Sue Bird Is a Basketball Legend But Many Still Doubted Her Documentary – saimmalik

The Huge Image

  • Collider’s Perri Nemiroff sits down with the crew behind Sue Fowl: Within the Clutch on the 2024 Sundance Movie Competition.
  • Sue Fowl, director Sarah Dowland, producer Emily Singer Chapman and govt producer Jay Ellis talk about their expertise plowing by a slew of nos with the intention to get the documentary made.
  • Sue Fowl: Within the Clutch places the highlight on WNBA basketball legend Sue Fowl who’s received 5 Olympic gold medals and have become essentially the most profitable level guard to ever play the sport.

Sue Bird is an plain basketball legend. Many already comprehend it, nevertheless it’s time to additional cement her icon standing and large impression on the game by way of a documentary function, Sue Fowl: Within the Clutch.

As described by Sarah Dowland in her director’s assertion, “At each stage Sue Fowl delivers. She is aggressive, pushed, and relentless. She can be keen to make use of no matter company she has to alter the world for the higher.” Within the Clutch highlights Fowl’s epic profession with a heavy concentrate on her twenty first and ultimate 12 months within the WNBA. By revisiting her journey, the documentary digs into what drove Fowl to turn into one of many best level guards to play the sport, and the way she got here to the conclusion that it was time to convey that important chapter of her story to an in depth by retiring.

Shortly earlier than Sue Fowl: Within the Clutch celebrated its world premiere on the 2024 Sundance Movie Competition, Fowl, Dowland, producer Emily Singer Chapman and govt producer Jay Ellis visited the Collider interview studio dropped at you by to element the stunning quantity of rejection they confronted making an attempt to get the movie off the bottom, and the way they powered by it. Try the video interview on the prime of this text or the interview transcript under to be taught all about how CC Sabathia impressed Fowl to rethink what it meant to retire, why Dowland and the crew had an infinite quantity of inventive freedom whereas making the film, and masses extra.

Sue Fowl: Within the Clutch

Follows the lifetime of WNBA star Sue Fowl, capturing the ultimate chapter of her 19-year profession in basketball.

Launch Date
January 24, 2024

Sarah Dowland

Sue Fowl , Megan Rapinoe , Diana Taurasi

98 minutes

Foremost Style

PERRI NEMIROFF: Sarah, that is your function directorial debut, proper?

SARAH DOWLAND: That’s proper.

Why make that transfer with a documentary, and what was it about Sue’s story that you simply thought would finest fit your ability set and the way you needed to indicate the world your craft as a function filmmaker?

DOWLAND: It is a documentary as a result of that is the area that I have been making movies in for the final decade. I used to be fortunate sufficient to be introduced this movie by the producers, by Jay. After I began researching Sue and her profession and every part that she has carried out as an athlete, but additionally her impression on the sport and her contribution to girls’s sports activities, I simply fell in love with it. I used to be actually impressed by the story. You already know, we acquired numerous rejection in the beginning of making an attempt to get this film made, and I believe that simply set a hearth off in me the place I used to be simply, the extra no’s I heard the extra, “Sure,” my mind mentioned, “That is the correct story to make.”

Director Sarah Dowland listening during an interview at Sundance 2024
Picture by way of Photagonist on the Collider Media Studio

I used to be studying that within the press notes. It is completely wild to me that you simply confronted a lot rejection. It looks like a no brainer.

DOWLAND: I imply, it did to me. We felt we had a extremely sturdy story and so much to convey to the desk. Getting financing for any movie was by no means a no brainer, however given the curiosity in sports activities and male sports activities docs which might be on the market within the area, we knew that there was an viewers for it, so we felt like we have been bringing a really, very prime quality product to the desk. And to simply type of be met with that resistance, you realize, simply felt prefer it was stunning, nevertheless it additionally, I believe, simply reignited all of our ardour to inform this story.

Standing your floor on this and making it occur will in all probability make fewer folks expertise that rejection sooner or later, so thanks for doing that.

DOWLAND: I hope so.

The ‘Sue Fowl: Within the Clutch’ Staff Weren’t Taking No for an Reply

Producers, director, and Sue Bird pose for a photo at Sundance 2024 for doc Sue Bird: In the Clutch
Picture by way of Photagonist on the Collider Media Studio

Jay, I do know you are producing so much now, however I consider that is your first time producing a function documentary. Two questions on that. First, have been you trying to make a documentary typically, or have been you drawn in by Sue’s story particularly?

