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On May 18th 2007 at 9am Chicago time , the Home of the Giants Tribute Site was extremely fortunate to be granted a one on one exclusive interview with Rusty Gorman , Director of Home of the Giants , the first interview that Mr Gorman had granted anyone since filming and post production on the film had been completed. Although Mr Gorman was extremely busy, he was kind enough to set aside an hour and a half off his extremely tight schedule to talk to us about Home of the Giants . The Home of the Giants Tribute Site is extremely grateful to Rusty Gorman, SymPics International Inc, as well as to the many fans who sent in their questions about Home of the Giants prior to the interview, and in particular, to Fair, from Canada, who was a tremendous help in my preparation for this exclusive interview . The transcript of this interview is being released in 3 parts over 3 days starting Sunday 3rd June 2007 . This transcript is © 2007 by

Exclusive Interview with Rusty Gorman : Part 1

Interviewed by Daniel Chia

Rusty, could you please tell me a little about yourself, where did you grow up, and did you always have an interest in films and directing even from a young age, or is that something that evolved over time?

Rusty : I grew up in a small town in Indiana, called Marion, Indiana, and I certainly always loved going to the movies. I made some 8mm films when I was in High School, some animated claymation films, playing around a little bit. My real strong interest in directing started in college. I've always had a love for films.

What were some of the films that had the greatest influence, and made the greatest impact, on you when you were young?

Rusty : Jaws was a film that really made me love going to the movies. I was fascinated by that film, I saw it over and over again. Network, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Godfather, The Exorcist, American Graffiti, The Sting, Three Days of the Condor…. all those films I was seeing when I was between 12 and 16, that was when I was really falling in love with going to the movies. I'd see these films over and over…. they'd stay in the theatres for 3 , 4 or 5 months, and I would see them 6, 7 or 8 times.

Any specific "sports" films that you remember?

Rusty : Rocky, that was showing around that time. Another film, which I think is a great film, is Breaking Away, shot in Indiana. People in Indiana have a special place in their hearts for it, and I think it's a great coming of age story, but also behind it, there's a sports element with the bike racing. I also like Hoosiers, of course, and Rudy. Raging Bull is another great film, it goes way beyond a sports film, but you know, it has the boxing element.

Who were some of the directors you most admired when you were young, and has that list changed any as an adult, and who do you most respect today?

Rusty : Well, you know, the films that I fell in love with when I was young… Spielberg made Jaws, Coppola made The Godfather, William Friedkin did the Exorcist and French Connection. I've always liked Barry Levinson's films, I see all of Woody Allen's movies, then as I went to film school and learned more, I really, really started to get into Stanley Kubrick's films. Hitchcock was a big influence… now Rob Reiner, I think, has been a great filmmaker. Stephen Soderbergh I think is one of the great filmmakers working today. Gus Van Sant … I love a lot of his work. Steven Spielberg over time … you know, this guy's amazing…. There is so much you can learn from his work.

You have a very broad foundation in writing, directing, and film production... a foundation that was built upon an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, a Masters from the University of Southern California, and practical experience in everything from commercials to music videos... how have those experiences influenced you as a feature film writer and director?

Rusty : Well, I started off as just a PA (production assistant), and I worked a lot of different technical jobs on smaller productions. I've been a camera assistant, a grip, I've done some DP (Director of Photography) work, some editing … I've kind of been in every department and doing all those jobs has given me a lot of respect for everyone on the set, and you have a certain amount of understanding of each department and how important it is to the overall product. All that practical experience has helped me, and I've always had a goal of eventually directing, probably one of the toughest jobs to actually get, but I feel I've worked my way up the ladder through production.

You mentioned that through all that work, you've always wanted to direct a feature film. What is it about feature films that makes it your passion?

Rusty : It's really about telling the story. I go to the movies, and if the film captures my imagination and takes me into the story and I get lost in it, that is the ultimate goal of any film, and I've always been fascinated by how that's done, and have had an interest in trying to do that myself, ever since those days of going to the films in the mid 70s.

One of your early experiences on a feature film was being involved with the James Cameron film "The Abyss". What can you tell me about that experience, and what impressed you the most about working with Mr. Cameron?

Rusty : Well, I was working on the SFX Stage, doing some stop frame photography, and I wasn't really interacting with him directly, but he would see our shots and he would give feedback to the DP on my stage, Matt Beck, so I would get everything second hand, but James Cameron is a perfectionist, and we would have to do things over and over again. I have great respect for him, because he cares so much about every detail. Every single detail, he wants right, and he doesn't stop till he gets it right. And it's that kind of passion that leads to great filmmaking, and I think he is one of the great filmmakers. He's made some amazing films, and he'll do whatever it takes to get it done right. He might not always be the nice guy at all times [laughs], the film is always his first priority, not coddling people, and you have to respect the final product.

Sports seems to have been a recurring theme throughout your career, such as the short film, "Sportsman's Field" and the as yet unproduced, "No Quarter Given"... do you simply find it easy to identify with sports related themes, or is there something more compelling about the competition of sports that you find most interesting?

Rusty : No, I think it's really about the theme. Conflict is one of the key elements that makes any story work, and conflict is clearly shown in any sports competition, whether or not it's a team game or something like a boxing match. There is always inherent conflict in those situations, so that they work dramatically. Also, where I grew up, small town in the Midwest, sports was a huge part of the culture. The city identified with the High School Sports Teams, and it was one of those things that was talked about, written about, and it was a big part of my childhood. So I've always been a sports fan, participated in sports, and it's been a big part of my life.

Home of the Giants opens with the following quote:

"Basketball may have been
born in Massachusetts,
but it grew up in Indiana."
--Dr James Naismith (Inventor of the game)

What was your inspiration behind "Home of the Giants" and the reason that you opened your movie with this quote?

