Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Interview with the producers of One Wall, Kings of Coney Island, engaging audiences with a film documentary about handball

One Wall : Kings of Coney Island had it's European Premiere in the Feature Documentary Section, selected for the 25th Anniversary of the Galway Film Fleadh (Film Festival), in Galway, west of Ireland, which took place 9th - 14th July 2013.  Winner of the Audience Choice Award at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival and the New Hope Film Festival. Nominee of Best Documentary and Best Director at the Idyllwild Cinemafest 2013, and the official selection at the New Hope Film Fest 2013.

The film takes a look at handball as an ultimate, beautiful, challenging and seriously brutal game, even one player comparing it to boxing, except with a ball. For over 50 years the National One Wall Handball Championships has been played at the Seaside Courts in Coney Island. This film sets out to follow and explore the most talented athletes as they compete for the prestigious title, and showcases comparisons and contrasts of the young, handsome, talented reigning champion Tyree Bastidas, to the legendary Joe Durso, the legend that everyone loves to hate. The challenges, trials and tribulations of handball players that are prepared to play throughout all seasons, whether snowing or whether it is hot and humid, to attain their goal of the title using whatever tactical means available to them at whatever cost. Handball players from all walks of life demonstrate their skills, sheer grit, and determination to prove that they are the best of them all.  The other handball players featured in the film range from maths teachers, policemen, to glaziers and truck drivers, who find their ultimate release, challenges and satisfactions in their love of competitive handball, which defies all boundaries.

Joe Durso, at 57, a nine time National Champion, and the best player of all time, is not willing to give up the sport which ultimately shaped his life and identity.  Off court a former District Attorney, and now High School teacher, narrates in parts in local Brooklynese lingo, the beauty of the sport, artistry, athleticism of top players and his frustrations that this sport is still not mainstream. He was considered the foul mouthed egomaniac, on the level of Mohammed Ali, one of his heroes being Arnold Schwarzenegger with a similar mentality showing great inner and outer strengths which surpasses normal sporting limitations, and over 20 years had changed a lot, and not quite reconciling with the fact that his prime days as a top athlete were fading....

One Wall Kings of Coney Island gets up close and personal to the determination and effort that is required of a handball player, who will stop at nothing and defy all limitations to reach the ultimate goal of being a winner.  The effort that is required is beyond that one would think prima facie, and this is brought to light clearly throughout the film, as the layers of playing such a demanding sport are revealed one by one.  Players push themselves beyond their physical and mental limitations, which is demonstrated by the close up shots during the film.

Joe Glickman, Director for the film is a Brooklyn based freelance writer, his articles have appeared in Outside, National Geographic, Los Angeles Times Sunday magazine among others. Antony DeAngelo, executive producer has written numerous scripts for film and television, as well as a competitor and fan of handball, and complemented making this film with the rest of the team.  Michael Inglesh, the executive producer, nearly 20 years ago, packed up and moved with his wife and family, to pursue their dreams, and is well known in showbusiness via television and independent projects and has 3 daytime Emmy Awards. Ken Saunders also an executive producer for the film, provided some of the inner passion vital to this teamwork, in his collaborations for this film.

See below for the Interview about the film with Michael Inglesh & Ken Saunders, executive producers during the Galway Film Fleadh 2013 -

-How did this film come about?

(Michael Inglesh) As the executive producer, co creator and jack of all trades, I shot, edited, and hired everybody myself, so it was kind of a labor of love at the beginning, a grass roots thing, it grew and grew, we attached really good people, accomplished writers, producers and we pulled it off, and it is about 3 years to the day when we started this film.  In 2010 we started to shoot and finished in 2011, editing was during 2012, we started showing it in the Festival circuit in January Idyllwild CinemaFest.

Actually, I was in pre-production of another film, with my my original co-creator Anthony DeAngelo and we realized that the film we were working on was going to be very expensive, labor intensive and would require a lot of money.  We sat down on a park bench in Coney Island, at the handball courts where Anthony used to play as a teenager.  Himself being one of the 'Brooklynees' – ' in the hood 'where old these old timers and young players would gather around us, like we were somebody important, we kind of were as Anthony used to play on the courts. 

I went home later that day and Googled all these kids names, they are YouTube, Twitter freaks, they have homemade videos that thousands of people watched.  I said this is an audience.  These guys will show up every day to the court, we don't have to pay them, just for the thrill of making a movie they will show up, I did not need to give them a call sheet, or tell them what time to be there – they would be there... so we started shooting...

