Making a film involves a broad range of creative and business skills, but a group of Rockridge Secondary students has everything well in hand, as they work completely outside the timetable to finalize their documentary, Longshot: The Brian Upson Story.
The film, in development since September, follows the story of former WVSS basketball head coach Brian Upson, as he led his team at the legendary 1982 BC Provincials basketball game between Argyle and WVSS, all while facing a battle with cancer.
Tom Rippon, a TTOC with the district who was Upson’s co-coach at the time, was Rockridge film teacher David Shannon’s coach while he was in high school, and a conversation they had in the summer of 2016, helped launched the project. Shannon, who played for WVSS in the mid-90s, won the Brian Upson Trophy for Most Valuable Player in 1996, during his Grade 12 year.
“Of all the Highlander teams that Upson took to the Provincials championship, only one made the finals,” says Shannon. “During the final game, WVSS had several leads of ten points or more, only to have Argyle storm back.”
It was a tense game, concluding in a championship when the ball hit the backboard and then the rim, before rolling out into the arms of a WV defender, who grabbed the rebound.
“Brian had been battling stomach cancer for 3 years, and for the past year he had been unable to move around much, with the exception of basketball and doctor’s appointments,” says Shannon. “Sometimes, basketball practices and games were the only reason Brian would venture out of the house.”
Brian Upson’s grandson, Matt Upson, currently in Grade 12 at Rockridge, where he is the basketball team’s starting point guard, makes the story one with incredibly strong community links, even today.
Everyone in the class has been fully dedicated to the film, raising money through donations, collecting rights to footage, conducting interviews with former players and family, creating posters, scouting locations and booking the venue for the film’s premiere at the Kay Meek Theatre, February 24 at 6 pm.
Students raised enough funds to hire a small local crew in Arizona and Toronto, where two former players currently live, to do live interviews. Funds raised to date on Indiegogo and through private donations total more than $9000. The class plans to donate all remaining proceeds to a cancer charity, and has left the door open to screen a second show the same evening.