Rusty : Well, I just wanted to set up as quickly and efficiently as possible the fact that in the state of Indiana, high school basketball takes on a bigger than life role. You know, high school basketball is more important to the people in Indiana than in any other state and I'm trying to set that up as quickly as possible. And I think that quote kinda says it. I played around with another quote, actually it was a list of statistics, 15 out of the 16 largest high school gyms in United States are in the state of Indiana. Which also says the same thing, that the people of Indiana take high school basketball more seriously than people in other states. That idea motivates some of the character behavior in the story so, I was just trying to set that up. We weren't always able to get as many extras as I would have liked or shoot in a high school gym I liked, so I tried to find other ways to establish the culture of "Hoosier hysteria."

And of course, there's also certainly a coming of age aspect to the story and within that quote there's, you know, an allusion to "growing up", so the quote works on couple of different levels.

Since you are from the "Hoosier" state, and I believe the film (Home of the Giants) is set in Marion, Indiana... is this film autobiographical in any way, or perhaps based on true events that involve the high school in Marion, Indiana?

Rusty : Well not really, the story is actually set in the town of Riverton, Indiana. It's all fictional circumstances, I mean, we're certainly influenced by everything we know and how we grew up. Some aspects in the story revolve around high school basketball and you know, I saw a lot of high school basketball games as a high school student. There're certainly elements that were influenced by my background but it's fictional and it's all set in a fictional town.

For how long did you work on the screenplay for "Home of the Giants", and how different was the first draft to what eventually became the final shooting script used during production?

Rusty : Well I probably worked on and off on that script for six to seven years. At one point it was set in the period of the 70s, a period piece, and you know it's changed and evolved over time, but the core story has remained. Rewriting is the key when you're working on screenplays, you get the first draft finished and then you really start working. It's about playing with pace and being as efficient as you can on the page.

What was your journey like, from writing the screenplay to finally directing it and completing the film?

Rusty : At first I tried to get it set up at a major studio, I had some interest but there was no interest in allowing me to direct the film because I had not directed prior to this. I wasn't interested in just selling the script, this was one story I really felt that I had to direct. So I kinda held firm on that front and found a partner named Dan Schalk, who really liked the script and said, you know, let's get this made as an independent film. And then I set off on a journey to try to raise the money and there were several twists and turns along the way but Dan is the guy who really got it done. He found the financing and it took several years but he's the guy that I credit with making this happen.

Isn't Dan Schalk your editor?

Rusty: Yes, he is a producer and editor. He was editing another film for SymPics at the same time he and I were trying to raise money to get Home of the Giants made. So he took the script to Bill Greenblatt at SymPics and as they were finishing up the film that he was working on, they made the decision to make Home of the Giants their next picture.

I'm glad you held out and to make sure you got this picture made with you as the Director, Rusty. You remind me of director Tim McCanlies, who waited for 10 years to because he was so passionate about his screenplay for Secondhand Lions, also starring Haley , that he too felt that only he should direct the picture, with amazing results. Like Tim McCanlies, you must have been so passionate about your screenplay for Home of the Giants that you were willing to wait so long to direct the film yourself.

Rusty : You know once we started, everyday was a thrill and when we started actually making the film and there was money being spent and you could see it coming to life, I'd wake up and pinch myself every morning. It was absolutely worth the wait. At times prior to starting production, I would question, you know, will this ever happen and should I have been less hard-headed and maybe given in, but I'm so happy that I held out and it's like a said, a thrill every day.

What was the relationship like working with SymPics International, Inc. and having the production based in North Carolina, as opposed to working out of Hollywood?

Rusty : I would have actually preferred to shoot the film in the State of Indiana. When we started working together, I made that clear that I would prefer to shoot in Indiana, but at that time Indiana did not have a rebate, and the State of North Carolina was in the process of passing legislation that would give filmmakers, I think, a 15% rebate on money spent in the State. That made it more financially viable to shoot there and certainly the fact that the two Principals of SymPics live in Greensboro, North Carolina played a big part in that decision. They wanted to spend the money locally, which I understand. I didn't want to push too hard on that front, I understood why they were making that decision, and being a first time director there are certain battles you'll fight and there're certain battles you don't. The opportunity that I was being given to make this film was something that I kept in mind at all times. When I look back I think that was one of the things that was a constant struggle for us in production, the fact that we were in North Carolina and also the fact that it was September and October , so all the exteriors were still covered in green. Green leaves on all the trees, the grass was still very lush. The film is set in March in Indiana, a time of year that is very bleak and grey and the trees are barren, and I wanted that to come through in the film. That time of the year is very dreary in Indiana and high school basketball is the one bright spot, it's the one thing people look to for excitement and entertainment. People have been cooped up all winter and winter is still hanging on and it's the time of the year that you think winter will never end. It was tough to get that bleak, end of winter look, that was a big struggle.

Obviously that was one of the difficulties that you had, so in the end, how did you get around that?

Rusty : When SymPics said, ok we want to do this, before we even had a cast, I could see, just looking at the calendar, that we're not going to make it by March, we didn't have time. So I convinced them just to give me a little bit of money and let me go to the State of Indiana and let me shoot for a couple of days just some wide establishing shots, shots of a cars driving by. So we got some stuff that would open the film up and allow us to have a little bit of scope. Of course we did not have the actors at that point so I wasn't able to do as much as I would have liked in wide exterior day shots, but we got enough with regards to what we were talking about earlier about the look, I think it still comes across.

Discuss this article

In Part 2 of our 3 part Interview , Rusty Gorman talks about working with Home of the Giants stars Haley Joel Osment, Ryan Merriman and Danielle Panabaker, and Rusty has some interesting anecdotes to relate about his talented actors...




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