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Read about Basketball Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale's
participation with the original Spinumentary trailer.
"What's so special about me?"

Far from a household name, Sandy 'Spin' Slade travels year to year, around the world and in front of groups from 200 to 20,000, spinning her basketballs while spreading her message of believing in yourself and following your dreams. A million lucky people a year, watch and listen to a woman who knew at the ripe age of 12 that this was her calling. The fire has always been there. So when filmmaker Lorre Fritchy first approached Slade with the idea of doing a documentary on her, it was no surprise when Slade took a moment to collect herself and ask, "What's so special about me?"

Coming from a rural Wisconsin town, the eldest child in a loving family, a trumpet player in the school band -- Sandy Slade was your average American kid. But a passion for basketball, an inexplicable and deep-seated connection with the game compelled Slade to break free of the Norman Rockwell print, knowing she had more to give. Having overcome initial ridicule and plenty of doubt when she first expressed her goals ("You want to do what for a living?"), Slade empowers and relates to people in terms of dealing with criticism. Now, arenas of fans literally bow to her at pro games, while hundreds of thousands of average American school kids hear Slade assert it is possible to live outside the lines.

Documentaries often tell the stories of ordinary people making an extraordinary difference. So the answer to Slade's "What's so special about me?" question lies in the fact that everyone Fritchy approaches about this documentary, is astounded that a video on Slade hasn't been done already. Slade is still the girl-next-door; she's just knocking down those doors.

"A crazy way to make a living."

Kicked off by an initial brief shoot at a conference in Boston last April, the Sandy 'Spin' Slade: Beyond Basketball documentary went coast-to-coast. The first official shoot took place in August, 1999, during a two-week period at Slade's southern California headquarters.

In addition to several interviews with Slade, the filmmaker captured a variety of resources chronicling Slade's decision to spin basketballs for a living, from pre-teen to the present. The production was also fortunate enough to speak with Slade's office staff and her parents (remember, Slade embarked on this path at the age of 12). Approximately 45 hours of footage was shot, consisting of Slade's performances, workshops, assemblies and basketball camps.

Most of the shooting has been hand-held, as Slade's performances involve a great deal of action. Also, since she spends half her time driving, interviews in the car were not only appropriate but inevitable. She hardly stays in one place during a show either, so camping on a tripod during performances would have created many missed opportunities. Her programs are very interactive and often in-the-round; it was essential to be in the face of the action because each "trick" happens very fast. If the camera wasn't right there, the moment was lost. But it wasn't always the on-the-court action the filmmaker wanted to capture.

"Will you sign my t-shirt?"
After a boys' basketball camp in Rancho Palos Verdes, Slade hit the little girls' room to change clothes. The bathroom stalls -- about a foot shorter than Slade -- put to rest any notion that Slade's is a glamorous job. Chuckling at the filmmaker's assumption that the performer would have limos and a traveling assistant, Slade lugged her 60-pound bags to the car before attending to the 300+ campers anxiously awaiting her autograph. Some of those campers had three or four faded Spin autographs on their t-shirts, sneakers or basketballs. It didn't matter that they had seen Slade that many times before. They were riveted to her performance and moved by her messages every time. The 40-something teacher who arranged for Slade to appear, smiled like a camper as he waited, last in line, for an autograph.
"A crazy way to make a living."

A second shoot was slated for November, 1999 in New Hampshire. At this point, Slade had worked a full schedule in several different states, and she was mentally and physically exhausted. She cut the trip short to get some R&R, which translated to postponing the shoot another few months. However, meaningful footage was able to be taped, including an athletic conference and one of Slade's extremely popular workshops for physical education teachers, Keeping the Fun in Basketball FUNdamentals. This was an excellent opportunity to see that Slade's enthusiasm does not just affect kids, but impacts an adult audience as well.

One workshop's eager participants begged for a little taste of the Spin show. After a minute of marvels, Slade let one ball spin until it naturally came to a complete stop -- still balanced -- on her fingertip. A roaring ovation. Slade looked at the ball like a pal she shared a secret handshake with, and said partly to the audience and partly to herself, "Crazy way to make a living, huh?"

"Get the Mayor down here!"

In February, 2000 -- two weeks before Slade was scheduled on the East Coast for the final scheduled spinumentary shoot -- she experienced a significant back injury and it was questionable whether the shoot would be completed. Slade underwent physical therapy and canceled all shows prior to the scheduled Northeast trip in order to recoup. Though it was touch-and-go, Slade healed in time for the trip. She arrived in New England for a typically grueling four-day work week at 10 schools throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

In what was an ideal coincidence, one of the schools was in the filmmaker's backyard of Newburyport, MA. The children and teachers were so inspired to see a female athlete being captured on video by a female filmmaker from Newburyport, they asked Fritchy to speak on community career day. Just an example of the positive things that happen when one is associated with Sandy Slade. But that's not all that transpired with the Brown School. In the middle of her East Coast trip, Slade had a scheduled halftime show at the University of Tennessee. Meanwhile, due to her injury, Slade had neither rehearsed nor performed the intense 7-minute halftime show in weeks. She asked the Brown School if she could use their gym to practice; they were thrilled to oblige.

This was a perfect opportunity to really film in Slade's face while she performed, without blocking anyone's view or tripping over Slade's props like the filmmaker did during one live show. Armed with a Steadicam JR, Fritchy could get some smooth and interesting shots encircling Slade while she did her enormously popular 8-ball spinning finale. An after-school crowd of parents, teachers and students wandered into the gym while Slade went through a full dress rehearsal of her halftime show. All onlookers were mesmerized -- except the one parent who happened to work at the Mayor's office. She was on the phone to City Hall.

"Just another day in court."

Only two posters adorn the gym wall at Chichester NH Central School: the Iron Man himself, Cal Ripken Jr., and Sandy 'Spin' Slade. When the adoring crowd was dismissed, Slade's t-shirt was tugged by one lingering fan -- a special education student in a wheelchair. He professed to her his love of the game. To his astonishment Slade spun a basketball on his finger, passing on the secret handshake in a moment of pure joy that he would clearly cherish for a lifetime.

After that, the weary performer returned to the hotel for the last scheduled interview of the shoot. Then it was off to catch another flight to another show in another place where Sandy Slade enriched the life of every person watching.

Sandy Spin Slade: Beyond Basketball
a MasterPeace Productions spinumentary™
Produced & Directed by Lorre Fritchy

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