In early 2012 I had the opportunity to follow the students of the Access Youth Academy to two national championship tournaments and it changed my life. If other people see this story, I think it could change their’s as well.
This is the first in a series of blogs about our feature length documentary Above the Tin. We have been working on this film for over five years now. But our work is unfinished and it will remain that way unless we get your help and support. We’re currently raising funds that will allow us to complete all work on the film. Your support will allow us to press pause on our full time video production business. In addition all funds will go towards essential post production services that are outside of our area of expertise. Things such as professional sound mixing and and creating an original score for the film. Without your help this film will not be finished.
For more information on how you can help, check out our Kickstarter Page. On that page you’ll learn more about the film. You can even view the current trailer for Above the Tin. Also, your support will be rewarded with things like Above the Tin apparel, tickets to our World Premiere screening, and VIP after party among other Kickstarter Rewards.
This is going to be a bit of a challenge. My goal with this series of blog entries is to give you a behind the scenes look into Above the Tin without giving away the drama & emotion that make it great. Being that this project is over five years in the making, I think it would be best to take it step by step. We can start with our meeting with coach Renato Paiva.
Enter Renato Paiva:
In 2010 me and Director Ray Gallardo headed to Mira Mesa to meet with what we thought was going to be another non-profit client. That’s when we met coach Renato Paiva. Renato is the kind of person whose passion is contagious. You just can’t help but feel the dedication he has to to his work and the sport of Squash. Renato title is Executive Director and Head Squash Coach at Access Youth Academy, but you can tell he means so much more to the program.
Access Youth Academy is a one of a handful of not-for-profit Urban Squash programs in the United States. Urban Squash pairs the sport of squash with academics, to help underprivileged kids achieve academic and athletic excellence. As we learned these programs all get amazing results.
Ultimately, it is the young people that make this program special. At the end of the day, they have to put in the time and effort to succeed. If they do their world is expanded and they are exposed to things they would not be exposed to otherwise. Lucky for us, the first group of kids from Access was a truly special group both academically and athletically.
The 2010 Gala Video:
That fall we spent many hours at that squash club interviewing the students and learning more about their amazing stories. To this day, that video is among the best videos that we’ve ever captured. You can see it here: 2011 Access Youth Academy Gala Video.
The video was a great success and it helped the program raise more than it had in any prior year. From there on out we were their video partners, and we looked forward to working on the project every year. Then, in January of 2012, Renato and the Access Board presented us with with an amazing opportunity.
The details of how the opportunity to film the footage that would be come Above the Tin, are a bit cloudy in my mind. From what I can remember, Access wanted us to travel with them to two tournaments on the east coast and bring our cameras with us. The first tournament was Urban Nationals. Urban Nationals is the annual NUSEA (National Urban Squash + Education Association) tournament in which they crown their national champions. Behind a couple of really strong players, including current USA Squash team member Reyna Pacheco, the Access girls team had won four national titles. The girls were a dominant force in the sport. But, I wouldn’t know how dominant until I saw it with my own eyes.
The girls team epitomized dynastic excellence in sport. The kind of excellence that you can’t help but appreciate. The Access Boys team, not so much. The boys were previously barred from going to nationals due to a curfew violation dating back a couple of years. Their team was led by William Quan and Jesus “Chuy” Gomez, both talented passionate players. So, while the girls team were clear favorites, the boys were underdogs or at least a semi-unknown commodity.
Knowing this, we accepted the offer to travel with the team with our only compensation being travel expenses with one caveat: no matter what we captured we could use it in a documentary. The could be no editorial input or interference from the program on our documentary. Renato talked it over with the board and they agreed to our terms. We were psyched!
What we witnessed and captured on that trip is a truly human story that goes beyond wins and losses and highlights a group of exceptional San Diego athletes. This story needs to be told and it will be an inspiration to all that watch it.
We need your HELP!
While we were lucky to receive a generous award of funds from the KPBS Explore Program it ultimately is not enough to cover the costs of this production. So please, head on over to our Kickstarter page and donate today. While you’re over there please share this with your friends and followers.