Hoop Dreams

I’m shooting a car commercial that has a famous NBA player returning to the neighborhood to ‘give back.’  He arrives in an SUV filled with stuff for their decrepit basketball court.  After unloading the stuff he throws the ‘coach’ the keys and removes a bicycle from the back and rides off on the bike.

Cute little story.


The client wants a white coach.

You’re kidding.


That makes no sense.  It’s an inner city playground.  The power of the spot is community loyalty…

The client doesn’t want a black coach.

This whole scenario is reminiscent of issue I had years ago with Tony King.

The account is new to this creative team and they are concerned about any conflict so a white coach is cast and we proceed.  There were other issues earlier in the production that indicate there were behind-the-scenes issues as well.  The account ‘team’ seemed to be in control (never a good sign) and they appeared to want to get this spot ‘out of their hair’ as quickly as possible. The account people (person?) answered to voices from afar.  We would have a meeting, come to agreements, then they would move to anther room, make a call, and change everything.  It was remarkably similar to another incident I had with a car company years before (ironically with the same creative team) where the client insisted on replacing a black actor.  What’s up, Detroit?

I’m not sure of the details of the shoot, because it got more complicated than it should have.  We had to change locations at the last minute because of one of the ‘phone calls to home’ and the new location had to be dressed on the day.  Several hours were lost in the morning so the athlete’s call time was pushed back.  We had him for a limited time so I had to go quickly.  This worked to my advantage.

I filmed the athlete so there was no real interaction with the white coach we had cast.  I had a double for the wide shots (and the bicycle scene).  I wrapped the athlete, and then the white coach.  Then I told Randy Fletcher, my assistant director (who is black) to get dressed, and shot the extra coach stuff.

Randy has a face that looks like it should be on Rushmore.  He grew up in Harlem and Brooklyn and played basketball at the legendary Boys High in Brooklyn.  That put him in a community of legend. Randy was the element that put the spot over the top and I’m grateful that the clients saw that and used his version.  It was a huge success and ran for several years, unheard of for a car spot.

My only regret was that I wanted to use James Brown’s THE PAYBACK for the track, perfect and apt.  The agency guy didn’t like James Brown.

At least I got Randy.