Acclaimed and accomplished director Thomas Carter’s latest movie When the Game Stands Tall is based on a true story about real life foot coach Bob Ladouceur who led the De La Salle High School Spartans to a 151 game winning streak. Carter focuses on the tough times that the team faced the following season as personal turmoil hindered players, coaches, and fans forcing a reassessment of their values. I spoke with Thomas Carter over the phone about the true story, showcasing character over competition in his films, and the challenges of making a bigger budget movie.
Director Thomas Carter was initially drawn to the material of When the Game Stands Tall because of the true story of high school athletes overcoming adversity after seasons of victories. The men on the team faced challenges after riding high. Trials allows character to be revealed and Carter thought this was important.
“I really liked the story,” he said. “This is an incredible story about winning over 150 consecutive games making sports history. There was something emotional to this story building young men of character which was compelling for me. I chose to tell it during a year of turmoil because it was an opportunity to showcase those traits.”
A few of Thomas Carter’s feature films focus on competition including Coach Carter, Save The Last Dance, Swing Kids, yet Carter doesn’t want the notion of competition to be the main focus on When the Game Stands Tall.
“I’m less interested in competition,” he said. “It obviously has an appeal to filmmakers to draw the attention and adrenaline of the audience out as a way to achieve excellence.”
In working with young actors, casting the right one is everything. Carter wanted to look for mature actors who wanted to stretch themselves. Actors Jim Caviezel, Michael Chiklis, Laura Dern, and Clancy Brown among others bring a sense of realism to the screen that made Carter proud.
“I wanted emotional honesty and what was hard to get out,” he said. “Jim Caviezel had a big deal role, because he was in the lead. The young actors is where the drama is. Those are the characters where it is harder to achieve believability. They have a bigger change to make having an honest struggle with themselves. That’s exciting and what I wanted to engage with the acting.”
Thomas Charter has been making movies for both television and theatrical for several years. From small to big screen, very little in movies seems to be complication for his experience. However, a few issues came about in When the Game Stands Tall which Carter was able to manage including a tight budget ($15 million after the rebate) and filming the crowds at a football games.
“It is a big movie with a small budget,” he said. “The football scenes with the crowds and to make it look like Northern California was challenging. Balancing emotionally sensitive themes all on a tight schedule was ambitious. What we achieved and what I had to work with was impressive.”
The final result for When the Game Stands Tall looks terrific and the storytelling is emotionally engaging for sports fans and people who have faced truly hard times. Different audiences will take away different things from watching most movies. And director Carter wants audiences to keep focused on the characters and themes while watching When the Game Stands Tall.
“Everyone should come to the movie with something different. I suppose at the heart of it I want them to understand Bob Ladouceur as a coach and what he is getting young athletes to embrace. Also, the sense of brotherhood: love, putting teammate before yourself is important. That kind of selflessness and for people to take that into their relationships with friends, families, and community. I wanted to get a perfect effort of those characteristics. I think that is inspiring for the everyday,” he said.
When the Game Stands Tall opens nationwide on August 22nd.