Gable film a 'super-superior decision' for Video Center
On Nov. 14, HBOs Signature channel will debut Freestyle: The Victories of Dan Gable, a collaboration between the Video Center and David Gould, a UI alum. To top it off, HBO has indicated its intention to submit the documentary to the national Emmy competition.
The 104-minute film documents the legendary wrestlers life from his Waterloo childhood, to the only loss of his high school and college careers, to his refusal to give up a single point in the 1972 Olympics, securing him the gold medal. Interspersed are scenes from 1996-97, the coachs last season at Iowa, in which the Hawkeyes took home an unexpected national championship. The film, however, is not only about wrestling and Gables record-breaking program at Iowa, it is a human interest story that reveals one of the driving forces behind Gables successesthe memory of his sister, who was murdered in their family home when Gable was 15.
Making the film was an opportunity the Video Center couldnt pass up in 1996, especially with rumors then flying of Gables impending retirement, says Lind, director of the Video Center and executive producer of the Gable documentary. Gould, an avid wrestling fan who had worked with Video Center staff as a graduate student, on the wellness series, proposed the project to Lind before Gables last season began.
"With Nile Kinnick, so much material has been lost over the years that it would be very difficult to create an effective documentary about him," says Lind, "We didnt want that to happen to Gable. So I decided that if, indeed, Gable was retiring, we really should try to capture the essence of Dan Gable for posterity."
When practice began a few days later, the camera was there, capturing clearly Gables love for coaching the sport as well as his rigorous work ethic. At one point, Gable had the team repeatedly running up the stairs at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Camera operator Bryan Less, production specialist at the Video Center, followed them up.
Kevin Kelley, writer/director at the Video Center and director of the Gable video, was not a fan of wrestling and admits he had to be talked into doing the project.
"David had been a wrestler and it was such a positive experience for himhe talked about doing this project all the time. So finally I said, Lets sit down and you can tell me the story, " Kelley remembers. "Then I realized it was bigger than wrestling, from his sister being murdered to his Olympic gold. It is a moving story, and I started to see it as a challenge."
The Iowa coach was receptive to the idea and granted full access to the filmmakers. Meanwhile, Gould arranged inter- views with Gables former teammates and coaches from high school and Iowa State University, as well as with friends and fans, including novelist and UI alum John Irving and comedian Al Franken. Gables parents provided hours of home film footage, as if knowing their young son would become a wrestling icon. Less notes, "they documented his career very meticulously."
Kelley and Less then spent months in a small, soundproof editing room in Seashore Hall, whittling down nearly 300 half-hour tapes. Further audio and technical editing support came from Brian Gilbert, engineer at the Video Center. They had originally pegged Frank Gifford to narrate the video but instead decided to let Gable tell his own story.
When the project was completed, Gould tried to convince cable networks including HBO and ESPN to buy broadcast rights. He negotiated distribution with Direct Cinema in Santa Monica, Calif., and when the video sold quickly, HBO took note, and a deal was struck.
For a project that started out as a gamblefunding had not initially been secured, but was ultimately provided by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, Bandag Corp., ASICS Corp., and Hammerstrength Corp.Lind is pleased with the final product. He even draws parallels between Gables ethic to that of his 15-member Video Center staff.
"Making this film was truly a team effort. When you work with people for years, you get to know the quality of work theyre capable of, and I knew we could do this," Lind says. "The film is about overcoming adversity and the effort it takes to achieve excellence. Its the same kind of effort we put into this project."
While producing the Gable video, the staff continued work on other Video Center projects. At any one time, Lind says, the staff might be busy with two or three larger documentaries, like the Gable video, while also working on several other projects, such as the UI video spots televised during Hawkeye sporting events, educational videos, interactive CDs, and information kiosks. Funding for the various projects is usually secured from departmental budgets or through grants.
All Video Center projects have UI and Iowa connections. Past projects include a historical documentary about the University, Reflections: The Shaping of a University. Directed by Ron Kral and edited by Steve Henke, it was commissioned as part of the Universitys sesquicentennial celebration and won first place in the documentary category from the Iowa Motion Picture Association. Current projects include a documentary on space physicist James Van Allen and one about the Ringling Brothers.
Projects in the planning stage include a series of medical videos about child self-management of pain and documentaries about the Writers Workshop and George Gallup, creator of the famous Gallup poll.
by Sara Epstein