“Just because you’ve made a movie doesn’t mean anyone’s going to see it.”
It’s hard to believe that last night ended the final season of the San Francisco Giants’ 52 year drought without winning a World Series. They’ve had some great players over the years. Looking back it’s hard to believe that MLB Hall of Fame greats Willie Mays,Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal played on the same team but somehow never won a World Series. Congrats San Francisco, home of the 2010 World Series champions.
But for the next few days I want to talk about the baseball movie The Final Season. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, I think you’ll find the story of its sixteen year journey to get made an interesting one. Though it’s taken me a few years, the timing just seems to be fitting to write about this 2007 independent film that was set and filmed in Iowa.
Yesterday I went to hear Kent Stock speak about how his simple failed journey to become a professional baseball player ended up being the central character in a movie where actor Sean Astin (The Goonies, Lord of the Rings) played him. After modest success as a high school player he received only one scholarship to play baseball in college, but that was enough to kept his long time dream of playing professional ball alive—at least for two more years.
After his sophomore season it became apparent that he not only didn’t have what it took to play pro baseball, but that it would be better for him to focus on his education and his ball playing days were over. His new dream was to become a teacher and coach high school baseball. After graduating from college he got one job offer to coach, but it was girls JV volleyball. He took the job and made the most of it and got promoted to the variety girls volleyball coach. He made the most of that as well.
While scouting a team his team would be playing in the playoffs he met an Iowa high school baseball coach legend, Jim Van Scoyoc (played by Powers Boothe in the movie). That providential meeting with Van Scoyoc would lead Stock to his first baseball coaching opportunity that would eventually lead to a feature film based on the team he coached.
Keep in mind that the places I’m talking about are small towns in Iowa that unless you are familiar with the area are unknown to most people; Ankeny, Forest City, Decorah, Belle Plaine and Norway. Not exactly places one would expect would lead to Hollywood.
Kent Stock’s story is one of being faithful in the little things.
It’s also a story of a video producer in Des Moines, Iowa named Tony Wilson who believed enough in Stock’s story and the team he coached to pursue turning it into a movie. It was a journey that would take 16 years to see fully realized, and one that almost cost Wilson his life. I met Wilson a couple years ago at a film festival and for the next few days I will share some insights from him as he recounts his passion for seeing this story be told and the ups and downs it took to bring it to the big screen.
In Stock’s talk yesterday he spoke of his appreciation for Wilson persevering though many hard times to see The Final Season get produced. Stock spoke about how much he learned about the film business during the making of the film and recounted several lessons learned including, “Hollywood producers have egos bigger than this auditorium,” and “Hollywood is a different monster. I hope my daughter’s never go to Hollywood.”
He said they went through eight script revisions before they filmed the one directed by David Mickey Evans (Sandlot). Art D’Alessandro and James Grayford were the screenwriters. In Stock’s talk yesterday he ended his talk with a question that is asked in a key scene in the film, “How do you want to be remembered?”
Who would have ever guessed that becoming a JV high school girls volleyball coach in a small town in Iowa could lead to a feature film being done on part your life?