Commentary: Here's a script Capra would love

December 17, 2007

I am going to chat with Angelo Pizzo, author of the best sports film of all time. Pizzo is the writer and coproducer of feature films "Hoosiers" and "Rudy." He and I will debut "Mickey's Corner," a project patterned after TV's Bravo Network program "Inside the Actor's Studio." The conversation will happen Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 6701 Hoover Road. Why don't you drop in?

Pizzo grew up in Bloomington and stayed home for his college education, earning a bachelor's degree in political science. On campus during the brief days of Indiana University football glory, he cheered the Hoosiers to their only Rose Bowl appearance. After graduation, he continued his education at the University of Southern California Film School.

Pizzo began his career in the story department of Warner Brothers Television and moved to Time Life Films, where he rose to vice president of feature film productions. He enjoyed a successful career in corporate life but left to create films of his own. He hit nothing but net with his first effort, "Hoosiers." It was nominated for two Oscars and was named best sports film of all time by ESPN, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times.

Recently, Pizzo returned to Bloomington with his family. He is busy writing and confirming that one can succeed in the film business while living outside the zoo we know as Southern California.

In discussing "Mickey's Corner" with Pizzo, I pitched him a script idea (Why not take advantage of opportunities?):

Angelo, here is a flick we can set in Bloomington. Imagine, if you can, that the football program at Indiana University is going nowhere. In fact, it has the worst record of bowl appearances of any Big Ten team.

This basketball-crazed university inexplicably hires an athletic director who is a football man who recruits a coach from a successful program in Ohio. How, you ask, does he do that? OK, Angelo, this is a stretch. The new coach is a Hoosier, an Indiana man, born in the town of Woodburn. Coaching at Indiana University is his dream job.

The coach instills a spirit long missing from the football program. The team begins to win. Angelo, just like the basketball team from Hickory, the players believe. Tragedy strikes in the second act. The coach is diagnosed with brain cancer and must take medical leave before his second season. Family and team rally around as Coach fights through his illness to attend practices and games. The love is palpable. When the coach succumbs, the team adopts his mantra, "Play 13," meaning, qualify for a bowl game. To play 13, the team must win the final game of the season against its archrival, Purdue University. In the locker room before the game, the team captain recites a stanza from the coach's favorite poem:

Success is failure turned inside out The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, And you never can tell how close you are, It may be near when it seems so far, So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

On the last play of the game, the team must score a 49-yard field goal to win. The kicker has never kicked a field goal that long. As the ball sails through the uprights, players and fans mob the field in wild celebration. The team is selected for that 13th game. Angelo, this is so good, if Capra were alive he'd direct it. What do you think? Angelo deflected my proposal with a chuckle: "That is way too corny. No one would ever believe it." Pizzo has an engaging wit. You will like him. He boasts that I won't be able to ask him a question he hasn't heard before. Come to the Jewish Community Center Jan. 16 and watch me try. Better yet, pitch your own script idea. Angelo Pizzo and I look forward to seeing you.

Maurer is a shareholder in IBJ Media Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal.To comment on this column, send e-mail to mmaurer@ibj.com.
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