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We are Family Documentary Update #2: February 2 – New Complications and Costs and the hard work of Creativity

Making a full length documentary is supposed to be easy, right? I’m learning the hard way, by real life experience, just how much work it really is. Here’s my second update on the making of the “We are Family” documentary about an inner city basketball team that against all odds won the Indiana state basketball championship.

New Complications

I could go into a number of complications that we’ve run into, but let me share just one. David Lichty, my video editor, discovered some videos of Arsenal Tech basketball in the Indiana State tournament dating back to the 1950’s and 1970’s that would be great B-roll footage for the movie.

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He also found the 2014 Championship Game at Banker’s life fieldhouse that Tech won.

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We have footage of this game too, but it is court side footage that Julian and other players recorded from the bench during the game. When he researched the footage on You Tube it turns out to be owned by the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA).

State Championship Game 1

So I contacted IHSAA to see if we could use their videos, and was put in contact with Chris Kaufman of IHSAA who apparently works with this kind of thing. Here’s what I learned.

It turns out that any recording of an IHSAA game, including video taken on a personal device, is the property of IHSAA. This is not a problem when that video is used for non-commercial reasons, like a parent shooting video of their kids playing that they’ll watch at home. But as soon as the video is used for commercial purposes, it must go through a process of approval through IHSAA, requires and contract which includes compensation to IHSAA. Chris told me that the biggest contract IHSAA has worked out is with the movie Hoosiers. Hoosiers used old footage from the State Championship game that Milan won.

I told Chris that at this point we are just trying to make the movie, and don’t have any deals lined up to sell the movie, etc. So he worked out a two part contract with us: (1) We pay IHSAA $500 for the use of their footage to complete the movie and show it. (2) There will be a second contract required if we plan to sell the movie in the future. In this scenario, IHSAA would ask for a percentage of any compensation we receive for the movie.

If this were all, no big deal. But it gets more complicated.

In the first contract to just use their footage we are required to have Movie Insurance.

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I get why IHSAA requires movie insurance. But I am WAY OVER MY HEAD in figuring this out. I guess this is why I have Jeff Sparks a consultant on this project.

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So you can see how one thing – in this case our request to use IHSAA video – becomes a much bigger, complicated thing. I’ll probably need to hire a lawyer with experience in the Movie Industry to read these contracts and make sure that everything is straight.

And this leads me to my next point.

New Costs

As we keep pressing forward, new costs keep adding up. Here are some of the new costs that I did not account for in the 25K we raised to make this movie:

  • $500 for the use of IHSAA video
  • ??? for Movie Insurance
  • $1,500 to hire a lawyer on retainer

These new costs are not the end of the world. But we are a low-budget operation. I’ve looked into a couple of options to raise a little more money. So far, no luck. I’ll keep trying, and we’ll see what happens.

In the end, no matter the cost, I’m committed to making this movie. This inspiring story is worth telling!

Championship

The Hard Work of Creativity

Creativity is hard work. We often think of creativity happening in a moment of inspiration. And I suppose it does occasionally. But, for the most part, it is just hard work. It is putting in time. It is collaborating. It is feedback. It is grind.

For example, my son Julian spent hours going through playoff game footage and noting what were the best plays, the best footage. You can see his work in the chart below. The red stands for footage that should NOT be used; yellow stands for OK footage that can be used; and green stands for GREAT footage that needs to be used.

In preparing for this next step of the documentary process, my son Julian encouraged me to watch the film “More than a Game” that tells the story of Lebron James and his friends that played AAU and high school basketball together. The film covers about 8 years, so it is a little different than what we are trying to do. I really enjoyed watching the movie. I and thought they did a great job in telling the story. Learning from others is all part of the creative process too.

In the end, making a high quality documentary is just hard work. We have over eight hours of footage that needs to be trimmed down to a 3 hour “uncut” version of the documentary, and then trimmed down one more time to about 1.5 hours of the final version of the documentary. But in the end, telling this story of a team that inspired a city will be worth it!

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Jason and Jenny Dorsey tried education reform in Indy before it became a popular political project

By Russ Pulliam, Associate Editor for The Indianapolis Star, director of the Pulliam Fellowship

Russel Pulliam

“Jason and Jenny Dorsey tried education reform in Indy before it became a popular political project.

A young pastor, Jason and his family checked out the Indianapolis Public Schools not long after 9/11. With four children, they had other options, including the new Oaks Academy. With classical curriculum and racial balance, it was popular in the Redeemer PCA congregation where he had become pastor near downtown Indianapolis in an area that was attracting an influx of middle class families.

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They wondered if could all the bad things they heard about the city’s public schools could be that bad?

