HOPE IN THE HAMPTONS!

Shaquille O’Neal introduces us to the documentary “Killer Bees.” The film tells the story of the Bridgehampton High School basketball team, winners on the basketball court, and a symbol of hope for its Hamptons community, where discrimination, gentrification and massive income inequality are a way of life.

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

Aired on August 24, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS SEGMENT IS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY AND OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

FROM PRODUCER SHAQUILLE O'NEILL COMES THE DOCUMENTARY KILLER BEES THAT TELLS THE STORY OF A BASKETBALL TEAM THAT DEFIES TYPICAL STEREOTYPES OF THE HAMPTONS, LED BY THEIR INSPIRATIONAL COACH, THE TEAM PREPARES TO DEFEND THEIR STATE CHAMPIONSHIP, THEIR FIGHTING SPIRIT HAS SINCE BECOME A SYMBOL OF HOPE FOR A COMMUNITY STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE, AMONG OTHER THINGS, RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, GENTRIFICATION, AND ABSURD INCOME INEQUALITY IN ONE OF THE WEALTHIEST NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE COUNTRY.

THERE'S LEGITIMATELY A SOCIOECONOMIC DIVIDE NORTH OF THE TRACKS AND SOUTH OF THE TRACKS.

THEY'VE BEEN TRYING TO CLOSE THAT SCHOOL DOWN FOR YEARS AND YEARS.

AND YET WE STAY TRUE TO WHAT HAS GOTTEN US HERE.

ONE OF THE REASONS THE SCHOOL WILL NOT CLOSE IS THAT WE HAVE A WINNING BASKETBALL TEAM.

KEEP MOVING, ALL RIGHT?

AND HERE WITH MORE NOW ABOUT THE FILM IS FORMER BRIDGE HAMPTON BASKETBALL COACH CARL JOHNSON, AND PRODUCERS AND DIRECTORS BEN AND ORSON CUMMINGS.

GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO ALL OF YOU.

THANKS FOR HAVING US.

IT'S A GREAT FILM.

I WATCHED IT LAST NIGHT.

I'M A FORMER ATHLETE, SO I LOVE THE SPORTS FILMS.

THIS IS SO MUCH MORE THAN A SPORTS FILM, SO MUCH MORE THAN A BASKETBALL FILM.

LET ME ASK YOU FIRST, YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL IN YOUR FILMAKING CAREERS, WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS?

WE GREW UP IN BRIDGE HAMPTON, WENT THERE, WENT THROUGH THE BASKETBALL PROGRAM.

A COUPLE SUMMERS AGO, THE WAY I REMEMBER IT, I GOT A FACEBOOK MESSAGE FROM COACH CARL AND A CLASSMATE OF MINE, SAYING YOU GUYS ARE FILM MAKERS, YOU KNOW ALL ABOUT THE BEES.

THINGS ARE CHANGING SWIFTLY OUT HERE.

THIS CULTURE MAY NOT BE AROUND MUCH LONGER, IF YOU GUYS ARE INTERESTED, IT'S BEST DO IT SOONER RATHER THAN LATER.

THEN WHAT DID YOU DO?

HERE'S AN IDEA.

I'M SURE YOU'RE GIVEN ALL SORTS OF IDEAS FROM ALL SORTS OF SOURCES REGULARLY DOING WHAT YOU DO.

WHAT WAS THE NEXT STEP?

WE ONLY MADE NARRATIVE FEATURES BEFORE, HADN'T DONE A DOCUMENTARY.

WE WERE A LITTLE CAUTIOUS, WE'D HEARD THE STORIES OF HOOP DREAMS, SOMEONE WENT IN AND I'LL MAKE A MOVIE, TEN YEARS LATER YOU'RE STILL WORKING ON IT.

WE HAD COFFEE MEETINGS, CALLED A FEW FRIENDS, WENT FOR COFFEE, WE'RE THINKING OF TELLING THIS STORY AND TOLD THEM WHAT IT WAS ABOUT.

EVERYONE WE SPOKE SO SAID YOU HAVE TO DO THAT, TOO GOOD A STORY.

IT WAS AN INCREDIBLE REACTION, NEVER GOT A REACTION LIKE THAT.

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW DIFFERENT THIS PLACE IS NOW FROM WHEN YOU WERE THERE.

BUT BEFORE I DO THAT, CARL, LET ME ASK YOU, SO WHEN YOU WERE FIRST APPROACHED ABOUT THE IDEA OF DOING A FILM ABOUT NOT JUST YOUR TEAM, BUT THE SCHOOL, THE COMMUNITY, WHAT WAS YOUR VERY FIRST REACTION TO IT?

SOMEWHAT APPREHENSIVE ABOUT IT BECAUSE NOW YOU'RE ASKING THE KIDS TO OPEN UP THEIR PERSONAL LIFE.

YOU'RE ASKING THE SCHOOL TO OPEN UP THEIR PERSONAL LIFE.

