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bsn BSN: Director of CU Buffs 30 for 30: ‘I think the average person will be rooting for...

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    Jul 8, 2005
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    Jim Podhoretz, the director of ESPN’s 30 for 30 film The Gospel According To Mac, joined BSN Denver’s Jake Shapiro and Golden Buffalo Student Media’s Andrew Haubner on Radio 1190. The documentary tells the story of legendary Colorado Head Coach Bill McCartney, and the program from 1982 until 1994.

    You can listen to the full interview at the bottom of the page, or you can read our Q&A.

    Jake Shapiro: Are you nervous at all for the debut tomorrow?

    Jim Podhoretz: Yes, and no. I’m more excited than nervous. I haven’t seen it in front of other people, but I’m excited, I think we have a very special documentary, I think it’s a great story. I’m excited for the world to be able to experience it.

    Andrew Haubner: How many different cuts were made on the film?

    JP: It took six months to edit it. We started shooting it in February, and we were editing in May. We had a cut that was about 20 minutes too long, that was our first full cut, then we made two big revisions to get it down to time. Then we made many minor revisions just to fine tune it.

    AH: What were the cuts?

    JP: We didn’t take out any giant chunks. I don’t know what you know about the story, but the story is really sprawling. It really deals with a lot of things. One of the things was the championship game, the Orange Bowl became about half as long as the initial cut. There weren’t really any parts of the story that we thought were unimportant. We really dealt with a lot of the story, the story focuses on Bill McCartney, but it deals with so many other things. People like Sal Aunese the great quarterback, his daughter, their relationship, his (McCartney’s) spiritual relationship, his relationship with guys on the team, the racism they encountered while they were at Colorado, recruiting those players, challenging them to beat Nebraska and Oklahoma, some of the big games, there is so much, it’s such an interesting story that we really wanted to keep all the aspects together.

    JS: What got you interested in telling this story?

    JP: I work for Hock films, and the producer of this film is Jonathan Hock. He also Directed Survive and Advance. We worked on that together, and the person who inspired that was Dereck Whittenburg. Dereck was a great player for Jim Valvano, after Valvano got fired by NCST he was an assistant coach at Colorado. He became friends with Charles Johnson and a few other guys on the team, but he also became friends with Coach Mac. Dereck came back to us and said if you think our story with Valvano is great, you should see what happened at Colorado.

    AH: Did you ever feel like there was a need to balance perception or bias when telling the story?

    JP: As a storyteller, you could tell a story where you bring in reports from every angle and they will give you context, for us, we wanted to tell the story from the perspective of the participants, and feel what they were feeling. At the same time, we have to fact check it. But we felt a first person story was more compelling and that having a point a point of view was more compelling. I’ve always wanted to tell the story of a documentary like a movie, where you didn’t know what was going to happen next, as opposed to talking about something and analyzing it to death, we’d rather have the action keep coming at you.

    JS: How is the glory of Colorado football as well as the downfall portrayed, what will it be like for Colorado fans to go through the highs and lows of this once again?

    JP: Our time frame was 1982 to 1994, so Colorado started at the bottom and finished at the top. We didn’t talk about the peaks and valleys since then. We don’t really get to the downfall, but within that 12-year period there were also peaks and valleys. When McCartney took over they were lousy, and they stayed lousy for a while before they started to ascend. I think the peaks and valleys for those Colorado teams were off the field, there were a lot of controversies and how they dealt with it was interesting. The players had to go through a lot, the off the field stuff was more interesting than the on the field stuff, and the on the field stuff was interesting too.

    JS: Will Colorado fans view this differently than someone else who will view this film?

    JP: Probably a bit, because they’re biased, they’ll rejoice. I think everyone else will get behind the Colorado guys. Mac is a really polarizing figure, I know he is controversial, and I know people don’t like him because of his politics or his religious views, but he’s still a likable character. I think the average person will be rooting for Colorado while they are watching it.

    AH: What conclusions did you draw about Coach Mac?

    JP: Mac is the kind of guy you can’t put into a box. You think you have him figured out, then he will say something that absolutely blows you away. He’s not what I thought he’d be. I don’t think he is like any other football coach, what stands out about him most is, in an age of political correctness, he is the exact opposite, he just says what is on his mind, it’s incredibly refreshing. As a producer or a director, you want a story, you want a compelling subject, nothing is better than that. But I think that in his own mind, he was always kind of searching for the truth according to him. If you take your average football coach I think they worry most about football, obviously Mac cared about football, I think he cared about other things. He really deeply cared about things, and that makes him unique in my opinion.

    AH: As a director how do you balance telling the story of Coach Mac and how committed to religion he was, without making him look like he is a fanatic?

    JP: Fanatic is the wrong word, but he is very committed. I didn’t want people to not feel his commitment because that is part of who he is. The players humanize him and how Mac interacts with the players, and what he went through on a personal level. Also, the racial issue is huge and his role in helping players deal with that humanizes him. Once you see him with his players, whatever you think about him, when you see him with his players that will shed new light on him.

    Radio 1190’s interview with director Jim Podhoretz starts at 15:45.

    The Gospel According To Mac airs tonight on ESPN at 7:00 P.M. MST.

    Jake Shapiro
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