Students would get into fights. Teachers sometimes didn’t care and just showed up for work. IPS buildings were in poor shape. Students dropped out too easily. Too many parents didn’t care or were too young to discern how to care.

The Dorseys found another side of the IPS story. Jenny became PTA president at their children’s elementary school. She befriended teachers, principals and Superintendent Eugene White. Jason volunteered as a lunchroom supervisor at Tech High School. Then he became a baseball coach there and led a petition drive for capital improvements. They called their little group IPS Renewal. They thought Indianapolis could never be truly world class without excellence in IPS.

Elizabeth Odle was principal at IPS 14. She balanced love and discipline as families moved often and students brought the challenges of broken homes.

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When some of the Dorsey children were at Tech, the basketball team started to dominate the way city schools did back in the 1950s and 1960s. Tech took the school’s first state championship, in class 4A, in 2014, with a 27-2 record. The team won off-court victories, with an average GPA of 3.2. Star player Trey Lyles won the Trester Award for character and now plays for the Denver Nuggets.

 The Dorsey family has since moved back to their Seattle roots. They look back at IPS as a success for their family. Jason and some friends are finishing a documentary on the season, We Are Family, highlighting the ups and downs of the 2013-14 season.

With a kickstarter campaign, they hope to raise $25,000 to finish the film, using clips that Dorsey and others saved up from the season.

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Basketball is just a game, even in Indiana. For Tech High School, though, that championship season was a big off-court victory. They played in the Hoosiers film tradition of the underdog, yet not in a 1950s small country school. Their season showed that big city schools can overcome the obstacles of racial division, urban poverty and broken families and win championships in life.”

You can learn more about and support Sunnyshore Studio’s Kickstarter campaign to fund the completion of the We are Family Documentary by clicking on this link here:

The Story of the Making of the “We are Family” Documentary, Part 3

Hoosiers, arguably the greatest sports movie ever made, tells the story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that wins the state championship against a stacked urban school and against all odds. It is based in history. In 1954 the Milan basketball team from a tiny Indiana town won the Indiana  basketball championship.

Hoosiers

Like Hoosiers, Arsenal Tech High School’s Indiana basketball championship in 2014 was a victory-against-all-odds, though in reverse. It featured a basketball team from a gritty, downtrodden urban school beating the big township, suburban and rural schools and inspiring urban kids and eventually a whole city in doing so.

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But when my son Julian and started filming Tech’s 2013-2014 season none of this was a reality. It was just a dream. We had no idea how our filming project would sweep us up in Hoosier hysteria.

Don’t get me wrong. Tech’s team, led by Coach Jason Delaney and star player Trey Lyles surrounded by a cast of very gifted seniors, was good and they were motivated. The last two seasons they had suffered heartbreaking losses: two years before they lost to Lawrence Central at regionals by a last second buzzer beater shot by Jeremy Holloway. The previous year they had lost a hard-fought sectional game to Cathedral with Trey Lyles, who had hurt his knee in the game before, watching from the bench. Going into the 2013 season, Coach Delaney had said that this was an all-or-nothing season; anything short of a state championship was a failure.

Even with their strong team, Tech was an underdog to win it all. After all, Tech had never won an Indiana Basketball Championship since it had been established as a high school in 1912, though its teams had played in the championship game four times, losing in 1929, 1934, 1956 and 1966. And no Indianapolis Public School (IPS) team had won the state basketball championship since Broad Ripple did in 1980. The reputation of IPS basketball teams was that they had great athletes but they had low basketball IQ’s, little discipline, and didn’t play well as a team. IPS teams were routinely dismissed from the playoffs by the powerful township, suburban and parochial schools. Certainly, Tech’s program had been limping along for the last couple of decades. Up to a few years before this, no player at Tech really expected to have a chance to win the Indiana Basketball Championship. It was a distant, hazy dream held forth by Coach Delaney and bought into by his team.  The odds were stacked against them.

Nevertheless, after an impressive, in fact, a dominant season with only two losses, anticipation was building about Tech’s chance to go all the way. The school was abuzz. Something special was happening. It was.

The sectional games were held at Lawrence North. In the first sectional game Tech beat Lawrence North soundly. Then they clobbered Lawrence Central, wiping out some of the pain from two years before.

The sectional championship was against Roncalli, a team built on a program and disciplined to play as a team. Roncalli kept the game close by playing a zone, a box in one defense on Trey and hitting their shots from outside. But at the end of the day they were no match. The Tech team held high the sectional trophy, but their sight was set on higher goals.

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By this time, not only was there a buzz about the team on Tech’s campus, Tech alumni were coming out to the games in droves, filling the seats and cheering on their alma mater.