JAY ELLIS: It is just a little little bit of each, however actually this was Sue’s story, I believe. My producing companion, Aaron Bergman, we’ve a manufacturing firm, Black Bar Mitzvah, and we all the time discuss how we love taking worlds folks assume they know, tilting them on their axis, and displaying you that world from a unique viewpoint. And for us, Sue’s story was, like, precisely that. We expect we all know girls’s basketball, however we do not actually, as a result of there’s not sufficient storytelling, there’s not sufficient alternatives on the market for ladies who play within the league to get out and management their very own narratives and inform their very own tales, after which there’s this different piece of the information that we actually have of the WNBA type of comes by this NBA lens. I imply, a number of the advertising that we have seen up to now, for instance, and even a number of the offers and stuff, are sometimes formatted from the NBA to WNBA up to now. Once more, Sue can communicate to a number of these adjustments, however we have been like, “Oh, that is actually how we all know it.” So, what if we take somebody like Sue, who has had this legendary, rock star, badass wonderful profession, and provides her the mic, and let her inform her personal story? Be part of telling her personal story. And in doing that, she’s additionally telling the story of the WNBA and of girls’s basketball, and of girls’s sports activities at massive, to some extent. So it actually was Sue’s story that actually simply sparked an curiosity for us and made us wish to leap in, and truly made us wish to beg her to allow us to inform her story.

What stunned you most about what it takes to provide a documentary function versus a historically scripted narrative function?

ELLIS: I do not assume something stunned me. I have been part of some doc stuff earlier than and I’ve carried out some doc sequence, so I do not assume something stunned me. I believe it is again to what Sarah spoke to, although, was the quantity of rejection that we acquired on this once we took it out. And I’ll always remember us being on the cellphone — we have been on a Zoom, really — with Sue, and he or she’s like, “Pay attention, for those who guys do not promote it, like, I get it. It is arduous. We scream from the mountains, ‘Now we have the product. We’re right here. We’re entertaining.’ Persons are displaying up and nonetheless we do not get the alternatives.” And I simply bear in mind this fireplace that was lit for all of us. For our complete crew this fireplace was lit of, like, “To start with, we’re not letting Sue down. Second of all, we’re gonna inform this story.” And even when we acquired the no’s that we acquired throughout city — you realize who you’re — even when we acquired these no’s, we have been going to make these folks come again. We have been going to go manage to pay for this doc, make this doc, and make all these folks come again on the backend. That is how all of us felt about it.

I really like the considered the no’s seeing this film and being like, “Shit. We messed that up.”

ELLIS: Oh, they’ll all be there tomorrow. They’ll be there tomorrow.

I like that perspective!

Producer Jay Ellis listening during an interview at Sundance 2024
Picture by way of Photagonist on the Collider Media Studio

Emily, I do know you could have a reasonably important quantity of documentary producing expertise. How have been you capable of apply that have to this movie, and what experience may you supply by way of how finest to form Sue’s story into the function documentary format?

EMILY SINGER CHAPMAN: That is an important query. I believe for us, we actually early on needed to map out, there’s a lot you may inform about Sue’s story, and so many themes you can increase upon simply her story. We knew from the beginning, early on in conferences, there’s so some ways to inform it, however it made a number of sense that we have been monitoring Sue’s ultimate 12 months and to make use of that as our backbone, as type of a TikTok to get us by the story. After which as we moved by that we may get into the opposite themes of her story, of coming into the WNBA very early on in a very completely different league. And as she grew, she helped the league develop, and we actually needed to observe that trajectory by her story.

I believe what’s so tempting whenever you’re following any person who’s so dynamic, who’s so thrilling to look at, and in such an thrilling world, day after day it is like, “Effectively, god, she’s doing this wonderful factor! Ought to we movie that?” And we simply actually needed to proceed to come back again to the story. What’s the story we’re telling, and what’s it that we actually want with the intention to inform it? The physicality of being an athlete is just one side. A whole lot of it’s the focus, and we actually have been cognizant of solely taking the time that we wanted to inform that story and never get in the best way of her focus and what she was there to do.

How Profitable the Playoffs Satisfied Sue Fowl to Belief the Course of

Sue Bird posing at Sundance 2024 for her documentary Sue Bird: In the Clutch
Picture by way of Photagonist on the Collider Media Studio

Sue, now that we have talked round you for 5 minutes [laughs], are you able to inform me just a little bit about what you considered the crew of individuals at this desk, and in addition the individuals who have been concerned that are not right here as we speak, that gave you the boldness that, “These are the folks I ought to belief with my story?”

