Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Blind Boy Fuller


I think Fuller was one of my favorite music artists of the 30's. He wrote several songs that were indicative of the times.

Hopefully we will be able to get permission to use some of his music.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bellfountain gym

The gym as it stands today. It hasn't changed since the high school days of 1937.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Harry Wallace Interview

Today Doug Graham and I loaded our production gear and headed south on I-5 (or 'The 5' if you live in So.Cal) to Corvallis, Oregon.

Waiting for us was a gentle spirit and wonderful man of 92 years. We picked a location in the garden area of the Timberhill Place Retirement Center. (thank you for your accommodations and hospitality)

Harry Wallace shared stories of an era long lost to modern technology. He shared a home with parents and siblings during the Great Depression with no bathroom, no phone and a large tub for a bath.

During our 90 minute interview, his eyes danced as he shared stories of a small town with a coach and 8 boys with a dream.

He shared of his misadventure into amateur wrestling at a local fair. The wrestling ring that once looked so large from the audience became substantially smaller as he attempted to escape the burly arms of the much slower but heavier opponent. "What was I thinking" he would say. "I was thinking I could keep away from him for the required time with my speed and agility".

That concept worked well for several minutes until the opponent grabbed one of his appendages and tossed him in the air. His descent to the ground would result in a trip to the hospital to attempt repair on a misaligned left arm. It would never heal correctly and would be one of many challenges facing him and the young team from 'Bellfountain'

An hour and a half later after starting the interview, we were joining him and 'Woody' (a friend) for lunch.

More to follow...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Team Member Harry Wallace

Harry Wallace is the last surviving member of the 1937 State Championship team. He is 92 and we're interviewing him in two days. When talking to Harry on the phone, he sounded vibrant and ready to share play by play commentary on his early years.

I'm anxious to discuss his brief venture into amateur wrestling his freshman year. Details to follow...

Our goal is to be filming in early 2011 with a 2012 release. As we are in development on this project, many elements will continue to come together.

"Giant Killers" is more than scenes of basketball games won and lost. It is about individuals working through their greatest challenges during the toughest time in our country's history, The Great Depression.

Follow along with us on our adventure.

The Center Jump

Until 1937, the game of basketball had an unusual rule. After each team scored, the ball was brought back to center court and re-jumped.

In today's fast paced game of basketball, this element of the game would seem rather boring... not back in the era of the Great Depression. Maybe it was the opportunity to relieve some of the frustrations of having to do farm chores or maybe it was the ref's just wanting to spice up the game but it became a favorite part of the game for the crowd.

It was the one time the ref's looked the other way after the ball was tossed in the air. Elbows flew, hand's checked, bodies bumped and more than one player would end up on their bottom. I envision a standing rugby scrum with the ball flying out of a group of bodies and heading down the court.

Bellfountain's tallest player was Richard Kessler at 6 foot nothing. Competing in the B League was one thing but many of the larger A League schools had athletes over 6 feet, a few at 6 foot 4 inches. Richard would have to learn a strategy to help him overcome this deficit.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The beginning

In November of 2008, I was traveling with a friend to a retreat in the mountains.

We had been discussing my past film projects and were discussing various stories that might lend themselves to a screen play.

Doug asked me if I had ever heard the story of the small school from Oregon that won the Boy's State basketball tournament during the Great Depression. I mentioned I hadn't and he provided me with the name of the town and the approximate year they won.

I love the internet.... did I say I love the internet? I was able to quickly pull information on Bellfountain Oregon and their small high school of 28 students and 8 boys on the basketball team. The years were 1933 - 1937 and this ragtag team of small town wonders battled their way into the hearts of all Oregonians who were struggling through the Great Depression.

I discovered two books written on the topic and a few newspaper articles that provided the majority of research material.

The first was Ralph Friedman's book, "The Other Side of Oregon" where he wrote 20 full pages on the 'Boys of Winter'.

The other was Joe R. Blakely's book, "The Bellfountain Giant Killers" where he wrote a compelling 65 pages on the historic final two years of their school years.

Rachel Bachman from the The Oregonian wrote a two page article entitled "Giant Killers' feat still echoes after 70 years" on Sunday, December 16, 2007

This research prompted a trip down to Bellfountain which is 18.22 miles south or Corvallis off of Hwy 99. It isn't much more than a stop sign now but at one time, it was bustling little farm and timber community.

Much to my delight, the school where the 'Bells' played was still there as was the gymnasium and the church across the street. We met with Greg who is pastor of the church who now owned the school and gym. He took us to the school and gym and it was like stepping back in time. The gym interior had not changed except for a few minor modern updates such as lighting. I could see in my minds' eye the 8 member team blitzing up and down the court with the lightening fast passing Coach Litchfield had taught them.

Flash forward to today where we are currently in development on this wonderful story, "Giant Killers". This blog will highlight our journey and hopefully end with the World Premiere being shown in Portland in 2012. (Before December 21st, just in case) :)

We are developing a team of creative and technical advisers to be a part of this project. We have a few on board now.

We are looking for historians, sports enthusiasts and people interested in Oregon film to be a part. I believe some runners might be interested as well for as team member Harry Wallace provided in the Rachel Bachman interview, "We'd play basketball and then run home," said Wallace, who lived four miles from school. "Kept us in shape."

More to come...