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The Regional finals were held at Southport: two games in one day. The first game was against Richmond. The stands were packed with Tech fans. It was a fun game, with Tech clearly superior. Between the games my wife, Jenny, and I hosted Tech players and coaches at our home for some “down time.” It was great to be able to support the team in that way.

IMG_0842The second game was against Pike. This is now known as the “pink jersey” game. It was quite a fiasco. Here is what happened. In support of the battle against breast cancer, and a couple of players on the team who had family members fighting that battle, Tech had gotten pink jerseys and worn them as their uniform at previous games throughout the season. Having the platform of the regional finals game, they chose to wear the pink jerseys. But one of the Pike coaches complained, the officials conferred, and Tech was ordered to wear their regular green jerseys. However, those were back at the school. And so the game was delayed while one of Tech’s coaches sped home to retrieve the green jerseys. I think Tech was charged a double technical. A Pike player made the free throws, and so Tech started the game down four to zero, or something like that. It didn’t matter. Despite the strong play of Tech player John Robert’s brother, a sophomore at Pike, Tech beat Pike soundly. After winning the game, Tech put back on the pink jerseys for the photos and for cutting down the net. Afterwards Coach Delaney had to write a letter to the Indiana High School Basketball Association apologizing, but I don’t think he minded doing that very much. They had made their statement in support of the battle against breast cancer quite well after all.

Semi-state was held in Richmond against Bloomington. Before the Bloomington North game I interviewed a bunch of Tech alumni and other fans who had gathered at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Richmond. They were confident in their team winning. But that victory was not as easy or straightforward as it should have been.

I’ll never forget walking into the Richmond gym. It was absolutely packed. Hearing the roaring crowd I felt goose bumps up and down my arms and back. It was “Hoosier Hysteria” at its best.

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Tech played a tough Bloomington North team and just dominated in the first three quarters. Tech was up by well over twenty points going into the last minutes of the game, so Coach Delaney sat his starters and brought in the bench. That was almost disastrous. Bloomington North kept fighting. They got shots and stops and breaks and calls. And before you knew it the game was well within their reach. Delaney put his starting five back in, and they barely held off the charging Bloomington team. The Regional Championship trophy was Techs, and their fans were ecstatic, if not a little shaken, after the dramatic ending. Tech was going to the State championship for the fifth time. Would they finally win it all?

Now not only was Tech’s students and alumni rallying around the Tech team, but hosts of Indianapolis Public Schools players, coaches, fans, alumni and supporters were cheering them on. Tech’s team represented them. “We are Family” had come to symbolize not only the team as family, but a whole school district as family.

The Indiana High School State Championship game was at Bankers fieldhouse vs. Lake Central, a team Tech had already beaten in the regular season. I was personally not feeling well at the time. In fact, about that time I had to have surgery to check my lymph nodes to check and make sure that I did not have cancer. Thankfully I didn’t; I just was under a great deal of stress due to a hard situation at work. So I wasn’t able to join in all of the festivities before the game, although I was in attendance. However, my son Julian was brought up with the team and so he was on the inside and able to shoot video. He got great video of the team’s first practice at Banker’s fieldhouse before the game, their walking out onto that court for the first time. It feels a lot like the scene from Hoosiers when the Milan team walks out onto the Butler Fieldhouse before their championship game.

In the locker room before the game quotes from Lake Central players were posted, just in case the Tech team needed added motivation.

What an awesome moment that was to walk into the Fieldhouse packed by fans, to have the players introduced under the lights, and to watch them finally play on that big stage.

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Julian, and other players, shot video from the bench before, during and after the game, capturing the magic of it all.

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Bankers Fieldhouse was packed with Tech fans who cheered their team on. Tech was in control of the game from the beginning, but Lake Central never gave up and kept it close all the way to the end. When the last seconds of the game came to a close and Trey threw the basketball into the air I think I was not alone among the fans in shedding a tear.

I know that Trey also cried in the joy of the victory. There is a great picture of him hugging his dad crying with I’m sure the joy of accomplishing the dream.

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What a thrilling culmination of hard work and family faithfulness for that team.

I doubt if Trey and that Tech team could know what their victory against-the-odds would come to mean for other kids in urban Indianapolis playing for IPS schools: a door had opened to the impossible dream that a team from IPS could win it all too.

Two snapshots gave premonitions of how much that victory meant to Tech and IPS. The first was a student assembly to celebrate the Tech team that finally brought the trophy home. That was a fun, relaxed, joyful, playful time for the teammates and their friends.

The second was a celebration in Tech’s gym on April 8th. The gym was filled with students and alumni and fans and news reporters. It was a party atmosphere. current and past cheerleaders danced and led cheers. One highlight for me was a cheering line for past Tech players. I caught every player coming through the line with big smiles and lots of back slapping and high-fives and handshakes.