-So you had a ready made set and a real story to tell? Why did you decide to tell this story in the manner that you did as a documentary, rather than a live shoot?

(Michael ) We kind of did an amalgam of both – a balance, as pure documentarian style, we looked for the story.  Along came a writer named Joe Glickman who had written about all our guys 10 years prior, when they were 10 years younger, so we attached Joe to the project.  He started sifting through our 17-18 days worth of footage that we had, hundreds of hours and because of his diligence and hard work we awarded him the director credit, as frankly he crafted a story for us. We could have told many stories but he picked a really good story to tell.

We did kind of head to Coney as the third character, but also showing their personal side – Pizza parlor – house,back yard, where they hang out. Shot on a 50mm lens as I am a fan of the close up, no take 2's

-So the film has a very personal feel in the way it was shot but also in the way that you filmed it, not just the aspect of the game, but also personal life too?

(Michael) Yeah, one thing I learned is that I will never shoot multi-format again, we started with one camera and went to another camera. We then hired someone with an expensive camera, so we had 5 different formats that we are editing. I recommend use one camera – regardless just stick that particular camera.....

-Before editing when you had all of the material put together how long was the film ?

(Michael) 7 hours, mini series -ridiculous! We had a lot of the women's stories in that 7 hours, we started to realize that maybe if we kept the story to the men, not to be exclusionary in any way. I have been asked what about the women ? ...well I have all those interviews and all that footage, distribute this first one and we will release the second one Queens of Coney Island...

-What are you hoping from your audiences when they see this film?

(Michael) I hope they want to take a cheap flight to Brooklyn and come to Coney Island, have a hot dog on the seashore there, …. just to experience Coney somehow...the film is a lot of sweat, some tears....

-What is next for you ?

(Michael) Its funny our production company is called We Got Next Productions. Ultimate Frisbee – if I can get the funding- looks simple to play but is a lot of running- and there is a subculture that you would not believe...

-Would you go about this the same way as you did this film?

(Michael) I would go a little younger and and a female cast, as my daughter has introduced me to some many cool high school girls and to me if I could capture their development as they go through school and get the story behind that as well as the sport...

-What format did you use and why ?

(Michael) I wanted it to be like a person was speaking to another, there would not be a lot of distance between us.  A 50Mm Nikon 40 year old lens put on a brand new Canon DSLR 7D, used a very old lens and a very new camera and then we graduated to a RED one for the competition coverage, which was pretty intense, and could you see every sweat drip, every, bump of the skin, and the RED camera really gave our film a distinct look.

-In saying that did you want the film to have a raw but personal look?

(Michael) Yes, I did not want it to look a Hollywood feature, I wanted it to feel like one of the players was making it, but to capture the essence of the game we needed a high end speedy camera that could catch the ball – a mixture of formats, and doing everything 3 or 4 times – next time one camera. I even used the cellphone on one of the shots.

-Why did you decide on Joe Durso as your main character ? Were you trying to portray his raw emotion, strengths and the character of the man behind and fielding that handball ?

(Michael) Because he is the mouth that roars, they all love to hate and hate to love him. A kind of a Darth Vader, we wanted to make him mythical yet very vulnerable at points

(Ken Saunders) -Joe Durso is a charismatic, intelligent sophisticated New Yorker, he is steeped in this sub culture which is really street, really masculine, that is almost violent, very Brooklyn, Joe is uniquely intelligent enough to be crazy with himself and then step out of himself. His perception of the subculture and its idiosyncratic elements, characteristics.

- How did he feel about the fact that you wanted to make this film?

(Ken) I think he was vain, glorious enough to get caught up in it, he really loved the glamour and glory of it, he says himself, if he walks away from the court, three blocks down the road he isn't famous anymore.  So here we were following him around Brooklyn, insisting that he was a famous person. I think that he gets a kick out of hearing his voice. He has not seen the movie, ..... maybe he is afraid of success, getting older, how his teeth look.. 57 and not the champion anymore and he is known as he was the champion...

-The future of handball ?

(Ken) One wall handball will be a demonstration sport at 2014 World Games and a demonstration sport by 2018 for the Olympics.

Twitter @wegotnextprod

*Thanks to Michael Inglesh and Ken Saunders for their time and kind invitation to watch and discover the film during the Festival, and for interviewing with myself. Thanks also to the Galway Film Fleadh for their kind hospitality during the Festival*

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