Donna Rae Warren spent the 1997-98 season with unprecedented, behind-the-scenes access to the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
She and her film crew shot more than 300 hours of footage in the process.
This week, more than 12 years after embarking on the project, the independent filmmaker is releasing the resulting film, “Her Game.”
The 75-minute documentary evolved into a study of leadership and how it manifested itself, both on and off the court, among the players and coaches on coach Joanne Palombo-McCallie’s team. Cindy Blodgett, now UMaine’s head coach, was a senior on that team.
“It’s about basketball and it’s about more than basketball,” Warren said.
“Leadership is a process and it’s something that we all have to work on every day,” she added. “Leadership or leading is really about bringing out the best in ourselves and the people around us.”
“Her Game,” which includes a short film and prologue incorporating the members of the 2010-11 Black Bears, will be shown free Saturday in two Maine cities.
The first viewing is set for 10 a.m. at Penobscot Theatre in Bangor, followed by a 3:30 p.m. showing at the Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville.
“It’s going to give people an up-close, personal look at our current team,” Blodgett said. “Fans will get a preview of our players and be able to revisit a little bit of the past by seeing that year. I think it be sort of a trickle-down in terms of excitement.”
Blodgett and this year’s players and assistant coaches will be on hand for the screenings to talk about the movie and their upcoming season.
Warren and Blodgett had a chance meeting earlier this year in Belfast during which Warren proposed releasing the film.
Initially, Blodgett was concerned about the film’s focus on the past. However, Warren agreed to incorporate elements depicting the current team.
Warren described the long process in completing the film as a good, meaty challenge.
“There were detours along the way, but I’m really happy and excited to get it out at a time when it can tie into what Cindy’s doing and focus on their team and what they’re trying to achieve,” Warren said. “It just felt like time, so I was ready to confront it and get it done.”
UMaine players got a sneak preview of the film in August and Blodgett believes it made an impact.
“Words sometimes can’t describe it, but having them actually see it, they were really kind of wide-eyed,” Blodgett said. “They had to get through coach Blodgett and the ‘afro’ (hair style).”
Warren also conducted interviews with UMaine players, which she found enlightening because they will be among the leaders in their families and communities in the near future.
“They are neat kids. The spirit among them is just wonderful,” Warren said. “There’s a real cohesiveness and positive energy and a really strong commitment to each other and to getting something important done.”
Warren believes the tone of the recent interviews is congruent to the theme of the film featuring the 1997-98 team.
“What became apparent is there are so many ties from what went on then to what Cindy is doing now,” she said.
UMaine’s 1997-98 team earned its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance after finishing second in the America East Conference. The Bears’ season was ended by a North Carolina State squad that advanced to the Final Four.