At the end of the day, how much did Tech’s victory matter? How much of an impact would it make? It would only be years later that the full impact of their victory could be assessed.

And then could their story be captured and told?

A story about family.

A story about a team of young men and coaches who had a dream

A story of friends and family who came around them to support them in their dream

A story of an urban basketball program that wasn’t supposed to have a chance

A story “for all the inner city kids who are told” you can’t do this

A story about a team inspiring first an inner-city school, then its alumni, then a school district, then a city around their quest to win it all.

In the last article in this series I’ll share the steps that have gone into the making of the documentary We are Family that is due to come out in March of 2019, five years after that inspiring game at Bankers Fieldhouse.

The story of the making of the “We are Family” documentary (Part 1)

By Jason Dorsey

Arsenal Technical High School, established in 1912 and located on a 76 acre campus just east of downtown Indianapolis, has a rich history. Once a United States Arsenal during the Civil War, It’s the third oldest high school in Indianapolis. Tech’s beautiful, historic buildings give it the feel of a college campus.

 

In the 1930’s-1950’s Tech had been one of the largest high schools in the United States, but desegregation and “white flight” from the Indianapolis Public Schools in the 1960’s and 1970’s had taken a toll. When our oldest son, Jacob, enrolled as a freshman there in the fall of 2009, Tech had a reputation as a rough place where if you “had a choice” you wouldn’t send your kid. We did choose to send Jacob to Tech and he thrived in the Math and Science Magnet located in Stuart hall, graduating in 2013 as Valedictorian of his class.

In the summer of 2013 our son Julian, who played for the basketball team, was heading into his junior year at Tech. Tech’s basketball team was expected to do very well, with a plethora of talented seniors led by Trey Lyles. The previous two seasons, Tech had lost heartbreaking playoff games, so the team had a real hunger to go all the way and Coach Jason Delaney was speaking of this season as the “Final Act”. For the team it was all or nothing.

Julian Graduating

However, with all of its rich sports history Tech had never won the Indiana State Basketball Championship, though it had come close four times. In 1929, Tech lost to Frankfurt and then to Logansport in 1934. Joe Sexson, who would later star at Purdue and Coach at Butler, led Tech to the state finals against Logansport at Hinkle Fieldhouse in 1952, but the team lost. Mike and Jim Price led the Tech Titans to the state finals in 1966, when the team lost to Michigan City.  And no IPS team had won the State Basketball Championship since Broad Ripple did in 1980.  Though many people were wondering if this would be the year that Tech would finally win it all, the odds were stacked against them.

Julian and I talked about how cool it would be to get behind-the-scenes and game footage of the season. We went to Coach Delaney to see if he and the coaching staff would be willing to let us do this. He said Yes. He shared that when the Waldron team he coached in 2003-2004 won the 1A Indiana State Basketball Championship he regretted that he didn’t have more photos of and videos for that season. I went out and bought a video camera.

I did not anticipate what a magical season it would be.

Stay tuned for Part 2

We are Family Documentary

Racial divides continue in America. But in the darkness of this division, there are stories of hope.

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Sunnyshore Studio is working on a documentary called We Are Family that will tell the inspiring story of how a basketball team from an urban school in the heart of Hoosier basketball country came together around a common dream of winning the state basketball tournament, how they fought through personal and team challenges, how they forged a bond as family, and how they rallied a whole community around them.

After the Titans won the Championship Game in March, 2014, Indy Star Reporter, Bob Kravitz wrote an article that reflected on the meaning of the victory.

“Landmark State Title proves inspiration to entire Tech community” 

“From the time they are young, these kids who attend Indianapolis Public Schools are told they can’t. Parents try, teachers try, mentors try to lift them up and out of their circumstances, but the lowly graduation rates at schools such as Arsenal Tech do not lie, nor does the alarming drop-out rate.

 On Saturday night at Bankers Life, though, the talented and composed young men of Arsenal Tech believed they could do something very special, something that hasn’t been done since Broad Ripple earned the IPS’ last state title in 1980. And they did, knocking off Lake Central, 63-59, winning the Class 4A state title, showing everybody, yes, they could.

 Sixty years ago this week, Milan won one for all those small schools.

Saturday night, Tech won one for all the schools and the students who have been told they aren’t good enough to ascend the greatest heights.

 Remember the Titans.”

We Are Family will explore the impact of this victory on the lives of the players, coaches, school and IPS community four years later. In it we ask, “did that victory matter?”  And we hear a resounding: YES!

We look forward to sharing this story with you that proves that the relationships that are built when a team comes together as a family really do matter and endure.

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