Backstage Interview: DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

Backstage Interview: DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

INTERVIEW WITH: Ben Proudfoot

FILM: "The Queen of Basketball"

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          Q.    Right here.  Congratulations.  Karen Peterson with Awards

                Daily.

          A.    Hi.

 

          Q.    Hi.  In your acceptance speech you were talking about how this

                is a big moment for female athletes and movies.  Can you talk a

                little bit more about that?

          A.    Yeah.  So our film, THE QUEEN OF BASKETBALL, is about Lucy

                Harris who is a pioneer of the game of basketball.  She was the

                first and only woman to officially be drafted into the NBA.

                She said, "No."

                She's the first woman -- the first woman of color who is

                enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame.  She led the

                Mississippi Delta team to three national championships.  She

                scored the first basket in Olympic history, and her story was

                basically ignored for years until she told it to me in July of

                2020.

                And I think this win shows, not only that Lucy Harris, her

                story means something profound to America and to the world, and

                I think it speaks to the fact that any naysayer who says, you

                know, it's the -- female athletes don't deserve the world

                stage, I hope this helps contribute to changing that and ending

                this disparity and closing the gap in terms of compensation, in

                terms of exposure, that the female athletes get in comparison

                to men.

 

 

          Q.    Nick Hamilton, NightCast Media.  Congratulations.

          A.    Thank you.

 

          Q.    Two-part question:  One, what was it like having executives

                producer like Shaquille O'Neal and Steph Curry be a part of

                this project, and then also how does this help bring more

                awareness to the WNBA as far as women's athletics is concerned?

          A.    Yeah.  It was amazing working with Shaq.  It was amazing

                working with Steph.  Their entire teams are fantastic, and for

                them to step up and use their platform and use their, you know,

                capital to tell this story, get it out there, and lift Lucy on

                their shoulders is a big reason why so many people are finding

                out about her story and paying attention to the history of

                women's basketball.

                I don't know what effect it will have on the WNBA, but I hope

                it makes people pay attention that every player on that court,

                every WNBA player has a study, just like Lucy had a story.  And

                that's really what makes any game or any story interesting to

                watch are the people, and I hope that people start paying

                attention to people's stories because that's what makes it a

                game, a sport, a story, a pleasure to watch is knowing who

                those people are.

                And, yeah.  I hope -- I hope it makes the contribution that

                Lucy would want to make and draw attention to those stories,

                and make it easier to find those games, watch those games.  I

                know that was something that was important to her.

 

 

          Q.    Thank you for making this incredible short, and also for

                letting Lucy tell her own story straight to the camera.  You

                felt like you were in the room with her.

          A.    Yeah.

 

          Q.    It's so sad that she didn't live to see this moment.  What does

                this Oscar mean for Lucy and for her family?  And thanks for

                recognizing her family to be part of the story.

          A.    Yeah, it is.  Well, Lucy got to see the movie at Tribeca in

                New York; and she loved it, and she was there with her family

                and I know it meant a lot.

                The last time I saw her, I was helping her into her car.  And

                she gave me a big hug, and she whispered "Thank you" in my ear,

                and it's hard not to think about that and not get emotional.

                But I think, you know, Lucy's four children and their partners

                knew how amazing of a story this was.  I think Lucy knew how

                amazing of a story it was, and, you know, I'm a craft's person,

                you know, I'm a story craft's person.  I'm a filmmaker.  And

                honestly in the first ten minutes of interviewing Lucy, I said

                to myself I just better not screw this up.  This is a really

                important story.  She's an amazing storyteller.

                You can watch the film for free on YouTube, probably one of the

                very few Oscar-nominated films you can watch for free.  It is

                20 minutes long on YouTube, very accessible, so I hope

                everybody watches the story of Lucy Harris from her mouth.  I

                know it means a lot to me and to her family.

 

          Q.    Stephanie Holland from The Root.

          A.    Hi.

 

          Q.    Hi.  I'm wondering if you think that the success of your film

                will encourage more stories to be told about the history of

                women's stories and specifically black women's history in

                sports?

          A.    God, I hope so.  I hope so.  Lucy -- Lucy is a representative

                of generations of women, and particularly women of color whose

                story has not been told, whose stories have not been

                celebrated.  And, you know, I think people are starting to get

                wise to the fact that there's a whole lot of people and a whole

                lot of stories that they don't know.  Not that it didn't

                happen.  It is that those stories haven't been told.  So, yes,

                I hope many more films get made about the history of women

                athletes and women athletes of color.  And I hope that they are

                short documentaries, and I hope that they're free on YouTube so

                everybody can see the story.

