Ronnie Turner stands before his players, as seen in the new documentary “Everything Earned.” Zamzam Elmoge photo

When Zamzam Elmoge first encountered Ronnie Turner during her sophomore year at Lewiston High School, she never could have guessed the impact they would have on each other’s lives.

“I didn’t really think anything of him,” she said with a laugh, speaking about her then-substitute teacher. “I’d just see him in the halls and stuff during sophomore and junior year, but it wasn’t until he started coaching the basketball team that I really became interested.”

Turner, a 2010 Lewiston High School graduate, became the first Black head coach in the high school’s history when Elmoge was a senior. Now, two years later, she has completed “Everything Earned,” a documentary about him and the team’s success, premiering in Lewiston on July 31.

Elmoge decided to follow Turner and the team with her camera during her senior year. She graduated high school in 2020, but chose to extend the project during a gap year before college, having been so captivated with his coaching style and relationship with his players.

“I think they never had a person that made them believe in themselves,” she said. “That’s what Ronnie did when he came to the L-A program. He, you know, made these kids believe in themselves.”

Zamzam Elmoge works a camera during a film shoot in the Lewiston High School gym in 2020. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The filmmaker said that because the basketball team was the most diverse one in the school, it was important for them to have a coach of color.

“They had this coach that could relate to them and just be a brother to them,” she said. “There was that sense of like a community forming among them.”

When she began the documentary, Elmoge wasn’t worried about the structure — it just “sort of happened,” though she remarked that the most challenging thing was leaving some clips on the cutting room floor.

“It’s not my story, it’s theirs,” she said. “Film is a really difficult thing to grasp onto, because you want to tell the story in the right way, in the way that you want these people who are in it to feel like you told their story the right way.”

Turner felt supported by Elmoge through the filming process, and said that her passion for storytelling created a safe environment for filming.

“She captured real moments, and we have had real conversations about the film and things outside the film with substance,” he said. “It’s amazing to see someone her age with her background really just doing it in this profession.”

Zamzam Elmoge, left, goes over directions with players prior to a film shoot in the Lewiston High School gym in 2020. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Elmoge said she feels very connected to Lewiston and youth, especially those of color, because of the fewer opportunities to share their stories. She calls them the “silent voices” that make the community what it is, and aims to spotlight the impacts they have.

“I’m wanting to watch this film about Lewiston youth and leave the misconceptions that come with Lewiston in general,” she said, speaking specifically about the city’s “Dirty Lew” nickname. She said it can “diminish some of the dreams” that many young people have.

Turner also remarked on the city’s reputation, saying that though people often think it’s a “bad place,” in reality most of the students from Lewiston “are just great kids that need support and resources.”

It’s important, she believes, to “give a platform to kids who don’t have a place to share their stories,” as “every story deserves to be heard.”

Elmoge said one of her favorite parts of the filmmaking process was observing the mark that the players had on Turner. She recalled the “brother-like” relationship between the players and their coach.

That relationship is explored heavily throughout the documentary, which Elmoge hopes inspires those who “don’t really believe in themselves.”

“This film really shows how Ronnie believed in these players, how they believed in him as a coach, and it’s just important to know that the person or the community is there for you,” she said. “I just want people to think about what their contribution to the world may be.”

Filmmaker Zamzam Elmoge talks to a Lewiston High School basketball player during filming in the Lewiston High School gym in 2020. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Turner’s relationship with his players was something he cherished deeply during his coaching career in Lewiston High School. In fact, he said, he never focused on the team’s number of wins, instead working on forming bonds within the team.

“Going to Lewiston High School and graduating I kind of had a sense of what the kids had and what they needed,” he said. “I put expectations on myself of wanting the kids to have good grades and be successful in their community. The season was a success which was not normal because of that.”

“Everything Earned” proved difficult compared to Elmoge’s previous film, “Reason 4369,” which followed a smaller group of youth in Lewiston. Not only did “Everything Earned” follow a larger number of subjects, but she also lacked an initial relationship with them.

“It was a little hard to get that connection where they could really just talk on camera and, you know, talk about really anything and be vulnerable and emotional,” she said.

She began working on the film when she was 16 years old. She said to look back on where she was at the beginning is especially remarkable to her.

This film represents when she “really started thinking about my contribution to the world.”

Zamzam Elmoge, right, films the Lewiston High School basketball team at the end of the first quarter during a game against Edward Little on March 12 in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

When she began the documentary she said she realized the impact a filmmaker could have on people.

“What’s rewarding is just being able to inspire other people,” she said.

Turner’s tenure as head coach of the LHS boys basketball team came to an end this spring; he will begin his role as an assistant coach at Bates College in the fall. Meanwhile, Elmoge is headed to Boston, Massachusetts, this fall to start her first year at Emerson College to study film.

“Everything Earned” will premiere in Lewiston on July 31. The location and time have not been announced, but more information about the film can be found at www.facebook.com/events/518653949501807/.

Poster for the documentary “Everything Earned.”

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