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Nov. 12, 1999
Volume 37, No. 7


Gable film a 'super-superior decision' for Video Center
IWP to return to extended residency
Student workers seek more than pay
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Gable film a 'super-superior decision' for Video Center

Dan Lind has known for years that he works with a talented staff at the UI Video Center, which recently won a regional Emmy Award for an episode in its 26-program series on wellness. Now, Dan Gable has given the staff an opportunity to shine on a national level.

On Nov. 14, HBO’s Signature channel will debut Freestyle: The Victories of Dan Gable, a collaboration between the Video Center and David Gould, a UI alum. To top it off, HBO has indicated its intention to submit the documentary to the national Emmy competition.

The 104-minute film documents the legendary wrestler’s life from his Waterloo childhood, to the only loss of his high school and college careers, to his refusal to give up a single point in the 1972 Olympics, securing him the gold medal. Interspersed are scenes from 1996-97, the coach’s last season at Iowa, in which the Hawkeyes took home an unexpected national championship. The film, however, is not only about wrestling and Gable’s record-breaking program at Iowa, it is a human interest story that reveals one of the driving forces behind Gable’s successes—the memory of his sister, who was murdered in their family home when Gable was 15.

Making the film was an opportunity the Video Center couldn’t pass up in 1996, especially with rumors then flying of Gable’s impending retirement, says Lind, director of the Video Center and executive producer of the Gable documentary. Gould, an avid wrestling fan who had worked with Video Center staff as a graduate student, on the wellness series, proposed the project to Lind before Gable’s last season began.

  Bryan Less, production specialist, and Kevin Kelley, writer/director, work on a project in an editing room of the Video Center. Less was the camera operator and Kelley the director of Freestyle: The Victories of Dan Gable. - Photo by Rex Bavousett

"With Nile Kinnick, so much material has been lost over the years that it would be very difficult to create an effective documentary about him," says Lind, "We didn’t want that to happen to Gable. So I decided that if, indeed, Gable was retiring, we really should try to capture the essence of Dan Gable for posterity."

When practice began a few days later, the camera was there, capturing clearly Gable’s love for coaching the sport as well as his rigorous work ethic. At one point, Gable had the team repeatedly running up the stairs at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Camera operator Bryan Less, production specialist at the Video Center, followed them up.

Kevin Kelley, writer/director at the Video Center and director of the Gable video, was not a fan of wrestling and admits he had to be talked into doing the project.

"David had been a wrestler and it was such a positive experience for him—he talked about doing this project all the time. So finally I said, ‘Let’s sit down and you can tell me the story,’ " Kelley remembers. "Then I realized it was bigger than wrestling, from his sister being murdered to his Olympic gold. It is a moving story, and I started to see it as a challenge."

The Iowa coach was receptive to the idea and granted full access to the filmmakers. Meanwhile, Gould arranged inter- views with Gable’s former teammates and coaches from high school and Iowa State University, as well as with friends and fans, including novelist and UI alum John Irving and comedian Al Franken. Gable’s parents provided hours of home film footage, as if knowing their young son would become a wrestling icon. Less notes, "they documented his career very meticulously."

Brian Gilbert, engineer at the Video Center, contributed on audio and technical editing support to the production of Freestyle: The Victories of Dan Gable, a collaboration between then Video Center and UI alum David Gould. - Photo by Rex Bavousett

Kelley and Less then spent months in a small, soundproof editing room in Seashore Hall, whittling down nearly 300 half-hour tapes. Further audio and technical editing support came from Brian Gilbert, engineer at the Video Center. They had originally pegged Frank Gifford to narrate the video but instead decided to let Gable tell his own story.

When the project was completed, Gould tried to convince cable networks including HBO and ESPN to buy broadcast rights. He negotiated distribution with Direct Cinema in Santa Monica, Calif., and when the video sold quickly, HBO took note, and a deal was struck.

For a project that started out as a gamble—funding had not initially been secured, but was ultimately provided by the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, Bandag Corp., ASICS Corp., and Hammerstrength Corp.—Lind is pleased with the final product. He even draws parallels between Gable’s ethic to that of his 15-member Video Center staff.

"Making this film was truly a team effort. When you work with people for years, you get to know the quality of work they’re capable of, and I knew we could do this," Lind says. "The film is about overcoming adversity and the effort it takes to achieve excellence. It’s the same kind of effort we put into this project."

Front row seats

Iowa City area residents who subscribe to HBO and have digital cable will be able to view Freestyle: The Victories of Dan Gable on the HBO Signature channel at the following times:

Nov. 14 at 6:15pm

Nov. 16 at 3:15pm

Nov. 18 at 9:45pm

Nov. 22 at 11:40am

Nov. 25 at 6am

Nov. 28 at 10:15am

For information on purchasing home-use or educational copies of the video, call Direct Cinema at (800) 525-0000.


While producing the Gable video, the staff continued work on other Video Center projects. At any one time, Lind says, the staff might be busy with two or three larger documentaries, like the Gable video, while also working on several other projects, such as the UI video spots televised during Hawkeye sporting events, educational videos, interactive CDs, and information kiosks. Funding for the various projects is usually secured from departmental budgets or through grants.

All Video Center projects have UI and Iowa connections. Past projects include a historical documentary about the University, Reflections: The Shaping of a University. Directed by Ron Kral and edited by Steve Henke, it was commissioned as part of the University’s sesquicentennial celebration and won first place in the documentary category from the Iowa Motion Picture Association. Current projects include a documentary on space physicist James Van Allen and one about the Ringling Brothers.

Projects in the planning stage include a series of medical videos about child self-management of pain and documentaries about the Writers’ Workshop and George Gallup, creator of the famous Gallup poll.

Article by Sara Epstein


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