LEWISTON — Originally, Ian Clough planned to do a small film about Lewiston High School soccer coach Mike McGraw.
A 2001 LHS graduate and soccer player himself, Clough had kept an eye on his alma mater and knew the latest team was good. Nationally ranked, in fact. The school had a chance at the state championship for the first time ever.
It seemed natural to focus his documentary on the team’s venerable coach.
Until he saw the boys, most of them immigrants and refugees, play.
“After a couple of days of filming with them I instantly knew that wasn’t the story that needed to be told,” said Clough, a 33-year-old freelance videographer. “Mike was part of the story, but it was also about the kids as well.”
And the documentary on the championship-winning isn’t even done yet.
“We’ve still been filming now, after the season. We probably still have another three to four weeks to go,” Clough said.
The attention started about a week ago when Clough, who lives in Portland, posted his three-minute trailer on the video-sharing website Vimeo. He didn’t expect it would get a lot of interest there, but he was still early in the filmmaking process — over 100 hours of footage to go through, more interviews to film, months of editing still before him. He figured he’d post it elsewhere later.
Someone beat him to it.
“Somehow another YouTube channel got ahold of it,” Clough said. “They must have downloaded it and re-uploaded it to their channel. So I woke up Saturday morning last week and on Facebook I saw a lot of people sharing it. I was very confused because I hadn’t put it out there yet.”
Clough quickly posted the trailer to his own Facebook page. Soon after, Emmy Award-winner Amy Bass gave him a call about an opinion piece on the team she wanted to write for CNN. Then other media called. Then film festivals called.
“It’s been a pretty wild ride,” Clough said.
As the national conversation about refugees builds, much of the attention has focused on the makeup and spirit of the championship team.
Clough, for his part, sees the boys as players first.
“First and foremost for me is that watching these kids play soccer is amazing,” he said. “I think hands down they’re the best team this state has ever seen. That is the most important thing to me, is that they are just amazing soccer players.”
He added, “On top of that, they have a great story. A lot of these kids have been through a lot in their lives, and for them to be able to shine on the field the way they do is just a testament to them as a team and them as individuals.”
Clough and his small documentary team have a rough outline for the film but will have to cut over 100 hours of video into a 75- to 80-minute feature. They plan to spend the next few months editing.
Although Clough has heard from film festivals interested in the documentary, he has no firm commitments. That includes Lewiston-Auburn’s film festival, despite media reports that the movie will be featured there.
In the coming days, Clough and his small team will launch a website for the documentary, oneteamfilm.com. They also plan to post to a crowd-funding site soon with the hope of raising about $15,000 to pay for editing, music and other necessities required to finish the documentary.
In the meantime, Clough continues to film.
“I think it’s a great story,” he said. “I’m very humbled that I’m the one who gets to tell it.”