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TALENT TALK: Go, documentaries!

20 Sep, 2002 By: Dan Bennett

Talk about smalltown fever.

After a shipment of DVD screeners of the hit documentary Go Tigers! arrived in Massillon, Ohio, recently, director Ken Carlson received a score of phone calls and e-mails.

“They were elated that the documentary would be receiving more attention, especially the people I interviewed who I had to edit out for the theatrical version,” Carlson said.

Go Tigers! was one of the surprise hits of the art-house and theatrical documentary circuit for the past year or two. Carlson, a Massillon native and veteran documentary filmmaker, returned to his hometown to capture the powerful support for the hometown high school football team.

His timing couldn't have been better. The team had three star players, each going through formidable changes in their personal and playing lives. Also, a town vote at the end of the season might eliminate the team for budget reasons. The vote would take place a few days after the final game of the season, a match against an arch-rival.

Go Tigers! sought to underscore the hysteria and obsession that can accompany high school sports in America. Another objective was to profile young men who went above and beyond in the name of family and leadership.

The title, arriving this week, is the first release in the new partnership between New Video/ Docurama and the Independent Film Channel.

“We had gone to great lengths to make some points in the filming that went beyond the three main characters and the community,” Carlson said. “DVD is a wonderful format for documentary, because you can take advantage of interviews you thought were lost forever. This is a way to say thank you to the people who helped us.”

Carlson's previous documentaries were Amargosa, about the life and career of eccentric dancer-artist Marta Becket, and Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick, about legendary studio director William A. Wellman.

These days, Carlson thinks about DVD from the beginning.

“As I go forward, there is the possibility I'll have more cameras floating around behind the scenes,” Carlson said. “Documentary filmmakers have more of an afterlife for their films now. We're thinking things through a little more.”

Carlson and other filmmakers are seeing more interest in the format.

“Sundance has helped make great for strides for acceptance,” Carlson said. “There are more cable channels dedicated to the format. It's very encouraging.

People are finding that truth really can be stranger and more compelling than fiction.”

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