Locally Made Film ‘Gibsonburg’ Opens This Weekend
Bob Mahaffey knows a good story when he hears it. He’s hoping to prove he knows how to tell one, too.
“I just have a wonderful, beautiful story for you,” says the owner of the Dublin-based software training company Xcelerate Media.
Several years ago at a holiday gathering, Mahaffey heard tell of a high school baseball team. The tale that piqued his interest outlined the beleaguered season of first year head coach Kyle Rase of Gibsonburg High School (just west of Fremont, OH). His roster managed to win only 6 of their 23 regular season games, yet went on to take the state championship.
Says Mahaffey, “I just thought, wow, this could be a great book or a great movie.”
To prove it, Mahaffey wrote the nonfiction title Gibsonburg, then went on to adapt his book into a screenplay.
“I’ve always wanted to make a movie,” he says. “I had no experience. I had no idea what I was really doing. I just thought it would be an interesting challenge to try to do this.”
Mahaffey’s company funded the project, which cost around $300,000 – a comparatively miniscule figure. Mahaffey directed, and he kept costs down by pulling together “an army of college kids.” Students from Ohio State, Ohio University, Bowling Green State University and Columbus College of Art & Design joined the effort, and Mahaffey was off.
“They weren’t paid,” he explains. “I said, ‘Let’s do this movie, I’ll put in the money and you will all share collectively in 50% of the profits.’”
The plan worked far better than expected.
“I thought hey, we might be on to something. These college students are brilliant. And through trial and error, and with these college kids that were so talented, we were able to pull it off,” he says. “I call this a Cinderella team telling a Cinderella story.”
Though all participants were unpaid, not all were in college. The film calls for some adult roles, one of which was filled by the voice of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Greg Murray.
The Jackets’ public address announcer says filming was, “nothing like I thought it would be… a lot of waiting around really. Oh, and nobody brought me Evian water.”
Filming wasn’t all Mahaffey had expected, either. “We’d get up at 3:30 some mornings; we’d be up until 3:30 in the morning. It was crazy.”
But it was after his ode to the Gibsonburg Golden Bears wrapped production that Mahaffey found real surprises. His film was chosen to participate in the Dances with Films festival.
“They looked at 2500 films,” says Mahaffey, “and we were one of the 21 films they selected.”
The festival led to distribution, and Mahaffey’s little baseball movie that could will now be seen on screens across Ohio beginning this week.
“It’s opening on June 7th, which is the hottest week of the entire year,” he beams. “So, for these theaters to even entertain showing this movie the first week after kids get out for summer, it’s just unbelievable. I still really can’t believe it.”
The triumph of his modest venture has inspired Mahaffey to encourage others to take the same leap.
“This has been such a success that I started something called the Xcelerate Media Film Institute. Every year we’re going to make a full length feature movie,” he says.
While Mahaffey does not plan to direct again, he will make equipment and some funds available to college students with a plan for a film.
“I’d like to pass that torch onto someone else. I’m going to provide the environment and the resources to make that happen.”
As far as his current project, he’s passing some of that success on as well.
“Forty five percent of the profits will go to the college students: the actors, the cinematographers, the editors, the production assistants. I’m giving 2 ½% to the 2005 baseball team at Gibsonburg, and another 2 ½% to the current Gibsonburg high school baseball program,” he says.
“Our primary goal was never to make money. It was to make a work of art we’d all be proud of,” says Mahaffey. “That mission’s accomplished.”
Gibsonburg opens June 7th in Columbus at the Gateway Film Center, Drexel Theatre, Marcus Crosswoods, as well as Delaware’s historic Strand Theatre, the Grove City AMC, and another 42 screens across the state.
More information can be found online at www.gibsonburgmovie.com.
A full slate of movie reviews is available on my website www.maddwolf.com.