 

          Q.    Hi.

          A.    Hi.

 

          Q.    Maureen Lee Lenker of EW back here.

          A.    Hey.

 

          Q.    We went to USC together.

          A.    Oh, my gosh.

 

          Q.    I wanted to ask, you were very outspoken on Twitter about the

                Academy's decision to do the -- these eight categories before

                the live broadcast.  Did you consider making a statement about

                it tonight?  And, if so, why did you decide not to?

          A.    It's about priorities.  This is Lucy Harris' Academy Award.

                She told her story.  I helped her.  I gave her an assist, but

                it's her story.  And, you know, details of how a television

                award show are -- is produced can create a lot of grumpy

                people, but at the end of the day, we didn't make the film for

                that.  We made the film to honor Lucy Harris, and I was

                squarely focused on that, and I will continue to be.  And I'll

                also continue to voice my concerns on behalf of the short

                documentary, that there's no perceived difference in

                importance.  There's nothing -- there's nothing less or small

                just because it's short, and I think Lucy Harris' family would

                agree.

 

 

          Q.    Hey, Ben, congratulations.

          A.    Thank you very much.

 

          Q.    You are very strong bookends of the short film and clearly it

                is working extremely well for you.  So what does that mean for

                you and the short form and, in general, as a stepping-stone for

                a long version?

          A.    Yeah, I'm committed to short documentaries.  You know, a lot of

                people see short documentaries as a stepping-stone or a calling

                card for feature documentaries or big narrative feature films.

                I think the short documentary is the most democratic form of

                cinema.  It has the lowest barrier of entry to finance and

                make.  It has the lowest barrier of entry to the audience to

                see it.  And I hope that short documentaries can become more

                and more visible.  You know, five times as many hours spent

                watching YouTube as Netflix.  So I'm hoping that people

                continue to make short documentaries, aspiring filmmakers,

                young filmmakers make short documentaries.  It's cinema.  These

                are real movies that can change the world, and that can close

                elisions in history forever like I think we've helped do here

                today.

 

          Q.    Thank you.

          A.    Thank you.

 

 

          Q.    Next up in Florida Weekly.

          A.    Where is Florida?

          Q.    They are virtual.

          A.    Virtual, okay.  In theory.  This is like Mission Control in

                here.  I'm impressed.

 

 

          Q.    Let's move on to SRMG.  Tari Kajazi and abouther.com.

                Congratulations.

                You did a phenomenal job documenting Lucy's unsung achievement

                as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  What

                was the biggest challenge for you in telling her story?

          A.    I honestly think that the biggest challenge -- the biggest

                challenge was trying to make sure that the film met with the

                spirit of the story that she told.  You know, she told her

                entire life story over 11 hours.  And our job as a team of

                filmmakers was to get that -- edit that story down into the

                22 minutes that you saw.  And that's our job as filmmakers, as

                documentary filmmakers is to try to find the essence of a

                person, of a narrative, of a story, and that was the hardest

                thing, you know, by far is what to pick, how to order it.  It

                came together in the edit for us as so many documentaries do.

 

 

          Q.    And we do have Florida Weekly back.

          A.    Florida, what's going on in Florida?

 

          Q.    Oh, it's just beautiful weather here.  Please be sure to come

                on down.

          A.    Okay.

          Q.    Congratulations.  I do wonder, 22 minutes, why you did -- did

                you think of making it longer?  And with a lot of other

                short-doc filmmakers out there, can you encourage them where

                they see their short docs and films most accepted, seen, and

                distributed?

          A.    No, I did not think of making it longer.  You know, like a lot

                of artists, my goal is elegance, you know, no extra pieces,

                nothing redundant.  It's about making sure that there are --

                there's nothing in there that doesn't advance the narrative or tell the story.

                In terms of where you can see these films, I mean, for short

                documentary filmmakers, you know, this is a New York Times Op

                Doc.  They have, you know, commissioned and published close to

                400 short documentaries over 10 years.  These films are on

                YouTube.  They are on Vimeo, a Vimeo staff pick started my

                career.  Short of the Week.  I mean, this is an internet

                medium.  That's what is interesting here is that the internet

                has transformed cinema, and it's happening through short

                documentaries because that's the appropriate length of time

                that you want to see.

                You'll also notice, you know, in the film Lucy's face.  You are

                close on Lucy's face.  The reason we did that is because most

                people watch our film on their phone.  And I think short

                documentary is the door through which the internet will truly

                transform and democratize advertise cinema.  That's why the

                short documentary will be the youngest, the most diverse, the

                most international form of cinema going forward.

 

          Q.    Thank you so much and congratulations.

          A.    Thanks.  Thanks all of you.  Thank you.

Acceptance speech transcripts for the 94th Academy Awards are created by a team of transcribers in real time and with minimal editing, for the benefit of the press on the night. They may contain omissions and errors, especially in the spelling of names. Clips of winner acceptance speeches may be found on oscar.com.

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