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August 11, 2012
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Purple hearts: County filmmakers follow Kings' struggle to stay in Sac


The soap opera that has been unfolding between the city of Sacramento, the Maloofs and the Kings is now a movie.

Nevada County high school graduates, best friends and life-long Kings fans Tobin Halsey and James Ham took it upon themselves, along with producer Blake Ellington, to make "Small Market, Big Heart," a feature-length documentary that examines the ongoing battle to keep Sacramento's lone professional sports team planted in the capital city.

"We decided really early on we were going to tell the story from four perspectives," said producer Ham, "from the fans' perspective, from the media's perspective, from the political perspective and the team's perspective."

The film features interviews with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, former Kings owner Greg Luckenbill, Kings TV and radio personalities Grant Napier and Jerry Reynolds, Sacramento Bee writer Tony Bizjak and several past and present Kings players, to name just a few.

"We wanted to talk to people who had done the work," Ham said. "We weren't going to chase somebody because they were an expert. We were going to chase people that had done the actual work."

Entering the venture, neither Ham, a 1993 Nevada Union graduate, nor Halsey, a 1991 Bear River graduate, had much experience in filmmaking of this magnitude, but both said they felt the story needed to be told. They were just shocked that they were going to tell it, said Halsey.

"We didn't let not knowing how to do something stop us from doing it," Halsey said. "We kind of went and learned."

Ham first approached Halsey with the idea in July of 2011, and after spending six months and just under $10,000, "Small Market, Big Heart" made its debut at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento to an audience of 850, including Mayor Johnson.

Since then, the documentary has received rave reviews and two awards at the Los Angeles Movie Awards Festival, including an award for excellence for a feature documentary and best editing for a feature documentary.

Now the film has made its way back to Northern California as an entry in the Sacramento Film and Music Festival, where it will be presented Friday at the Crest Theatre.

While the film has been a success at festivals and on YouTube, it was a film that almost didn't come to be.

Just weeks before the film was set for release, it was still lacking NBA footage, said Ham.

Due to the NBA lockout, Ham was unable to obtain permission from the league to use Kings footage. It wasn't until they had pushed the deadline and the lockout finally ended that they received permission from the league.

Missing from the movie are direct interviews with the Maloofs, who declined to be interviewed after several requests, said Ham. But during his research and throughout the making of the film, he came to a realization about the Maloofs.

"The biggest thing that stuck in our heads is that the Maloofs aren't the villains in this deal," Ham said. "They had tried for 10 years to get a stadium built. They're people who are just as frustrated as anyone.

"We don't like the way they tried to sneak out to Anaheim, but that doesn't mean what they were doing wasn't right for them.

"So at the end of the day we took the approach that failure is the villain - failure to get anything done, failure to pull together as a community to get something built, to get the right people in the right places, to make some thing happen. That's the enemy."

Ham and Halsey are now taking their film on the festival circuit, hoping the documentary will resonate in other small-market cities besides Sacramento.

The two also have plans for a part two, but that will have to wait until there's an actual resolution and the Kings definitively stay or go.

Ham, who also writes for the Kings, said he doesn't know if they will stay or go but believes it would have to be the perfect situation for them to leave, and he doesn't see that anywhere in the US.

To contact Sports Writer Walter Ford, email wford@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4232.


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The Union Updated Aug 11, 2012 02:33AM Published Aug 11, 2012 02:27AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.