THE GIRL OR THE GAME?
Coming Soon – The 60 Yard Line
Article by Ray Schillaci
Let me say first off, I am not a sports fan. Never have been. I do enjoy a good film about sports now and then, Field of Dreams, The Longest Yard (’74), and The Bad News Bears (’76). And who doesn’t love Rocky? My father, on the other hand, has always been a big fan. Not an out of control one, but I would say it’s always made him very emotional, usually angry when his team played poorly and did not win. But, it stops there. He didn’t collect memorabilia, paint his face or join tailgating parties. That fandom is the fuel that supplies the engine of a new independent film, The 60 Yard Line.
Based on a true story, filmmakers Leif Gantvoort, Ryan Churchill, and Nick Greco tackle the tale of the ultimate avid Packers fans. Two guys so dedicated, they go in together to purchase a house where the backdoor is literally right up against the parking lot of Lambeau Field. This may sound like a dream to some, but when one of them has to make a real life decision between a football fantasy party life or the young woman that could be his life partner, it becomes a serious quandary. That’s the edge the filmmakers want to walk – the fine line of comedy and drama.
I had the chance to chat with writer/producer/actor Ryan Churchill and discuss some of the complexities of the shoot and the story. It turns out the story is based on the life of a friend of Churchill’s. He realized from the beginning that as funny as the situation was, the story of his friend was a very serious one.
He examined how extreme fandom affected work, family, friends, and the love of his life and that may be a wake-up call for some rabid fans. Although, at the same time Churchill insists the comedy does shine through. After all, the tag line is – “Beer is consumed. Lives change. There is a Cow.” But this should not be taken as a low-brow comedy, Churchill and company have taken special care to bring the obsession of fandom to the forefront.
My first question was what the hell is a “60 yard line?” Churchill explained that the title took on several meanings. It was the name of the house at Lambeau Field. His best friend and his friend’s buddy anointed the house with the moniker. They did so because it was in such close proximity of the field.
Also, the title seemed apropos since there is no such thing as a “60 yard line.” It’s considered “out of bounds,” and in a way, “you’ve gone too far,” addressing his friend’s obsession that nearly wrecked his personal life. In fact, Churchill’s friend requested that he omit anything regarding his family. The writers honored the request by making a large percentage of the family’s story fictitious.
On the surface, “the perfect football fan lifestyle” is amazing (by some standards) and seemingly care free. But on further inspection, Churchill surprisingly found it’s actually the opposite. A lot of responsibility comes into play, and then there are the “annoyances”. Churchill points out, you become “the kid with the pool.” People do not want to befriend you for who you are, it’s what you have. They want to show off the “cool factor” and “party atmosphere” to all of their friends. You practically become invisible, blending into what you have.
The filmmakers filmed on location in the legendary house. Of course, this led to difficulties in lighting and shot options. The house is relatively small. It was hard to get good depth, and hide lights which led to a creative means to their end. The other challenge was that they had some of the cast and crew staying there as well, which made for very tight quarters. I could not help but ask how they handled the bathroom situation.
Apparently, the place is small, but has three levels with a toilet on each. Still, with the amount of people residing and then the shoot team, odor was an issue at times due to catering and beer not mixing well. Such is the plight of independent filmmakers. You make the best of it for your art.
Aside from the bathroom woes, the shoot turned out to be quite fun, according to Churchill. There is much less “shoot fatigue” when one is not in L.A. Churchill explained, everyone loves that a shooting company is there and there appears to be a fresh excitement in the air. Also, it helped that so many stayed on set, practically living the life. It was a great deal of help with the characters. There was also the fact that there was plenty to drink. Churchill freely admits that Wisconsin and Green Bay “truly live up to their stereotype.” It also didn’t help that the Titletown Brewing Company sponsored the film and provided all the cases of beer they wanted.
The filmmakers also had a little coup by getting a handful of Green Bay Packer football players to participate. Among the names: fullback John Kuhn, running back Ahman Green, and defensive end Michael Montgomery. Also in the mix is former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Liddell is a huge Packers fan, and director Gantvoort happened to have a personal connection with the fighter and his wife (who is his manager). Once they read the script, it was an easy decision.
The 60 Yard Line dashes its way to a world premiere this spring. The Packers may not be in The Super Bowl this year, but their fans are forever. Gantvoort, Churchill, and Greco are out to prove that point, but with a side of caution not to take it too far. Yes, men can be boys, but your women will put a time limit on your regression.