SAY HEY AND THE BAY
The Bay Area has been a cinematic inspiration for me these last few years
This past weekend I was back in the Bay Area, a place that has been, despite the pandemic and various forms of national decay, my cinematic home for the past few years. I’ve shot three different projects between Oakland and San Francisco and mixed two of them in the northern California landmark Skywalker Ranch. I co-created and executive produced the thirty minute dance/social advocacy project, Flower, starring Misty Copeland, which will play festivals in 2023 and was shot in Oakland. On Dear Mama, the five episode documentary series on Afeni and Tupac Shakur directed by Allen Hughes photographed all around the Bay Area, I was an EP again. Finally there’s Say Hey, Willie Mays!, an HBO documentary on the baseball legend that I directed, which we shot largely in San Francisco.
The Giants management sponsored a West Coast premiere of the doc Sunday night at the Castro Theater for season ticket holders and local dignitaries, including many who appeared in the film such as Hall of Fame slugger Orlando Cepeda, former Mayor Willie Brown, Giants’ broadcaster Jon Miller, Mays’ biographer John Shea and, most importantly, controversial home run king Barry Bonds. It was a treat to sit in a theater full of people from the Bay for whom the story of Willie Mays is part of their sports loving DNA. They cheered Giants’ wins from the past, boo’ed the Dodgers (except Jackie Robinson) and shed tears at key moments in the film.
San Francisco is one of me favorite cities, so it was a pleasure to depict aspects of the city’s history through the prism of Willie’s career and the Giants’ franchise. As is discussed in the film the Giants’ were leaders in signing Latin ballplayers in the ‘60s, filling their roster with players from Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, a story that is an important thread in Say Hey.
Though the film is a biography of Willie Mays, its central themes are the value of mentorship and the power of father/son relationships (biological and surrogate) embedded in baseball. During my first interview with Willie he used the phrase “take care of” repeatedly to describe how his early managers and teammates looked out for him and how, once he was established star and leader, it was his mission to look out for others. That theme grounds the film and, hopefully, gives it some of the emotional kick of the great baseball/father & son film Field of Dreams.
One suggestion: Don’t skip the closing credits! Along with an original Chuck D song about Willie Mays, you’ll see some very funny outakes.
It airs on HBO and HBO MAX Tuesday November 8th at 9pm.