TVIFF: Teamwork Breaks the Walls of Prejudice in “Spirit of Love: The Mike ‘Stinger’ Glenn Story”
Former professional basketball player, Mike “Stinger” Glenn has been an athlete, a television commentator, a business consultant and an art collector but, for the young hard of hearing and deaf athletes of the Mike Glenn Basketball Camp, he is first and foremost an inspiration.
Celebrating their 35th anniversary, the Mike Glenn Basketball Camp gives hearing impaired athletes the chance to learn not only skills of the game but also teamwork and good sportsmanship while building the confidence sometimes lacking in those with special needs.
In her film “Spirit of Love: The Mike ‘Stinger’ Glenn Story,” Writer / Director Darla Rae wanted to show the positive influences of Glenn’s camp, but still entertain the audience through a story as opposed to documentary format; thus using the real-life setting as the landscape for her narrative.
“The film follows a group of misfits who arrive at the camp; some with hoop dreams and others are there just trying to survive being a teenager,” Rae said during a recent interview. “Basketball is the backdrop for the film. It’s about how the coach teaches life lessons through the game of basketball, win or lose. The film is PG and also rated by the Dove Foundation for family-friendly viewing for all ages.”
Beginning in the sixties, “Spirit of Love: The Mike ‘Stinger’ Glenn Story,” illustrates some background into Glenn’s life and his commitment to the sport, as well as the athletes he mentors. It soon progresses to present day and focuses on the camp itself and the struggles and successes of the young basketball hopefuls.
Rae was faced with the unique challenge of not only finding the right hearing-impaired actors to fit the roles in the script, but she also needed her young cast to be convincing on the court.
“The biggest struggle originally was that the kids who showed up at the audition had no basketball skills whatsoever,” she said. “So I had to rewrite the screenplay to incorporate the deaf and hard of hearing teens who were bold enough to show up and audition. Next, none of them had ever acted before, which turned out to be a good thing because they didn’t have bad habits to break. I figured, who am I to say they shouldn’t have an opportunity?”
Choosing inexperienced actors was a risk that proved successful for Rae, with “Spirit of Love: The Mike ‘Stinger’ Glenn Story” winning multiple awards including Best Inspirational Film by both the Texas Christian Film Festival and the Inspirational County Music Awards in 2013.
With the Temecula Valley International Film and Music Festival now partnering with Deaf West Theater, Rae’s film was a natural fit for the 2014 line up; utilizing deaf actors and a crew specifically trained to communicate with them.
“All of the kids’ character names in the film are the real names of the actors because that way we only had to learn one ASL (American Sign Language) name,” Rae said. “We had a staff of over one hundred ASL interpreters on set, trading off, so that everyone understood each other.”
Although the plot does focus on athletes with disabilities, Rae is confident that the uplifting message of “Spirit of Love: The Mike ‘Stinger’ Glenn Story” is relevant to everyone who has ever felt as though they weren’t good enough to pursue their dreams.
“This film is about overcoming,” Rae said. “Whether you like basketball or not you will fall in love with these amazing teens. We took kids who are deaf and hard of hearing and had never acted before, and made an award-winning film. We’re proud of them and we want to show it to as many people as we can. I want people to leave the film thinking that the more we think we are different, the more we are alike.”