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Who is Wonder Workshop Films?
Wonder Workshop Films is the production company I started. I left a job I had in post-production late last year, so that I could pursue more creative projects of my own. Since then I’ve completed several small projects. This documentary will be my first feature length film.
What is the film about?
“Going Pro: American Soccer” is about the players and coaches of the Brooklyn Knights Premier Development League. The film follows the team through every practice and game of the 3 month long season. I also follow the lives of a few players off the field. They have diverse backgrounds (the Bronx, Europe, Latin America) but the common thread is they’re all trying to become pro soccer players.
What was your soccer background growing up?
I loved soccer for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid I dreamed of being a professional soccer player. All I cared about was soccer. My family is from Argentina so it should go without saying that soccer was a big deal growing up. That dream began to fade as my passion for film surpassed it, but now I am able to combine my two loves, which makes me very lucky to have this opportunity.
What inspired you to choose the Brooklyn Knights of the Premier Development League (PDL)?
Over the past year I have become increasingly passionate about soccer. I have also always been on the lookout for ideas I could turn into a film, but usually on the lookout for fictional movie ideas. Since soccer was rapidly taking over my interests I became frustrated with the lack of coverage it was receiving in the media. American sports fans aren’t given the chance to really follow it, because it’s not served up for you like the NFL and NBA are covered.
I believe that if Americans have the chance to see soccer as soccer fans see it they will soon fall in love with the game. So I began with the idea of revealing this passion that exists in other countries, like Argentina, so Americans may begin to understand its appeal.
So I thought one idea would be to follow some inner city youth in Argentina who’s lives are consumed by soccer. But I soon realized there’d be significant barriers – legally, logistically – to the project by pursuing it abroad. That’s when I began to look at options around here – New York/USA.
“I tried to contact MLS teams, but they never replied back”
I tried to contact MLS teams, but they never replied back. I wasn’t surprised; I needed to look for something more accessible. I came across the United Soccer League and its Premier Development League. I clicked around on the web and learned a bit about the leagues and the general soccer pyramid here in the USA with the MLS at the top followed by the NASL, USL Pro, and then the PDL. In the PDL, the players are mostly in college and participate in this league to remain competitive over the summer months. The PDL has teams almost everywhere in the country and since I live in New York, finding a team, the Brooklyn Knights, was very appealing. Additionally, New York City is a cultural center with its own unique energy, and to have it serve as the backdrop to this team and story would add more depth and grandeur.
What do you hope to achieve from making the film?
The original purpose to this whole film has been to accelerate the growth of soccer in the USA. I think this film can help that in several ways. The first barrier I see to soccer in the USA is that unless you look for it, you won’t find it. I mean that mostly in the media sense. If I can create a film that is compelling and entertaining on its own, regardless that it is about soccer, then it can be seen by potentially millions of people. And if that is the case then I have no doubt that they will be more attracted to the game. I love soccer and feel that soccer can sell itself as long as it is seen and understood. Another way I think this film can help grow the sport is to show youth soccer players that soccer exists in this country and there is a future in it if they want it.
This country has over 20 million kids playing soccer, but where is the support? Growing up everyone plays soccer, but over time they start shifting to other sports, particularly football because that’s where the interest is – people want to play in a stadium in front of their whole school. This is also related to the fact that these athletes see a future in football and basketball because that is where the money is and that is where they see the successful athletes going. It’s harder for the soccer player to see a career in it. So by seeing and being made aware of the PDL and our soccer system, our youth have a tangible league to look forward to. I hope that it will give their dream more clarity as well as confirmation that there are soccer fans here and if they choose to pursue soccer, people will care. I know that for me, when I was playing and dreaming of becoming pro, there was no clear idea on how I was going to make that happen other than being the best on my travel team and then somehow being discovered. If I had seen and known the path that an American youth soccer player can take in order to become pro, the dream would have been more real and I would have know where I needed to be in order to make it. If the player participation rates remain constant through adolescents, then we could see a huge bump in soccer popularity.
How can people help make this film reality? You’re using KickStarter to help fundraise this process, correct?
I had a Kickstarter page where I was seeking to raise $10,000, but the campaign ended raising only $1,000, which means I didn’t get anything because I only receive the funds if the goal is met. It is unfortunate, but the encouraging thing is that it was picking up a lot of steam as it ended because people were starting to hear of the project through new youtube videos, press articles, and through blogs. Once filming is completed at the end of July I will start another campaign to raise money for post-production. This includes hiring a composer, sound mixer, and colorist. Hopefully by that point there will be a wider following on the making of the film.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve encountered so far?
The biggest challenge has been doing this project on a “shoe string budget”. So far through this point I’ve been spending my savings. I’m also employing friends. My friend and photographer, Joe Williams is the only other person on the team helping to make this project a reality. He is committing a lot of his time, equipment, and expertise, which is allowing me to get a high quality product without spending a lot.
I’m also extremely fortunate to have the support of the Brooklyn Knights organization who have just been outstanding in assisting with the needs of the project. I really lucked out with them managing a lot of the logistics. Joe and I will often joke about how nice it would be to be working at the higher levels in the industry where we would have a driver and production assistants so that we wouldn’t have to lug our heaps of gear through the buses and subways of New York City at 1 in the morning, or to run back and forth between the computer downloading the video clips so that we can reuse the cards and get back on the field before missing a shot. While it’s been challenging to work with such limited means it’s not something to complain about, I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to be pursuing my dream of being a filmmaker and working on a subject I love.
Once this film is created. How will it benefit the wider soccer community here in the United States?
Soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Obviously that’s not the case here in the USA, but with the globalization we are seeing it’s hard to imagine soccer will remain out of focus for long. If this doc can reach theaters or even a major network, sports fans can learn more about the game of soccer and see its roots in this country. One of the great things about the PDL is that it has teams in nearly every state’s biggest cities. So soccer fans don’t need to shell out 50 bucks to travel a few hours to catch an MLS game, they can watch some top-class soccer in their local city for less than the price of a movie ticket. And if that happens, then we can expect soccer in this country to be moved closer to the center of sports culture.