Since Darla Rae got her start working on John Carpenter’s “Halloween,” she has produced over 100 projects and won awards for features such as “Goal” and “Dandy Kids.” She recently completed production on home turf here in Colorado, with “Spirit of Love: The Mike ‘Stinger’ Glenn Story.” Based on the true story of NBA player, Mike Glenn, it brings to life the inspiring work the retired NBA star has done building a basketball camp for the hard of hearing. The camp is completely free to attend and filmmaker Darla Rae found a story where these kids were learning more than just skills on the court.
Rae talked with me about the film and producing it here in Colorado. She is the writer, director, producer and also co-wrote a song for the film with Nashville recording artist, Laura Dodd.
By starting this Basketball camp, Mike Glenn fulfilled a promise that he would return his love of the game to the community that taught him the game, having learned basketball from those who were deaf and hard of hearing. Do you and the crew feel like you are also helping to fulfill his promise?
I believe that we are helping to not only help Mike Glenn in keeping his promise but opening up the possibilities to a larger audience base. What I mean is that until we started making the film here in Colorado nobody here had ever heard of Mike “Stinger” Glenn or his basketball camps for the deaf & hard of hearing, even those in the deaf community. Our hope is that the film will help bring the opportunities to more deaf teens, but also cause them to think outside the box on a larger scale that IT is possible. IT being whatever they want. Not just stopping at basketball or sports, but also cause them to think of the possibilities of the arts as an option for their life.
Did you consider filming a documentary before developing the feature? What is the strength of telling this story as a narrative feature instead?
I actually never considered a documentary for this project. Personally I felt a documentary was limiting. I wanted to make a film with a story and characters that all teens could identify with, whether deaf or not. The coaches who brought the story to me who have been with Mike’s camps for over 20+ years liked my previous work and really felt it was my decision. Having created both doc’s and narrative features in the past I felt we could get more mileage and exposure for Mike and the work he has accomplished in 33 years. I believe by allowing teens who normally would not get a chance to experience filmmaking first hand on both sides of the camera we have opened up their world of possibilities.
What’s behind the decision to have Mike Glenn play himself in the film?
After carefully considering name actors, both locally and in LA it became apparent that I could either get the sports experience or the ASL signing experience, but I couldn’t seem to get both together. Also it had to be an African American. Then when you factor budget and the time frame we didn’t have the ability to wait to get someone up to speed. Then I had the thought: why couldn’t he play himself? After all, he is a public person who does live television, and knows basketball and signs fluently. It’s a choice that I am extremely happy with.
What stage is the production in now? Help with fundraising is always needed, and people can donate at the website, but how else do you want people to get involved?
We are fortunate to be in the final stages of the post-production process. As of today the final color correction on the film is complete and it is rendering for me to take a final look-see before we add the final credits. We are trying to build a Grassroots following of the film with a Facebook FAN Page and twitter. We want people to know it’s not a deaf-only film. It’s a family film for teens and their families. The film is being captioned so that it can be released in theaters and deaf and hard of hearing can sit side by side with their hearing family and friends. Captioning and MPAA ratings cost and so that is where we could use a fairy godmother or godfather, but we will persevere and are excited to be this far along in just 3 months. Or people could donate mileage points to help us get to film festivals.
It’s clear that as a filmmaker, you’ve fought long and hard to create production jobs here in Colorado. What was your biggest triumphant in making this a Colorado-based production?
The biggest triumph thus far is that we completed another quality film while hiring locals, but most importantly seeing the teens (production crew & cast) rise to the occasion and give back to others through a film with a purpose bigger than ourselves.
You wrote an interesting blog post about not shying away from controversy: Things like you being white woman telling a black man’s story, and not being deaf, and also telling a Georgia story in Colorado. A filmmaker is free to tell any story they want, but it also seems that you could focus on the true essence of the story rather than those surface aspects. That said how did you gain Mike Glenn’s trust in being the one to tell this story?
The true essence of the film is that it’s a story about teens and the angst that each of us as teenagers has experienced or will experience in life. It’s about basketball as the backdrop for the story but not THE story. I’m hopeful that if I continue to explain what the film is about eventually people will see that it is deeper. But at the same time if I don’t address the questions, which I wrote about in my blog, it would be a little like not speaking about the elephant in the room. I don’t know if I actually gained Mike’s trust at all until he showed up here in Denver and realized that it was real, with a real film crew and it was happening. Or perhaps it was when I showed up in Georgia at the 33 Camp with an ABC photojournalist to get the behind the scene pictures that were missing in my head. I think if any trust existed it was blind trust, because of his coaches’ belief in me and what they knew I had accomplished previously.