Six-Pack Interview with “Chasing the Game” Author and “Pelada” star Gwendolyn Oxenham
Planting the Seed of Soccer Across America: Danny Beerseed
If you saw “Pelada”, this story will be familiar to you. One of the documentary's two focuses, Gwendolyn Oxenham has finally put her copious notes from their three year, twenty-five country pick up soccer journey into a book. The result is “Finding The Game”, a nearly 300 page re-visting of many of the stories from “Pelada”, but with much more details and loads more stories that the film couldn't fit in.
Gwendolyn was kind enough to give us a few minutes of her time to talk about writing the book, telling missed stories, and where everyone involved in the “Pelada” movie are now.
Per usual, a six-pack of questions for the “Finding the Game” author.
Free Beer Movement: Talk about the process of writing this book. Have you been writing this since the movie came out three years ago? What did a writing day look like for this book?
Gwendolyn Oxenham: I started writing on our plane ride to Trinidad. Throughout the trip, I kept a notebook sandwiched between my cleats and wrote whenever I felt like it, mainly scribbling down details I worried I might forget. And then the bulk of the writing happened last summer. We were living in an apartment in Chapel Hill and my daily routine was to walk to the school library, bury myself in the stacks, and write until 5pm–then I took off for the field. There was an amazing pickup game everyday with guys from all over the world and it felt good to go from writing about the game to actually playing it.
FBM: Why was it important to also publish a book on your journey even though so many of us saw “Pelada”?
GO: So much happened away from the cameras–the book follows our adventures and offers a behind-the-scenes look as we hunt for games. Plus, when you're trying to squeeze three years and twenty-five countries worth of material into a 90 minute film, a ridiculous amount gets left out. A book allowed me to include the details and stories that were impossible to fit into the film, and writing is always what I've wanted to do. Pickup–the world at play–is an often overlooked strand of the game that has so much to offer.
FBM: How did it feel to revisit these stories you told in “Pelada” through your journals and notes and then tell them in your own words?
GO: I love the people we met and played with so it was enjoyable to spend so much time thinking about them. And I like the interplay between the two forms of storytelling — how words help me find images and how images help me find words.
FBM: When we had a chance to interview you after the premiere of “Pelada” at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin you expressed regret at the fact that so many stories were left on the cutting room floor. Is this book a way to “make good” on having those missing stories told and look at a few from the film in more depth?
GO: Yes! We probably could've made an entire film on just the Bolivian prison. Instead it ended up as a 6 minute story…and that was one of our longest vignettes; other countries got reduced to a single image. It's wonderful to have a chance to tell the full story.
FBM: What is the importance of keeping soccer in your (and everyone else's) life?
I am most myself when I am on the field–and I think that's true for so many of us. That fact has great connective power.
FBM: Since the movie what have you (and Luke, and Ryan, and Rebekah) all been up to? Briefly fill in the last couple of years.. like “Where Are They Now?”
GO: (Director) Ryan (White)'s at work on an awesome documentary about Freda Kelly, the Beatles' longtime secretary who is telling her stories for the first time. He and (Camera woman Rebekah) Ferg also both worked on a doc about Prop 8. Ferg owns a production company in San Francisco called “RFilms” and is developing a documentary about the Mission District in SF. Luke (Boughen) just graduated from law school and is studying for the bar and looking for a job. And I teach English classes at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa.
Editor's Note: And, of course, Luke and Gwendolyn were married in June 2010, almost one year after “Pelada” made its theatrical debut.
“Finding the Game” is available TODAY from Amazon.com and other retailers. Go the extra mile, go local and ask your neighborhood bookstore.
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