Hoop movie filmed in area makes debut

Former Farwell High School basketball standout Hailey Grimes was one of several area residents to land a role in the movie. (CNJ file photo)

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

“Believe In Me” has hit the big screen.

The movie, primarily filmed in Clovis and Portales in the fall of 2004, debuted Tuesday at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California. It was screened again on Wednesday.

“Believe In Me,” one of about 30 presentations on Tuesday, is getting favorable response in the hometown of director Bob Collector.

One story in the Santa Barbara News-Press touts the movie as “the best American independent film in the lineup.”

But eastern New Mexicans hoping to see the movie will likely have to wait — unless they’d like to travel to Santa Barbara for another screening on Friday night.

Producer John Manulis said the festival is just the beginning of getting the movie attention and, eventually, a distribution deal.

“There are festivals that mean a great deal in that way and some that mean less in terms of how the distribution community interprets them,” Manulis said. “Ultimately, the things that matter are, do you win awards? Are there meaningful critics there who become champions of the film?

“It’s those kinds of things that can add up. Nothing is automatic in the world of film distribution, but these things can make a difference.”

The movie is about an Oklahoma high school girls basketball coach in the mid-1960s. Though initial observers of the film have noted some inaccuracies — Oklahoma girls prep basketball at the time featured six players per team, none of whom were allowed to run the full length of the court — they have also stressed the changing outlook of girls in athletics as the strong suit of “Believe In Me.”

Hitting the screens on the heels of “Glory Road,” another basketball movie set in the ‘60s, won’t necessarily hurt “Believe In Me,” according to Manulis.

“I think it actually seeds the turf for interest in the subject matter,” Manulis said. “And it (‘Glory Road’) is not dealing with girls. I think we still remain unique and have an audience that’s unique to us.”

The climactic, championship game of “Believe In Me” was filmed at Rock Staubus gymnasium at Clovis High and many other scenes were shot in Clovis and Portales. Area residents were used as extras throughout the movie and some locals had small parts.

The production team also taped scenes in Albuquerque and Moriarty.

Clovis-Curry County Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director Liz Eisenbraun said she spoke to Manulis just prior to the movie’s first screening on Tuesday.

“I think he’s excited about it, because it is such a long process,” Eisenbraun said.

Manulis planned on attending the film’s last showing at the 21st annual Santa Barbara festival on Friday.

“Festivals are a very positive place to see movies, because the audiences there love films,” he said on Wednesday morning. “… They love films, they get to meet filmmakers and the actors — it’s a good, positive situation.”