War on the Diamond – Article 2 of 3 Part Series: Bringing History to Life

August 15, 2023

Andy Billman

Part 2: Bringing The War on the Diamond Story Together

Characters and Story

The key that I have learned throughout my time working and producing films is you have to have a good story to do a successful documentary,  It does not matter if it is in 1823 or 2023, the story must be interesting, period.  

I really believed in the Ray Chapman story and what surprised me is how many baseball and Cleveland fans did not know the story. Even more surprising was the lack of even knowledge of who Ray Chapman is and his relevance to Cleveland. So not only did I have a great story, I had a story a good portion of Clevelanders did not know anything about.

Crafting the Audio-Visual Narrative

Having a story that is based in the first half of the 20th century, the biggest hurdle I faced early on in pre-production is how are you going to find video, photos, and or anything to compliment the storytelling of the film.  Video archives are huge for any documentary and I obviously realized the challenge ahead. 

My editor, Paul Carruthers, and I brainstormed in the winter of 2020-21 about what we can do to help with our shortage of 1920 video/photo archives.  We decided to do reenactments to help bring the story of Ray Chapman to life.  I am not a huge fan of reenactments as I believe sometimes they can come off as awkward to viewers especially if they come off as unauthentic to the story.  

With that in mind, we did a lot of pre-production planning and made sure to take great care of how we filmed reenactments with costumes and settings.  A lot of that credit goes to Producer Danielle Alberico as she did a great job going into costume shops and digging into the perfect places to shoot including the wonderful Midwest Railway Preservation Society located just outside of Tremont for the authentic train shots.

Infusing Audio, Interviews, and Visuals

Once we got our reenactments in line, the next step was figuring out how to implement video and audio into the film outside of the reenactments.  Producer Pam Sullivan was able to locate audio from Carl Mays, which was huge.  Hearing Carl Mays actually talk about what happened with Ray Chapman I really thought brought his character to life in the film, you can feel his anger, frustration, and passion about the game he loved to play.

Scott Longert

We were able to land multiple great interviews through the talent of Sharon Pannozzo, and I really believed a key interview was with Scott Longert, a long-time Cleveland baseball historian and writer whose knowledge of not just Chapman, but the organization was valuable throughout the film. 

Add in some wonderful scenic shots by director of photography Taylor Hurley and I felt very good about heading into the field production.  Field production lasted four and a half months, but with great planning and organization, we were able to knock everything out by Father’s Day in June 2021. 

Next Up 9/1 Part 3: Marketing and Walking the Red Carpet (Awards)

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One response to “War on the Diamond – Article 2 of 3 Part Series: Bringing History to Life”

  1. Roy Schneider II Avatar
    Roy Schneider II

    It was AWESOME to meet and speak with you at the Lorain Brew Fest. I will buy your book for sure.

    My detest for GS was when my father worked at the Lorain shipyard (Am Ship) and GS closed shop to break the union.

    Hearing when he died, he wasn’t buried in NY or Center field, but in Florida was a shocker.

    Thank you for what you’re doing for Middle market Cleveland. We play with heart and conscience, not the almighty $$.

    Best of luck to you. Peace

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