When I was interviewed for ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary The Price of Gold, the memories of the events at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships quickly came back to life. It was my first “Nationals” as an accredited journalist for the magazine I recently launched. Little did I know that a plan was in the works that would forever change the sport of figure skating. That plan resulted in the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. For those who want to get a solid unbiased perspective on what happened during that time, I strongly suggest you watch the documentary. Director Nanette Burstein did a brilliant job presenting the story.
As I read the industry trades regularly I heard about a movie in development that was presenting the story as a black comedy. How do you make a black comedy around a planned attack? Why do you center it on the skater that was banned from the sport of figure skating due to either her knowledge of, actions, or some other involvement in this vicious attack on another skater?
The entertainment industry is littered with hypocrisy. I’m sure some producer was well aware of the tens of millions that were captivated then and how successful the ESPN documentary was. But just because there is a perceived market for something, doesn’t mean that it should be produced. This isn’t a story of fiction, this is one of fact. But the film that just came out two days ago not only makes a laughing stock of the sport, but elevates the perpetrator to the sympathy vote. Let me be clear, anyone who is anyone who follows the sport or works in it, has zero sympathy for her. There’s a reason why she was banned from the sport. I don’t care how many accolades, awards or positive reviews this film receives, it never should have been made.
Nancy Kerrigan is a friend. In addition to skating with her a bit on the same ice many years ago, I interviewed her many times. We really got to know each other when we were on Skating with Celebrities and flew back and forth between Los Angeles and Boston. She is probably not only one of the hardest working skaters I know, but one of the bravest.
Here is someone who was horribly attacked just because she was pursuing her dream to be the best. That’s what sport is all about. To be the best and to be honest in that pursuit. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy path. You attack the ice, not your competitor. You beat them on the podium, not on a knee.
When I think of what Nancy had to go through mentally and physically after that tragedy it still defies any sort of explanation. It was bravery bar none. It’s one thing to overcome a physical setback, it happens all time in sports. But to have it compounded with a planned attack on you so your adversary has a better chance to win, that person should never be allowed to shine again—particularly in a film that presents her sympathetically.
There are so many interesting true stories that could be told in figure skating. One has to ask, is this the only story the sport has to offer? I’ll confess I only watched the first hour of this “non-skating” film and clicked off the screener. Enough was enough.
The real story is about Nancy Kerrigan. How she steadfastly pulled herself together after the tragedy and went on to enjoy a successful skating career. At the end of the day she took to the ice in the rink, not in in the glass.
Although fall doesn’t officially start until the 22nd, for most of us in New England, it starts after the Labor Day weekend. While I like the summer, I love the fall. It’s also the time of year when I tend to be the busiest.
This week starts another class at the Naval Justice School. In addition to falling back into my character as a Special Agent of NCIS, I’ll also be directing the mock-trial program on site for the agencies that retained us. I have to say this is one acting job I always look forward to. As the majority of the same actors have returned from the previous class, I think the same can be said for all involved.
What makes this a unique gig for actors is the ability to play a character for 11 days. As these are role-playing parts, once you have the situation memorized it makes for a great opportunity to really bring a character to life. The atmosphere of the school alone is what makes it engaging as a performer.
As for law and engagement, I learned this week that Kinonation, our distributor for Justice Is Mind, secured another outlet with Udu Digital. From their email to me, “Udu is an ad supported (AVOD) streaming service available on the Roku media player that’s used by over 13 million people every month in the US.” It’s always nice to see another outlet picking up my first feature film!
And feature film is what the fall is also about. With the Toronto International Film Festival in full swing it’s always interesting to see what deals are struck. One film that did great was Chappaquiddick with a $20 million commitment. As a Massachusetts resident most of us know of the story chronicled in this film. It will be interesting to see how this film does in the state versus the rest of the country. At the end of the day the Kennedy name is nationally known. So that alone will carry some of the marketing.
But name and marketing will be key with one other film that is gaining substantial traction at the festival. That would be I, Tonya starring Margot Robbie. While the film has been well reviewed, it has been reported that the film arrived to the festival without distribution. Of course that may have already changed, but the real question is this – what are the commercial aspects to one of the darkest moments in figure skating history?
In addition to being at the event in Detroit in 1994, I know some of the players involved (Nancy Kerrigan in particular). I was also interviewed for ESPN’s The Price of Gold documentary in 2014 about the incident. Part of me says this story has already been told…countless times. Is this the only story that figure skating can tell or could this mean a broader interest in movies around the sport? It’s impossible to tell at this point. And, you guessed it, I’m monitoring these developments because of Serpentine.
Finally, I wrap up this week’s post with a great piece of artwork from Daniel Elek-Diamanta. This is the sound wave from Justice Is Mind, Daniel’s first composing gig. He wanted a unique wallpaper for his computer. I’d say he struck the right chord!
It was April last year when the email came in through my old website – ESPN was going to do a documentary revisiting the Tonya/Nancy saga of 1994 and they wanted to interview me about it. In the day, I used to do these types of interviews all the time. After I founded International Figure Skating in 1993 building it into the world’s largest for the sport (yes, I’m very proud of that accomplishment), I was often called by various networks and TV shows to offer my commentary on a particular subject in the sport. For me, this was brand building for the magazine and my name. During the height of the season it was pretty standard that a news crew would come to my office to interview me or set something up a skating event. Aside from anything else, they were a lot of fun to do!
But this request gave me momentary pause. I had lost my publishing company in a hostile takeover back in 2004 and with the exception of starring on Skating with Celebrities in 2006 and a couple of other interviews, I didn’t push anything in figure skating. For me, personally, the real turning point for my passion happened during the judging scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. By that point, the sport was already in a popularity nose dive due to oversaturation and horrid mismanagement with the governing bodies and their agencies. During those games I did over 200 TV interviews about the scandal. Exciting? Sure. But I knew where this was going to go. It didn’t take long for the bottom to literally fall out of an industry that was born nearly ten years earlier with the Tonya/Nancy saga.
I am now a filmmaker and pursuing a new passion. A passion to make movies and to work creatively with others. My work in figure skating gave me a solid foundation to build something new. My momentary pause didn’t last long. I wanted to work with ESPN again and then I learned that this documentary was being directed by the award winning filmmaker Nanette Burstein. It’s all about networking and there is always something new to be learned by working with others.
On Thursday I watched ESPN’s The Price of Gold with one of my best friends Kim Merriam. Yes, you have probably heard her name in association with Justice Is Mind. We filmed the short and feature length version at her house and she appeared in both films. But Kim and I used to skate together as well. It’s a friendship that started back when I was in high school. So not only were we watching this show together, but we were also on the Justice Is Mind “set” if you will. Coolness.
First, The Price of Gold is simply the best documentary I have seen that pulled together the “drama” that literally captivated the entire world for those weeks twenty years ago. For me, I could not be more honored to have been selected to be part of this documentary. A special thank you to Nanette Burstein for having me participate. And to my family, friends and colleagues who reached out to me on Twitter, Facebook and by email, your support was truly special.
In closing, I want to take a moment to wish all athletes going to the 2014 Winter Olympics the best of luck as you live a dream you have had since childhood. Having represented my country as a journalist in 2002, I can only imagine the pride as an athlete. And while I don’t’ understand the new scoring system, you, the skaters, will understand my closing mark.