By Curtis J Phillips
Not many Canadians may say that they have had a one-on-one face-to-face meeting for five minutes with USA President Barack Obama.
Michael Hamilton, a graduate of Fort McMurray Composite High School did, but interestingly enough the topic was not politics but basketball, and more specifically, it was about National Basketball Association superstar Steve Nash.
Hamilton, 46, is director/writer/producer of NASH A Documentary Film which opened in select theatres this past weekend.
Obama is just one of many high-profile individuals which included David Beckham, Kobe Bryant, Owen Wilson, Andy Garcia, Ron Howard and Snoop Dog, that give their personal view on Nash, a Canadian, who has won two NBA MVP awards and has earned NBA All Star status eight times during his 18 year-career.
Nash was also named by TIME Magazine as the 100th Most Influential person in the world which shows his true uniqueness.
Of his meeting with Obama, Hamilton said. “It was super surreal and it was done in the White House at his residence and we literally only had five minutes. He talked about Steve (Nash) and about how humble he was and yet had a winning attitude. I thought I would be nervous talking to him (Obama) but I wasn’t. Waiting for him I was nervous but in the end it was just a conversation between two people.”
Hamilton is a 15 year veteran of sport documentary genre with several of his productions gaining acclaim including a baseball documentary The Journey, a hockey documentary titled Boys of the Bigs and a 13-part football series Hail Mary.
Born in Jamaica, Hamilton arrived in Fort McMurray for Grade 6 and later became a member of one of Fort McMurray’s most dominant boys high school basketball teams with the Miners placing third at provincials. The team also featured the talents off Ray Hines and Colin Vigilance.
Several of the players would go on to play post-secondary basketball in the college ranks.
Of his time in Fort McMurray and the importance of the sport of basketball to his career, if any, Hamilton replied.
“At that age you are a kid and that is when you kind of find yourself. Also growing up in a smaller community, although I hear it has changed a lot, you get to do things with everybody and you become close knit.
”Playing basketball and sports in general kind of gives you the foundation in not only film making but life. As you know basketball is super competitive and so is film making…and that is why I think it allowed me to transition into film making. Plus, I was always a creative person”
Coming from an advertising/marketing background, Hamilton had no prior experience in film making when he started. “I had no formal training as in going to school but I had the passion and the drive and it helped me overcome any obstacles.”
Overcoming obstacles is part of the 78-minute documentary on Nash in which Hamilton gives us a 360 degree perspective.
“We started shooting in 2010 and we struggled with the fact in how we would make this compelling. But Steve is a normal guy. He is not making the tabloids or getting in trouble. And that is the story. He is the anomaly in what is happening in pro sports. He is just a genuine guy.
“Our goal now was to make something that wasn’t just about basketball. We wanted to show a lighter side of Steve and what he is like off the court. We wanted to show Steve the family man, the philanthropist, the person. We had a balance”
Filming finished in 2012 but Hamilton returned to the court when Nash was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, his present-day team.
Of Nash’s acceptance of having a film crew follow him “sporadically” during a three-year stretch: “He was pretty cool. He opened up to us and he was pretty savvy and he understood what we were.”
Of what the film will mean to Canadian audiences.
“I believe guys like Steve paved the way for the influx of Canadians playing in Divison I (NCAA) basketball and guys playing in the NBA. The bottom line is that we hope it inspirers other Canadians and they say “Hey…it can be done.”
The Los Angeles screening will be April 17 with Hamilton adding that celebrities including Owen Wilson, Penny Marshall, members of the Chili Peppers and various pro athletes may be in attendance.
“You never know who will show up.”
For more info www.nashthemovie.com
NASH A Documentary Film is distributed by Alliance Films and NGN Entertainment and produced by Crunch Time Films, Donnelly Films and NGN Productions.