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Friday, May 16, 2014
What I've Been Writing Lately

It's a movie about the American Fork High School Marching Band, and it premieres next week.

Blogging time never seems abundant any more. I'm not sure it ever did. But lately, as in for the last several months, I've been spending a lot of my free time helping with a little project that is almost finished. I've never written for a film before, and, depending how things go next week, I suppose it's possible that the first will be the last, and the last will be the first. That said, however . . .

Champions of the West, a feature-length documentary about the American Fork High School Marching Band (mostly its 2013 season) premieres Thursday evening in three showings at American Fork High School.

Confession: It didn't start out feature-length. Two decisions early in production, both of which I think were good decisions, made it longer: We decided that looking back a bit was important, as part of looking behind the scenes at one of the top high school band programs in the country. And we wanted to interview dozens of band members, as well as teachers, donors, parents, and others, and use them, not just a narrator, to tell much of the story. Doing all those interviews -- technically, I only did most of them -- was a lot of fun. In retrospect, I should have seen that coming.

I enjoy working with professionals. Kent Bates is the narrator; my words sound better when he speaks them. The driving forces behind the picture are filmmakers Matt and Russ Judkins, who are sleeping off their latest working all-nighter even as I write this, I hope. They have graciously endured and partially remedied my nearly complete inexperience with filmmaking. I've learned to trust their skills and their artistic instincts, which is a happy place for a writer to be. Numerous other people have helped in a variety of ways, but I'll leave the list to the film credits. (I hope we don't miss anyone.)

We're all getting the same pay for this project: We get to hang out with the fine people who are the story, as we try to deserve the honor of being their storytellers.

For what it's worth, here follows this week's press release about the film and its premier. Links to two of the trailers are included below, as well as a link you can use to get tickets. (Maybe I'll see you there?)

* * * * * * * *



American Fork, Utah -- May 15, 2014 -- In recent years the American Fork High School Marching Band has won state and regional championships and has marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Rose Bowl Parade, and a presidential inaugural parade, with a return engagement in the Macy’s parade planned for later this year. Now the band has found something new: starring in its own film.

Champions of the West, a feature-length documentary, chronicles the band’s 2013 season, from spring rehearsals to Grand National competition in Indianapolis last November. It also looks back in time, briefly examining the building of one of the nation’s top high school band programs, and exploring individual band members’ childhood aspirations to join the band.

For local filmmakers Matt and Russ Judkins, it began as a family project. “We marched in Texas, when we were in high school,” Matt Judkins said. “Now we have two younger brothers in the American Fork band, including a drum major. We thought we’d follow our brothers to rehearsals and band camp, then the competitions, and all the way to Indianapolis. We’d do a few interviews along the way, then put it all together and have a nice, short film for the family.”

With the enthusiastic support of John Miller, American Fork High School’s Director of Bands, the project began to grow. Judkins said, “People saw us filming at rehearsals and performances, but I don’t think they realized what it was becoming, until we showed the first trailer last fall at the Band Bash. All the junior high and high school bands were there with their families. The response was amazing.”

As the scope of the project grew, so did the production team. Band boosters mobilized to help with writing, narration, sound mixing, publicity, and other essential tasks. "We're all donating our time," Judkins explained. "It's a labor of love. We all have at least one family member in the band."

Dozens of band members gave interviews for the film, as did Miller and number of other staff, alumni, boosters, donors, and parents.

The film’s major theme is that unity, hard work, and the tireless pursuit of excellence matter more than the trophies which line the walls of American Fork High’s band room. Miller said, “If students are in band to win a trophy, they’re in band for the wrong reasons. We preach that and we preach that.”

Rebecca Baldwin, a flute player in the band, explained, “Band has taught me that, whatever comes in my life, I can do hard things. Band has helped me to be outgoing, to learn to be friends with others, and to work hard.”

Trombone player Blake Mower said marching band taught him about "hard work, determination, finishing the job. Sacrifice is something you learn, too.”

Color guard member Rose Vin Zant said, “It’s tough sometimes, but we all love it, and we all love each other.”

2013 Band Booster President Sarah Beeson added, “When you see these kids and what they go through, and how marching band helps them, you see that this goes way beyond a music program.”

The film's writer, David Rodeback, said, “These are splendid youth, and they take after their parents and their teachers. It's a joy to be their storytellers for a while. The only sad thing for us is, for every good story we can fit into the film, there are a hundred we can’t.”

Champions of the West premieres in three showings on Thursday, May 22, at the American Fork High School auditorium, at 6:00, 7:30, and 9:00 p.m. Due to the length of the film, the second and third showings are later than originally announced. Admission is free, but tickets are required.

For reserved tickets, follow this link: bit.ly/aftickets, search for “Champions of the West” at EventBrite.com, or follow the link at the American Fork Bands Facebook page. Remaining tickets will be available at the door.

Two of the film's trailers may be viewed on YouTube at:


David Rodeback (writer/associate producer)
phone: [snip]
e-mail: david@rodeback.com


Comment by David Rodeback, 5/14/2014:

The first trailer is here: bit.ly/afchampions1

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