SUE BIRD: An enormous a part of it was a superb pal of mine, Ryan Ruocco, who’s an ESPN announcer, basically the voice of the WNBA, is absolutely good buddies with Aaron, Jay’s companion, additionally buddies with Jay. So instantly there was a belief, as a result of I belief Ryan, and Ryan was type of the connecting level there. And from that time on, there was a pitch the place it was simply me, Jay, Aaron, my agent on the time simply listening. I used to be simply listening. However I trusted. I trusted already. So, I believe as a feminine athlete on this world, you will get just a little jaded at occasions, you realize? You do hear a number of no’s, and it may be actually tiresome and it could really feel rejecting and dejecting, and you need to discover the vitality to get again up on a regular basis. However right here was a situation the place I actually trusted it. I did not really feel like that was going to be the case, and clearly, they proved me proper. So, it allowed for me to indicate up as myself, and for, I believe, all of us to get a extremely nice doc carried out.

So that you trusted them, however was there any particular factor that made you assume, “We will do that collectively, however I must guarantee that this layer of my expertise is within the highlight in a big method?”

BIRD: You already know, I really by no means considered it that approach, however this pitch assembly that I am referring to did occur on the finish of the 2020 WNBA season. For my crew, we had simply received, which was wonderful, so I used to be on just a little little bit of a excessive, however on the similar time, the league was actually getting into its personal id. For anybody that watches the doc, you see there’s a trajectory of how this league has grown. I used to be, like, parallel pathing that in a number of methods, which is fairly cool to see now. I by no means actually considered it that approach till doing this mission, however that pitch assembly occurred at a time the place girls’s sports activities was actually on the come-up. I imply, folks have been taking observe, viewership numbers have been altering, and it actually simply felt like the correct time to inform my story greater than something. So, all of the items fell collectively.

Sue Bird celebrating at a basketball game in Sue Bird: In the Clutch at Sundance 2024.
Picture by way of Sundance 

Given what you simply mentioned, and the thought of you operating into people telling you no, it makes me consider the query we have been asking as a result of it is an organization that is all about placing the facility within the creator’s arms. For any of you, whether or not it is a movie, a present you labored on, or one thing in basketball, are you able to recall a time when somebody put the inventive energy in your arms whenever you did not assume you have been gonna get it?

ELLIS: I imply, I really feel like Sarah and Emily ought to say on this doc. [Laughs]

Truthful sufficient!

ELLIS: I am joking, I am joking!

DOWLAND: No, 100%. I might really agree with that, as a result of I felt like there have been so many pivotal moments in the best way that this movie acquired made. We began in 2021, and actually, we have been simply going shoot to shoot at that stage as a result of we simply did not know whether or not we may discover the cash, what was going to be the trajectory of this, what Sue was pondering and feeling by way of her retirement at the moment. So, we have been actually simply making an attempt to cobble it collectively. And we have been nonetheless exploring creatively, “Will this be a sequence? Will this be a movie?” Like, “What would be the strongest and strongest software to inform Sue’s story?” So, you realize, I really feel just like the producers and Sue simply saved giving me that belief, and have been like, “If you are gonna put the vitality in, everybody else can be behind you,” and vice versa. So, I simply felt like everybody else was doubling down, I used to be doubling down. This felt like kismet to me. I assumed, “I do not know, possibly we’re all dizzy and loopy by doing this,” however there’s one thing in that craziness that propels you to simply make the unattainable. And once I would see Sue play, and all the ladies within the W, I simply all the time felt so impressed. They only acquired on with it, you realize? They only got here out, they only did this factor, and I simply thought, “That is inspirational to me. If they’ll do it, rattling it, I can do it!” So I do not know, it was a little bit of the producers giving me that, however Sue and the gamers additionally inspiring me.

Lovely reply.

ELLIS: I wish to say a giant piece of that’s Waffle Iron. I simply wish to shout out Justin Biskin and his crew at Waffle Iron as a result of they’re a giant, huge piece of that. They did finance this movie, and once we had our first assembly with them, earlier than we even acquired off the assembly, Justin’s primary factor that he got here again to us was, like, “We wish to empower this inventive crew to inform this story in the best way that the story must be informed, and we’re right here that can assist you in any approach we are able to do this.” And you do not typically get that from financiers, so I simply wish to give a shout out to them as a result of they have been very, very useful and supporting on this course of.