AND SOME PEOPLE JUST --

ASKING YOU TO OPEN UP YOUR PERSONAL LIFE.

YES, DEFINITELY, TO OPEN UP MY PERSONAL LIFE AND WHERE DO WE GO FROM THERE, AND DO I FEEL COMFORTABLE ABOUT THAT?

SOME KIDS ARE GOING THROUGH THEIR SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL, THE PRESSURE OF TRYING TO DEFEND THE STATE TITLE, AND ALSO ALL THE OTHER KIND OF THINGS THAT SOME KIDS WEREN'T COMFORTABLE ABOUT OPENING UP.

SO AT FIRST I WAS REAL APPREHENSIVE.

BUT THEN AGAIN, THERE'S A STORY TO BE TOLD AND IT SHOULD BE TOLD.

HOW DID YOU GET -- BECAUSE I'M SURE YOU TALK ABOUT HOOP DREAMS, THERE ARE A LOT OF GREAT SPORTS DOCUMENTARIES OUT THERE.

BUT A LOT OF THEM ARE -- FOCUS REALLY ON THE SPORT ITSELF AND THE GAMES AND THE QUEST FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP.

BUT THIS BECAME SO MUCH MORE.

DID YOU KNOW GOING INTO IT THAT THIS WAS GOING TO BECOME WHAT IT ULTIMATELY BECAME?

YES.

THAT WAS -- WE WENT INTO THE KITCHEN IN BRIDGE HAMPTON, WAITING FOR CARL FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE WERE GOING TO DISCUSS WHAT WE WERE -- WHAT WE WERE UP TO, AND WE WERE LIKE, WELL, WE'RE GOING TO ASK CARL, IS IT OKAY IF WE EXAMINE A WHOLE BUNCH OF THESE OTHER ISSUES, HOW DO YOU THINK REALLY REACT?

WE POSED THE QUESTION TO CARL, AND HE'S LIKE, I KIND OF FIGURED THAT WAS THE POINT.

SO GOING INTO IT, THERE ARE A COUPLE THINGS I'M STRUCK BY.

ONE IS, I WENT TO -- WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS BEFORE.

I WENT TO A TINY HIGH SCHOOL, 90 SOME KIDS IN MY SENIOR CLASS.

WE HAD A VERY PROUD ATHLETIC TRADITION.

IT WAS SO SMALL, AND THERE WERE A LOT OF TALKS ABOUT CLOSING IT UP, MERGING WITH SOMEBODY ELSE.

THERE'S BEEN A HISTORY OF THAT HERE.

HOW DIFFERENT IS THE SCHOOL AND THE COMMUNITY NOW FROM WHEN YOU GUYS WERE THERE AS STUDENTS?

WELL, IT WAS MORE AFRICAN-AMERICAN PREDOMINANTLY WHEN WE GREW UP THERE.

AND I THINK SINCE IT'S DEFINITELY --

BECOME A LITTLE MORE DIVERSE.

WE HAVE OUR -- WE HAVE LATINOS, WHITES AND BLACKS.

IT'S BECOME A LOT DIFFERENT.

WHY HAS IT CHANGED, DO YOU THINK?

I THINK, YOU KNOW, OUR SCHOOL REALLY WAS -- PEOPLE PRE-JUDGED IT BEFORE THEY EVEN DECIDED TO STEP IN TO COME SEE THE SCHOOL.

THERE WAS ALL THESE LITTLE RUMORS SAY, OH, IT'S THIS, IT'S THAT.

WHEN THEY GET THERE, THEY FIND OUT, OH, THIS IS A REALLY NICE SCHOOL.

BASICALLY WITH A PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATION, YOU GET THE PRIVATE SCHOOL.

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL LOOKING SCHOOL.

PEOPLE WILL SEE THIS WHEN THEY DO IT, YOU AS FILM MAKERS, I'M SURE, APPRECIATED THAT, THE VISUAL QUALITIES.

ONE THING, TOUCHING ON THE CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS.

IT'S REALLY POSITIVE, A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF AMERICA FUNCTIONING WELL, WHITE AND BLACK AND LATIN ALL TOGETHER.

PEOPLE GETTING ALONG.

IT ALSO REFLECTS THE GENTRIFICATION, THE TURNPIKE WHERE AFRICAN-AMERICAN PEOPLE LIVED A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE LEAVING, IT'S THE HAMPTONS, THEY'LL SELL, AND THEN PUT UP A MANSION, A SPECULATIVE REAL ESTATE PROPERTY.

WHEN YOU WATCH THIS, THE WONDERFUL JOB YOU DID SORT OF INTERCUTING, YOU KNOW, THE HAMPTONS AND THE GREAT WEALTH OF THE HAMPTONS AND THE OSTENTATIOUS LIFESTYLE OF THE HAMPTONS, HERE ARE SOME GUYS HARD WORKING, KIDS ON A BASKETBALL TEAM, AND IT'S ALMOST HARD TO IMAGINE THAT IT'S -- YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE SAME TOWN GOING ON HERE.

