When Kevin Couliau and Bobbito Garcia, co-directors of the film Doin It In The Park, set out to interview players about their love of and participation in NYC pick-up basketball, they were trying to capture as honest of a portrait as possible of the vibrant culture and community of the game.
Says Garcia, “I think we achieved our goal. We visited 180 courts in 75 days including the prison yard at Rikers Island and a run in Harlem that features hearing-impaired players, the elderly, and so on. 25 to 30 nationalities were represented on camera, easily. It really shows the rich diversity that the game and the sport provides and how it’s a free environment and how all these different people from different walks of life come and share this moment of basketball which is really a joyful thing.”
Here, Garcia tells TNJ.com more about the game and the making of the film:
How is pick-up basketball different from regular basketball?
There are a lot of similarities. The same ball is used. The main difference is that there’s no coach, referee or schedule. Everyone who is there is there voluntarily whereas in organized basketball you have contracts and commitments. With pick-up basketball, it’s amazing that every day, people meet in the park – with no obligations – to share in a sport that elevates the community and provides mentorship for some and a really great outlet for others.
How long has pick-up basketball been around and does it only take place in NYC?
Pick-up basketball started in the early 1900’s and really elevated in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It’s a movement that’s worldwide. That was evident when Kevin and I screened the film on six continents in the last year doing festivals, basketball games and special events. We base the film in NYC because it’s generally considered the outdoor Mecca for the sport. Everybody from China to France wants to play at Rucker Park or West 4th Street or other well-known NYC outdoor playgrounds; however, if you pick up a basketball, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Manila or Accra, Ghana. You can share and touch base with the emotion we present in our film. And as narrator and writer of the film, I made sure to present the history of the game starting in 1891 when Dr. James Naismith invented basketball. He invented the game to, in his words, provide muscular spirituality to people. Since its inception, that’s what it’s done. And in my estimation, pick-up basketball is the truest essence of the sport; it’s the common denominator of the sport. That’s not to take away from NBA, college, or high school basketball. I love all aspects of basketball, but everybody plays pick-up whether you’re a professional athlete or a scrub on the block.
Tell me about the making of the film.
Kevin and I co-directed and co-produced the film as a DIY (do it yourself) project. It was self-funded. The distribution was completely independent. And we’re very, very proud to be a part of the AfroPop series on the World Channel. We did have offers for a broadcast premiere on cable, but we decided to go with public television, so we could reach a larger amount of people with our message. We’re ball players first. We’re advocates of pick-up basketball and so we created the film as a love letter and a creative project but ultimately the end goal is for to people watch it and participate in it as recreation. And you don’t have to know anything about or even like basketball to enjoy the film. It also has some original compositions and a score by 10-time Grammy-award winner Eddie Palmieri and we also released a soundtrack with his music. All the information about the film can be found on our website Doin It In The Park.com. People can download or stream the film from the site or watch it on PBS on the World Channel on Monday night.
(*The film will air on Monday, January 13, 2014 at 8pm.)
MORE ABOUT THE FILM
Doin’ It in the Park; Pick-Up Basketball, NYC
by Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau
“Doin’ It in the Park: Pick-Up Basketball, NYC,” explores the history, culture and social impact of New York’s summer b-ball scene, widely recognized as the worldwide mecca of the sport, where pickup basketball is not just a sport but a way of life. There are 700+ outdoor courts, and an estimated 500,000 players, the most loyal of which approach the game as a religion, and the playground as their church. “Doin’ It in the Park” lovingly uncovers this movement through the voices of playground legends, NBA athletes and, most importantly, the common ballplayer, who all day looks forward to calling “next” (game) at his local schoolyard. The film is winner of the Audience Award for Best Feature 2012 Urbanworld Film Festival and Best Documentary at 2012 New Jersey International Film Festival.
Native New Yorker Bobbito García is the critically acclaimed author of “Where’d You Get Those? NYC’s Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987” (Testify Books). The former New York Knicks/MSG Network halftime reporter was the voice of EA Sports’ popular “NBA Street” video game and TV host of ESPN2’s “It’s the Shoes” series. Currently, he is the announcer for ESPNU’s Elite 24 Game and Red Bull King of the Rock Championship, as well as producer of his own Full Court 21 NYC Tournament. A self-proclaimed “outdoor b-ball activist,” Bobbito has played in 35 countries throughout five continents, and has acted as an ambassador for the sport, giving clinics and donating sneakers in many developing areas.
Frenchman Kevin Couliau is the director of “Heart & Soul of New York City,” a short film/music video about a season of New York City outdoor basketball, which has accumulated more than a million views online. He is widely recognized as the most prolific outdoor basketball photographer of the last decade. His images have appeared in Bounce magazine (U.S.), Fadeaway (U.K.) and Reverse magazine (France). As a director of photography, his work has been seen in Canal+ “The New Explorers” documentary series, Jordan Brand’s annual “Quai 54” TV/DVD series, the New York Knicks’ Battle of the Boroughs videos and as part of the Nike’s World Basketball Festival.