BIRD: One in every of my favourite elements about this course of, sitting right here now, is I believe a few of what everybody on the quote-unquote crew has skilled by way of the no’s and, “Are we going to get it carried out?” I am like, “That’s my life in girls’s basketball. Being informed no.” So it is this actually, I believe, cool connecting level between us all now the place you are informed, “No, you need to discover a approach.” You are informed, “No, you need to discover one other approach.” And you are like, “I swear that is good! I swear individuals are going to have an interest. I swear this, I swear that.” After which now you are sitting right here at Sundance, and it is that second the place I have been fortunate sufficient to expertise it as an athlete the place, you realize, possibly I am in entrance of individuals displaying them viewership numbers of WNBA playoffs video games, saying, “See? I informed you.” And now we’re sitting up right here at Sundance being like, “See? I informed you.” And it is type of fascinating, you guys acquired to expertise what it’s to be a feminine athlete. [Laughs] How’d you prefer it?

Why Sue Fowl Postponed That Retirement

Sue Bird sitting at a basketball game in Sue Bird: In the Clutch for Sundance 2024. 
Picture by way of Sundance 

Talking of pivots and evolving the movie on the fly, I used to be questioning, initially the film was presupposed to cowl your ultimate season, after which it wasn’t your ultimate season. Did you all have the heads-up that that was gonna occur, or was that really an on-the-spot determination that you simply had no thought about?

ELLIS: Can I simply let you know the textual content message that went forwards and backwards about, “Ought to any person attain out to Sue? Ought to any person ask Sue? What do you assume Sue’s gonna do? Does anyone know what Sue’s gonna do?” There was an e-mail chain about it. There was a textual content chain about it. Nobody knew when the suitable time to ask was. We needed to guarantee that Sue had sufficient area and respect the place she was in that course of. However I simply bear in mind like all these emails and textual content messages going, “It has been two weeks, ought to we ask her now?” And everyone’s like, “No, you simply should let her…” And we did use Ryan as soon as once more, Ryan Ruocco. Shout out to Ryan, who is among the producers on this as nicely. We used Ryan as type of the conduit to get nearer to the reply that we finally acquired, which was that she wasn’t retiring.

DOWLAND: I simply wish to add a small bit to that — it was after the Olympics, and Sue had received her fifth gold medal. Now we have cans on and Sue was mic’d, and he or she was speaking, however there have been phrases that she was utilizing that have been future tense, and I used to be like, “Wait a minute. Does that imply what I believe it means?” [Laughs] And so I used to be messaging the chief producers, like, “Do we all know? Does anybody know? As a result of I am simply listening to this on the cans and I really feel like possibly there is a thought taking place right here that is simply germinating.” I do not know, you have been going by it.

BIRD: I want I may bear in mind. I’m like, “What did I say?”

ELLIS: That is one among my favourite issues; you inform this story of the way you talked to a few folks about their very own retirements and, like, how you need to or should not do it, and I do not assume that made it within the doc, however I really like that story.

BIRD: Ray Allen, a UConn grad, I’ve identified him without end, after which I turned pleasant the final couple of years with CC Sabathia. If you realize their tales as athletes and their retirements — completely completely different. I talked to Ray, and Ray simply, like, type of light into the again. His was just a little bit completely different as a result of there was a query mark round him signing with a crew, although he hadn’t performed in a 12 months, so it is just a little bit completely different. I talked to him, and he was very very similar to, “No, you end your profession and also you simply type of go into the sundown. You announce whenever you’re carried out. You do not want all of the hoopla,” for lack of a greater phrase. I used to be like, “Yeah,” as a result of I type of was on that facet of the fence for some time.

Then I talked to CC, as a result of he had simply gone by a retirement season the place he introduced, and he is like, “It’s important to do it. It’s important to do it, and the primary cause is you need to do it for the followers. It’s important to share this second. It’s important to let them say goodbye to you.” I by no means considered it in that approach, and that actually tipped the size for me not essentially to come back again, nevertheless it did play a job. I believe I nonetheless had some basketball left, in order that was actually finally the deciding issue, nevertheless it undoubtedly was the rationale I made a decision to announce my retirement whereas what ended up being my ultimate season was nonetheless happening.

