Annie Sundberg and Ricky Stern are independent film producers who have worked with the likes of Joan Rivers amongst others. Their titles and their work have gained critical acclaim over the years, and as they said during this year’s TriBeca Film Festival, they had a feel for sport and recognized the passion that athletes brought to their trade. However the Indy film world, especially for a documentary, is as much about timing and catching the right moment in the emotion of the public than it sometimes is about the subject matter. In many ways it is a lot like sinking a jump shot or hitting a baseball. You have to be prepared for when the moment comes along for you to succeed, and if the timing is right, great things happen.
The filmmakers appear to have caught that moment with their documentary “Knuckleball,” which announced a September 18 general release date, as well as a September 19 date in which the documentary will screen around the country in theaters. The film has garnered tremendous support in the baseball community…it tells the story of the elusive pitch through the eyes of those who have plied the trade over the years, from Phil Neikro and Charlie Hough to Wilbur Wood and Jim Bouton, but it centers around following two knuckleballers through the 2011 season…now retired Red Sox star Tim Wakefield, and the real reason for all the hype, the Mets R.A. Dickey. Dickey’s season as not just baseball but casual sports fans know, has been the rags to riches sort that is the stuff of legend….and now he has a great book “Wherever I Wind Up” (co-authored by Wayne Coffey), and a film to ride the crest with him. Timing is everything.
“I have not yet seen the film, but as a Phillies fan, even I can’t wait to see it,” said Chris Lencheski, CEO of Comcast-owner Front Row Marketing Services when told about the release date this week. “R.A. Dickey has become a marketers dream and the epitome of a baseball fan’s shining moment, he looks like all of us, he acts the way we want our heroes to act, he has respect for the game, and he is doing amazing things. The film business is a tough one, but it seems like the directors found the story in advance and are bringing it to market at the right time, so it’s great for them, and even better for all of us. We all need more R.A. Dickey’s as role models and what a better way to tell it than on the big screen.”
From a business perspective, the Dickey deal’s, and maybe those for all the other knuckleballers who could get a nice bounce back from the notoriety in the film, have yet to be seen, bit for sure they are probably coming. Dickey was a hit this past Wednesday on “Late Night With David Letterman,” and has as many media requests on the horizon as any athlete putting on cleats this summer.
If he continues with his winning ways, especially in New York, his book could keep rising the best seller list and this little indy documentary could be the surprise hit of the fall. “From a brand perspective, the guy now has a book done, a film done, and has success on the field, those are things that sometimes come after a, successful athletic run, so to have them in advance and during this great year is very rare,” Lencheski, who has worked with some of the biggest brands in Olympic sponsorship, racing and now in the arena, college and event space, added. “Having those pieces in place to go to market is tremendous, and we all hope it continues to be the successful story that it has been. As I said, I can’t wait to have my kids see the film.”
Neither can the directors. September can’t come fast enough for them, or for fans of knuckleballers who are enjoying the ride of the 37 year old Mets newest phenom.
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