With the World Series just around the corner (starting around October 19, 2011), we’re featuring the work of documentary filmmaker Marino Amoruso, of MyMar Entertainment. Mr. Amoruso has made some top-notch documentaries on a number of fascinating subjects, but recently I spoke to him about what is clearly one of his favorite subjects, the Great American Pastime.
Kyle Boynton: What drew you to the documentary genre?
Marino Amoruso: I love history. The true stories in history are more interesting – and often crazier – than anything anyone can make up or fabricate. I try to look for the “real truth” about historic figures as actual “human beings” as opposed to some of the myths and fallacies we all hear about. I’ve done films on a vast array of subjects – baseball, entertainment, American and ethnic history, boxing, etc. I’ve also done “non-documentary” films, things like music videos, commercials, etc. My most recent film, Jackie Robinson: My Story is a first-person docudrama, with an actor portraying Robinson. It’s been screened twice so far, at the Long Island International Film Expo and the Garden State Film Festival and Won Best Picture both times, so my producer, Myra Weinstein, and I are pretty happy about that.
K.B: You have some amazing footage collected. How did you find the older videos?
M.A: I’ve been putting together a film archive for over 20 years now. Most of the old newsreel libraries are in the public domain, so I’ve been obtaining footage for many years. I was head of production at AMC for six years when the network began – when they actually aired classic films. So in that capacity, I became familiar with all the sources where I could get vintage and classic footage at reasonable rates. At this point we have over 1,000 hours of material in our archives.
K.B: Do you find it difficult choosing from a wide variety of clips?
M.A: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Often you will have a variety of shots to choose from, and you just have to go by your gut instinct as to which shot works best. Other times, there are few, if any, choices. For example, there’s really only one shot of Bobby Thomson’s famous home run in the 1951 playoffs. So no matter what film you’re working on, if it involves that historic moment, you have to use that shot. You can “change it up” a little by adding in some still photos with the footage, but you’re basically limited to that shot.
K.B: How do you think American baseball culture has evolved?
M.A: I’ve done many films on baseball and have had the privilege of meeting and working with ballplayers from many different eras. I think now people look at football as “America’s Game.” I don’t agree with that at all. Baseball is, and always will be, a part of American history, heritage and folklore. It’s part of our language. If you do well in any situation you “hit a home run.” If you do badly you “struck out.” It’s even part of the language of other sports. When Michael Jordon was dominating basketball he was often referred to as “The Babe Ruth of basketball.” There is also the history and tradition of the game, and how it’s passed on to each generation. Any ten-year-old baseball fan can tell you who Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb or Mickey Mantle was. I doubt any ten-year-old football fan knows who Johnny Unitas or Bronco Nargurski were. When it comes to the finances of the game, that’s a whole other story, as is how we will historically deal with the “steroid era.” But the tradition, history and folkore of the game, and how it’s ingrained into us as a people, a nation and a society I don’t think will ever change.
K.B: If you could go to any baseball game in history which one would you choose?
M.A: Tough question. Very tough. I’d have to say I would have liked to have been there when Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April, 15, 1947 at Ebbets Field. Then again, I also would have loved to be at the Polo Grounds in 1951 when Bobby Thomson hit “The shot heard ’round the world,” the most famous homer in baseball history.
K.B: Do you have any upcoming projects?
M.A: Right now we have over 30 of our films airing on numerous national and regional networks and, as always, there are many things in the works. Some in production, some being scripted, some being developed. We just completed a short film about Yogi Berra for the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey, and were honored to have James Earl Jones narrate the piece. In fact, in the Sports Illustrated July 4th cover story on Yogi, the writer references our film in the article, so we thought that was pretty cool. Currently we are working on a film about the great photographer Francesco Scavullo. We are also working on a film with boxing legend Lou Duva, who trained and managed 19 World Champions. Another project we have going is a mini-series called Let My People Sing, which is about the vast contributions Jewish-Americans have made to popular music – from Al Jolson through to today, and it’s really the history of American popular music, as multitudes of legendary performers, executives and writers were Jewish Americans.
K.B: Thank you, Marino!
How about you? Excited for the World Series? Which team do you want to see win this year? Check out Marino’s films here.