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[Interview] – Jeannie Donohoe’s – ‘Game’ – A Short Film

 

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Posted November 12, 2017 by

 
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Director Jeannie Donohoe’s award-winning film Game is a story about pushing boundaries to achieve your goals. The film stars Rick Fox (Dope, He Got Game), Nicole Williams (film debut; Univ. Nevada point guard) and Tye White (People Vs. OJ Simpson, Drumline).

AJ Green, a new kid in town, shows up at the high school boys basketball varsity tryouts and instantly makes an impression. Coach takes notice, and so do the other players, some of whom feel threatened by the new blood. The school’s team is excellent— second best in the state—and this is the year Coach plans to win it all. AJ proves himself on the court and clearly has talent, heart, and drive… as well as a big secret. Will AJ make the team once the players and coach discover the truth?

Jeannie Donohoe is an award-winning filmmaker who has written and directed several short films, including Game, Lambing Season (selected for over 50 film festivals and multiple awards; named one of the “Best Short Films of 2014” by Indiewire; currently airing on PBS Film School Shorts) and Public (Palm Springs ShortFest, PBS Imagemakers). Jeannie was selected from over 4,600 applicants to write and direct Game through the Lexus Short Films program. This talented director is currently developing her first feature-length film.

Trailer:

Interview:

To begin with, tell us about your latest film ‘Game’… what is it about?

GAME is an action-packed sports film with a twist.  We follow AJ Green, a new kid in town, who shows up at basketball tryouts for the high school’s championship-level team.  AJ’s a bit of an underdog — short, skinny, a little shy — but turns out to be a talented, driven athlete.  Coach and the other kids quickly notice AJ’s skills, and a rivalry ignites between AJ and the team’s starting point guard.  But AJ has a secret, and it may or may not determine whether he makes the team.  GAME is a story about wanting to play at the highest level, and it asks the question: what does it take to go all the way?

How did you get involved with the film? Where did the idea come from?

I came up with the idea for GAME out of personal experiences, my interests, and my outlook on the world.  I’ve played a lot of sports in my life and I’m a big basketball fan.  I love sports movies and the way they can often speak to larger societal issues.  [Spoiler alert here!]  In my experiences playing sports, as well as with many jobs (certainly working in the film industry), gender inequality is an undeniable reality, and I feel strongly about it.  I wanted to tell a story about an ambitious, talented, hard-working girl who pushes past the expectations and limitations she perceives, as well as a coach who recognizes an opportunity to support progress.

Let’s talk about the cast, who is starring in ‘Game’?

We had a dream cast for GAME!  Rick Fox, former L.A. Laker and 3-time NBA Champion-turned-actor, plays “Coach.”  It was incredible to have him on the project, and the players all looked up to him so much on set, it was like he was really their coach.  “AJ Green” is newcomer Nicole Williams, who played four years of college basketball as point guard at Nevada.  Our casting director actually discovered her in a clothing store!  GAME was her acting debut.  Tye White (People Vs. OJ Simpson, Greenleaf) is “Collins.”  Jamie McShane (Bloodline, Gone Girl, Sons of Anarchy) plays “Assistant Coach.”  Tye and Jamie are the nicest guys ever, but you wouldn’t know it from their characters in GAME.  Team member “Theo” is Dominique Columbus, who’s known for his work in Ray Donovan.  “Luke” is played by Michael Purdie — an amazing athlete — who was recently a semifinalist on TNT’s Dunk King.  Charles Parnell (Pariah,Transformers) plays AJ’s father.  The background cast is made up of 30 real basketball players.  Some are trained actors, some just fresh out of their high school season.  We held auditions for a few days in a casting studio, but did the call-backs on a basketball court.  As a hard-core basketball fan, I wanted to prioritize casting real basketball players, both for the sense of authenticity and the ability to film natural, real action sequences without cheating or doubling shots.  I’ll never forget one plot point where Tye White was supposed to miss a jump shot, but in all the early takes, he kept inadvertently making the basket.  These kids are really great players, and so much fun to work with!

When and where can we expect to see the film?

GAME has been on a thrilling festival run, playing in 70 film fests around the world this past year.  We have upcoming screenings in St. Louis, Ft. Lauderdale, Ojai, Savannah, Hawaii, Lone Star, Red Rock, Fairhope, Aesthetica, and Anchorage Film Festivals.  It’s an exciting movie to catch on the big screen if you can!

What are your influences as a filmmaker?

I’m drawn to a naturalistic aesthetic in films, and to stories that explore sincere emotional experiences and relationships.  Some filmmakers I love are Andrea Arnold, Hirokazu Koreeda, Jane Campion, the Dardenne Brothers, Kelly Reichardt, Ryan Coogler, Lynne  Ramsay.  In terms of the sports film genre, I watched about 50 sports movies and shows as research (maybe the most fun research a sports-fan-filmmaker could possibly do!)  Some of my favorites areHe Got Game (Spike Lee), Friday Night Lights, both the film and the series, (Peter Berg), Bend It Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha), and Creed (Ryan Coogler).  As a writer, I’m also very influenced by the youthful energy and personalities of my former students.  I was a middle school teacher in the Bronx (through the Teach for America program) before I became a filmmaker, and that experience really shaped who I am and how I see the world.

What advice would you give to any up-and-coming filmmakers trying to crack the industry?

Persist!  Keep putting yourself out there and create your own challenges to rise to.  I always find myself writing things that feel kind of crazy to pull off, but that’s what motivates me, and those screenworthy moments are what I respond to as an audience member too.  I think it’s also important to cultivate an artistic community.  Surround yourself with good people and a mutual support system.  Above all, stay true to who you are and the types of work and ideas you want to put into the world.  I think it’s absolutely essential to make work you really believe in and feel proud of.

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other films in production?

One of the exciting things about sharing GAME with audiences is that people keep saying they want to see more from these characters and the story.  It’s great to hear that, because I’ve been working on a feature-length story related to GAME, which I plan to direct as my first feature.

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Interviewed By:

Adam Snowden
@FilmDebate
Company Founder & Managing Director

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