Tam Tam – Outside the Lines: Interview with Director Greg Hackett
11th April 2019 by Will Stewart
The right to citizenship at birth, ‘ius soli’, is still unapproved in Italy, denying over a million children, born of immigrant parents, automatic citizenship. The film captures the story of an Italian basketball team, who were refused access to regional leagues because of the Italian born players’ immigration status.
Former Italian basketball champion, Massimo Antonelli, started the team at a disused holiday complex in Castel Volturno, an area that is made up of 25,000 inhabitants, a fifth of which are registered migrants. Being free to join, it offered local teenagers a chance to participate in after school sports and was sustained by generous donations.
The FPI (Italian Basketball Federation) rules stated that to compete, only 2 players per team could be migrants, which posed a problem for Antonelli and his team of hard working and committed players. Given his media status, he soon found himself at the centre of a debate about Italian citizenship and integration, and the question ‘what does it mean to be Italian?’ was brought to the fore.
We asked young film maker Greg Hackett some questions about Tam Tam – Outside the Lines. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please tell me a bit about your background. How you got into film making kind of work your most familiar making. Are documentaries like Tam Tam – Outside the Lines a typical example?
Greg – For me, film-making comes from a desire to find some sort of truth. I started by creating short documentaries about friends and this has evolved into taking documentary narratives and pushing what’s cinematically possible within the genre to maximise one’s understanding about the story. I went back to uni at 24, having spent a few years in a band touring around, and fell into making films when a friend was trying to make a short documentary about Iraqi refugees living in Syria. It’s been six years and I’ve not looked back since.
Making Tam Tam was a beautiful experience on a few different levels, from hanging with the team through to working with a crew that dedicated time for free to help me out.
MadeGood – The story of the basketball team is incredible, and really inspiring. How did you come to know about it, and what compelled you to make a film about it?
Greg – Having seen an article written by Sophia Seymour, alongside Giulio Piscitelli’s photography, I asked myself how I could help get this seemingly insignificant, but unjust story some more attention. For me, it was a story so worth telling I took it on as a personal project.
I called Giulio and arranged to fly over to meet with him and the boys. For me, the story of the team and their journey into the league was a good metaphor for a wider conversation about what being a ‘citizen’ actually means and the hurdles that migrants and their children can face in the everyday. As filmmakers I believe we have a duty to tell the stories that inspire or affect us and this was just perfect timing for me to get involved.
I knew from the outset that I wanted to just make the film. No brand, no platform, nothing, just the vibe of making it for making its own sake.
So, I contacted some of the connections I had previously made through both commercial work, or Instagram, and started talking to DP’s and producers about who could get involved. Immediately Todd Martin jumped in with both feet – he was super into the story and felt compelled enough to give us his time for free. I co-own and run a production company in the UK and I pitched it to the other parents and they gave me their support and backed the project with expenses and some film stock. Also, Luigi Rossi got involved – he’s a phenomenal young Italian-American producer and without him the project would never have happened.
Obviously, it goes without saying, we were going into others peoples lives and this takes time and skill to get them onside. I’ve ultimately failed in my role if the team and their families don’t want to get involved. I want to make the most authentic portrayal of the teams situation and for this I need their entire trust and buy in. That’s why I went early with no cameras to interview and meet the team. Hanging with them and Guillio gave me the understanding and confidence that I needed to commit to the project.
MadeGood – I see that the team started in a disused holiday complex made up of 25,000 inhabitants, many of whom are refugees, and the coach is a former Italian basketball champion. It seems like there could be a hundred more stories that spin off from this one. How was it that kind of environment, and were/are you inspired to make any more films on the same subject?
Greg – Absolutely. However, for me I really wanted to hone into the individual story at the heart of the team; about citizenship and what it means to be in this position in Italy for these kids.
MadeGood – I see you worked with relatively a large team for this kind of short. The photography and sound is very cinematic. Give me a bit of an idea of your working process, in all stages of production.
Greg – It was a crew of five, so not really that large 🙂 DP, producer 1AC, grip/gaffer and me! It was as grass roots as you can get – lighting with only natural light. It was my first time shooting on film, so I had to adapt to that process quickly, too. You can’t just roll like you do on digital as the film will run out pretty quickly! You have to plan each moment and work hard to execute it in the best and most natural way very quickly!
As I said above, the film is not a typical doc in that we stood and waited for the action to happen. Having been over and spoke with the team, seen the locations and fixer I had an entire list of shots I wanted to capture and the team worked with Todd and I to re-create all the moments necessary to tell the story. We blocked each basketball sequence to make sure it was just right! Similarly, Todd was rigging lights from the backs of vans to capture the perfect shot of Wisdon walking down the street!! I can’t complement Todd highly enough for his hard work.
MadeGood – What are you working on next?
Greg – I’ve just been out in South Africa shooting a beer commercial and I’m now back home after the edit working on some new original concepts.
MadeGood – Nice one Greg, thanks a lot!