot to me because when we lived in Indianapolis, IPS was looked at with a lot of suspicion and contempt as a broken system and bad education. Few of our peers would even consider sending their kids to IPS. Our kids attended IPS schools and we new differently. Things are changing now. And I hope and pray that IPS will continue to be a force for education and athletics in Indianapolis. Stories like this break the negative stereotype of IPS.
Lastly, we live in a time when racial wounds, tension and alienation is high. We Are Family shows that people can come together across racial (and economic, etc.) divides and become a team, even a family. You just have to have a common cause, a common dream. Stories like this one show it can be done, and even, in a way, how it can be done. America needs good stories, not just more bad stories to fill our news feeds.
Sunnyshore Studio: Seven years in the making! That’s a long time. Describe that process?
Jason: It started with my son Julian and I going to Coach Delaney and the other coaches and getting permission to take video of the season. Then we went out and bought a camera. That was the summer of 2013. After filming from pre-season condition to the championship game (March, 2014), my son Julian organized the footage. Then I recruited my friend David Lichty to take on the project. We had a very rough and unfinished cut to show the next year’s team by the spring of 2015. After we moved from Redmond, the project got put on a shelf for a couple of years. In May, 2018, I spent a week in Indy filming players, coaches, family and fans looking back at that magical season; and then another week doing the same in November. I had this crazy idea that we would have the movie made by March 2019 (5 years after the championship game) but that was a pipe dream. I had no idea the work it would take to raise money, recruit musicians, edit video, and the list goes on and on and on. But all the work was worth it. I’m very happy with the finished product.
Sunnyshore Studio: You call yourself an amateur? How did you guys pull this off?
Jason: Well, I am an absolute film making amateur. But I had a strong will and desire to tell the story. More importantly, I had great people at my side. My son Julian stuck it out from beginning to the end, with critical help at important junctions. My friend David Lichty carried the load of the video and audio work. He did way more work than he was paid for. Tremayne Reed was a great associate producer and helped a ton with trimming the story down. There’s so many other people that helped out on the video side. Then there were the 110 Kickstarter supporters who gave to the project. I was able to hire great musicians to create the sound track. And a few friends gave their music generously, like Nathan Partain and Eric Locke. Then there were the players and coaches and family and fans who were willing to be interviewed. Without all of these people collaborating with me, this film could not have been made. So I didn’t do it along. In a way, the title of this movie if for them too: We Are Family!