That’s such a fantastic approach to consider it. I’ve undoubtedly had that with athletes retiring, however as a result of I am movie and TV-heavy, it makes me consider when a TV present will get lower off too quickly, after which the viewer does not have that sense of closure.

BIRD: That is a superb level.

Sue Bird listening during an interview at Sundance 2024
Picture by way of Photagonist on the Collider Media Studio

In order that was one thing that did not make it into the ultimate lower of the documentary. Are you able to give me the other, one thing that you simply weren’t ready for a way huge of a job it was going to play within the completed lower?

CHAPMAN: I imply, the very first thing that involves thoughts is our preliminary tough lower. UConn, Sue’s faculty profession, was like a feature-length movie in its personal proper, and we have been like, “Okay, how a lot of this story do we actually want to inform?” However there’s a actually pivotal second there the place Sue has an damage, and he or she’s capable of mirror on herself and the place she’s meant to go on this sport, and for us, we actually needed to take the time to inform that story. I do not assume any of us have been anticipating it, however UConn was gracious. They gave us packing containers of VHS tapes, of DVDs, of pictures, and we’ve this crew who have been simply taking their time scanning each picture. We simply had such great materials, dwelling movies that Sue and Diana Taurasi had taken, and it simply spoke to us a lot that it turned a bigger half than I believe we have been anticipating.

That is such an necessary half to incorporate as a result of I’ve to think about there are numerous younger athletes on the market who may assume it is throughout when one thing like that occurs, and to have the ability to see you energy by that and the place you wound up, it is in all probability very inspiring to lots of people.

DOWLAND: There’s one factor that I might add that was an actual discovery for me, and that was actually together with Sue’s engagement with followers and the best way that Sue makes them really feel. As soon as I used to be filming, I could not assist however turn into a fan, and I do know that that is like a documentary no-no. There have been so many occasions I needed to, like, high-five her efficiency, and, “Strategy to go!” You simply can not help it as a result of the ambiance is electrical. After I would see that alternate and that pleasure and happiness, I assumed, “I have to get that pleasure into the movie. I actually wanna present what that is like as a result of it is constructive.” It was a really palpable factor once I was there, and I actually hope that got here by within the movie.

The crowd cheering for Sue Bird at a basketball game in Sue Bird: In the Clutch at Sundance 2024. 
Picture by way of Sundance

Oh, I’ve a follow-up for you, Sue, on that time. I pulled this quote from the notes as a result of I felt prefer it was necessary to emphasise right here. Sarah, you mentioned, “The toughest factor for me was getting her to acknowledge what she’s achieved, her legacy and what she’s created for ladies and for ladies coming into the sport behind her.” Now that the documentary exists, and I am assuming you have seen it, is that plain? Do you need to acknowledge and rejoice that you simply did that?

BIRD: [Laughs] I by no means denied it, I simply did not wish to say it.

It’s best to say it! You ought to be happy with it.

BIRD: Watch the doc. You will see. I give in just a little bit.

ELLIS: Sue, who’s the best WNBA level guard of all time?

BIRD: I believe it is me. Whisper, whisper, whisper!

ELLIS: [Laughs] We love making Sue discuss herself. We like it!

As you need to! Significantly.

Megan Rapinoe (left) and Sue Bird (right) laughing while sitting on a couch in Sue Bird: In the Clutch for Sundance 2024. 
Picture by way of Sundance

I will finish on a film-specific query for you, Sue. We’re speaking about how many individuals on the market you encourage within the sports activities realm, however I am curious as a result of we’re on the Sundance Movie Competition, is there a movie you have seen up to now that impressed you to do one thing?

BIRD: Nice query! A whole lot of the sports activities docs. Effectively, this has actually put me on the spot. Okay, I’ve one! Lastly. [Laughs] My dad took me to see Hoop Goals when it got here out within the native theater. Clearly, it was like a smaller movie, so we needed to go to some random theater that was like 20, half-hour away. And it isn’t essentially that I may see myself in these tales, it was simply that these tales have been being informed, and my dad took that second to say, like, “Hey, there’s this documentary about these two highschool children in Chicago. Let’s go test it out.” And it was only a actually memorable expertise. Like, I can vividly bear in mind it and really feel what it felt wish to see that on the large display. Once more, it wasn’t that I pulled one thing from it, I simply the way it made me really feel.

Particular due to our 2024 companions at Sundance together with presenting companion and supporting companions Pressed Juicery and DragonFly Espresso Roasters.

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