Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Farm Team, playing at Sunscreen

The 4th Annual Sunscreen Film Festival will kick off on April 29th in St. Petersburg. Having done some local festivals in support of "Ten at the Top in Tampa Bay" a couple of years ago, I can tell you firsthand that they're always a lot of fun. If you love movies and are seeking things you just can't find at the local multiplex, you really can't beat a film festival. And that doesn't even take into consideration the various workshops, mixers and panel discussions that are also part of the experience.
I've seen one of the entries in this year's festival, Scott Balzer's documentary "
The Farm Team", a behind the scenes look at a minor league baseball team's grounds crew. Here's the trailer:

As a minor league baseball junkie (I'm still bitter over losing the Tampa Tarpons and Al Lopez Field 20 years ago), I loved it. I asked Scott a few questions about the experience of shooting a film that celebrates the people who love doing the dirty (and dirt) work...

What's your background in regards to sports, specifically baseball?
I eventually realized I would never become a professional baseball player so I decided to be as close to the sport as possible by landing a job as a groundskeeper for three different minor league teams over the course of eight years.

What's your background as a filmmaker?
I discovered filmmaking in college while taking Intro to Film as an elective class. I knew right away this was my calling after completing the course.

Why did you choose to spotlight a minor league team?
I worked for the Mobile BayBears as the Assistant Groundskeeper for a few years and still know some of the personnel. I knew I would probably have full access to the grounds crew and the stadium. Also, with my background in minor league baseball I knew that these were the people I wanted to focus on since I'm well aware of the hard work and dedication these guys must go through to make it through the season with both a small crew and a limited budget.

There seems to be a level of devotion and loyalty among people who work in the minors that you don't see in major league sports. Why do you think that is?
I think it's the camaraderie you develop and the closeness with one another you make with your staff members that essentially keeps everyone focused and dedicated throughout a season in minor league sports. I also think it's the lack of egos and intimidation on and off the field that makes it an enjoyable profession to get into.

Do you know if anyone from the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (minor league baseball home office, headquartered in St. Pete) has seen the film?
I don't think so but hopefully someone (from the organization) will come out to the Sunscreen Film Festival and check it out.

How thrilled were you that you had rain on the fourth of July and would you have been able to complete the film without a tarp scene?
That rain was something I was after the whole time I was in Mobile. I went down in June of 2008 and it didn't rain once. So I returned that July and yes, I got a nice typical mid afternoon Mobile thunderstorm on the fourth of July. So yes, I was happy it was raining on a game day for once in my life.

Are groundskeepers wired a little differently than other people?
I think people in all kinds of professions are all wired a little different from each other. But I would say groundskeepers are a little more perceptive of the weather; morning, noon and night.

What's next for you and "The Farm Team" after Sunscreen?
I'm hoping to get into a few more festivals this summer and fall, mostly in the southeast. I'm also interested in making the film available for download online and/or DVD.

What's your next project?
Well, right now I've taken a full time job as a video editor but would love to do at least one feature film in my career. I'm interested in visiting minor league baseball again but something comedic and semi-self biographical based on my career working in the minors.

The 4th Annual Sunscreen Film Festival runs from April 29th to May 3rd at various venues in St. Petersburg. More information, including an event and screening schedule, and how to purchase passes and tickets is available by visiting the festival's official web site.

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