YEAH, BASICALLY -- YEAH, IT'S JUST --

HOW DO THE KIDS HANDLE THAT?

ONE DAY THERE'S $250 MILLION MANSION ON THE BEACH.

AS THE CROW FLIES, YOU KNOW, 30 SECONDS AWAY THERE'S A KID ON THE TEAM BEING EVICTED FROM HIS HOUSE, FROM THIS LITTLE HOUSE ON THE TURNPIKE.

AND IT'S HARD TO FATHOM.

IT'S A LOT OF THE SAME ISSUES THAT THE COUNTRY IS FACING, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS, BUT IN THE HAMPTONS IT IS SO EXTREME, SO EXTREME.

BECAUSE YOU'VE SEEN SOME GENTRIFICATION SITUATIONS WHERE IT'S GETTING BETTER, A LITTLE BETTER, AS IT GETS A LITTLE BETTER IT MAKES THE QUALITY OF THE EDUCATION A LITTLE BETTER, PUT MORE MONEY INTO IT, BUT HERE IT'S LIKE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WORLD.

WELL, YOU DO HAVE THOSE MANSIONS, THOSE $14 MANSIONS $20 MILLION MANSIONS.

PEOPLE THAT LIVE THERE ARE ONLY THERE FOR THE SUMMER.

THEIR KIDS DON'T GO TO SCHOOL THERE YEAR ROUND.

I DON'T WANT TO GIVE UP TOO MUCH OF THIS.

I WANT PEOPLE TO WATCH IT.

IT IS WONDERFUL.

WHAT DO KIDS THINK ABOUT THE IDEA OF BEING FEATURED IN A FILM, AND THEN WHAT DID THEY THINK ABOUT IT WHEN THEY SAW IT AFTERWARDS?

THEY REALLY LOVED THE MOVIE.

THEY WERE EXCITED ABOUT IT, YOU KNOW, AND I ALWAYS TELL THEM, YOU KNOW, DON'T LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT TO THINK.

YOU GO THERE AND JUDGE IT FOR YOURSELF.

WHATEVER YOU FEEL, STICK WITH IT.

DON'T EVER TRY TO, YOU KNOW, BE PERSUADED LIKE, SAY, OH, INSIDE YOU WOULD LIKE IT, OUTSIDE, SOMEONE TELL YOU, NO, I DON'T LIKE IT.

I GOT POSITIVE FEEDBACK FROM ALL THE KIDS THAT WERE FEATURED IN THE FILM.

SO I WAS VERY PLEASED.

LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, WE TALKED ABOUT SHAQUILLE O'NEILL'S INVOLVEMENT IN THIS.

TELL ME ABOUT THAT.

WE WERE LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE A GREAT EXECUTIVE PRODUCER NAMES GLEN FURMAN WHO HAS A FOUNDATION CALLED THE FLAG ART FOUNDATION BASED IN NEW YORK AND HE HAD SHAQUILLE O'NEILL, WHO WE GOT TO MEET, CURATE A SHOW, SO WE BECAME FRIENDS WITH HIM THERE, SHAQ GOES BY SHAQASSO.

WE SHOWED HIM AN EARLY -- HE SHOWED IT TO SHAQ, AND HE WATCD IT AND SIGNED UP RIGHT AWAY.

HE'S BEEN A TERRIFIC HELP.

NOT JUST HIS PHYSICAL PRESENCE, BUT JUST WHO HE IS AND WHERE HE COMES FROM.

YEAH, BUT THAT'S FUNNY, WE WERE -- SHAQ HAD A CONVERSATION, AND HE'S LIKE, COACH, AND HE CALLED ME COACH, HE'S LIKE I CAME FROM A SCHOOL I GRADUATED WITH 39 KIDS IN MY CLASS.

SO HE KNOWS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE IN A SMALL SCHOOL AND NOT TO -- AND TO HAVE THAT KIND OF PRIDE, THAT SENSE OF PRIDE, LIKE THAT BURNING FEELING INSIDE, I DON'T CARE WHO WE GO UP AGAINST, WE'RE GOING TO WIN.

HE HAS THAT BURNING.

THAT'S CAUSED HIM TO BE THE SUCCESS HE'S BEEN AS WELL.

IT'S A GREAT JOB OF STORY TELLING.

YOU KNOW AS STORY TELLERS YOU NEED TO HAVE PEOPLE, YOU'RE TELLING THEIR STORIES.

AND COACH, YOU KNOW, A WONDERFUL ROLE IN THE LIVES OF THESE KIDS.

SO IT'S GOING TO JOIN THAT PANTHEON OF REALLY GOOD SPORTS/MUCH MORE STORIES.

YOU SHOULD ALL BE PROUD OF WHAT YOU DID HERE.

THANKS VERY MUCH.

IT WAS A DELIGHT AND FUN TO WATCH, BY THE WAY.

A REMINDER, FOR MORE INFORMATION ON WHERE YOU CAN WATCH 'KILLER BEES,' VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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