Filmmaker Kristopher Belman wants people to understand that his documentary, More Than a Game, isn't about LeBron James. It was never about LeBron James - even when big money wanted it to be.
"I went through two years of literally the same meeting: They wanted the LeBron version of the film," Belman says. "No one was interested in my version. I was offered significant money to direct the LeBron version - or to sell my footage outright.
"I kept thinking, Is it ever going to happen the way I want? Especially when people in the industry that I want to be part of are telling me that I'm chasing a story that's not worth it?"
Belman, 29, is wearing a windbreaker with a Nike swoosh on it and a pair of jeans, relaxing in a publicist's conference room in midtown Manhattan. It's a long way from Los Angeles, where he lives, or his hometown, Akron, Ohio. It's also a happily negotiated distance from the days when he was still just a debt-ridden recent college graduate, working in a coffee shop while trying to sell a documentary about a high-school basketball team - one that happened to feature LeBron James.
The film, More Than a Game, opens today (10.2.09) in limited release, having been featured at the Toronto Film Festival a year ago. It began as a simple film-class project - and turned into the movie that consumed five years of Belman's life.
The assignment was a 10-minute film and Belman knew he had a great subject: the St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish of Akron, the country's best high-school basketball team, featuring its most famous schoolboy player: LeBron James.
"I'm from Akron, but I was going to school in L.A., so I took heat from classmates," Belman says. "It was the stereotype: Akron? Where's that? Do you live on a farm? I thought, if I could make a 10-minute film-class project, it would be a way to focus on something from my hometown. I never thought it would continue after that."
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