Today, I was sitting at my computer looking around my Los Angeles office (don’t be impressed, its the extra bedroom in my apartment) and I pulled out my autographed football that I took around with me to all the interviews I did for “Through These Gates”. As I started looking at the names: Tom Osborne, Larry the Cable Guy, Jack Hoffman, Charlie McBride, Tommie Frazier; I got a little choked up. The last three years have been the most exciting, emotional and proud years of my life. I made a movie. People watched my movie. My friends bragged about the movie. I traveled Nebraska and both coasts with Husker Max. I have so many stories to tell now, I catch myself saying things like “Well, Tommie Frazier told me…” and I’m not lying, he did actually tell me!
Tomorrow is the first Friday before the first game and that day will always be a special one for me. Last year we screened to a sold out crowd at the Rococo Theater in Lincoln on that day. I wore a bow tie. I never wear bowties. Hell, I never wear ties. Jason Peter showed up and Milt Tenopir did too as well as 400 plus of my new best friends. I tried not to cry as I stood at the microphone and looked out at a mini sea of red. I was so afraid that they would hate the film, that they would think it was cheesy or heavy handed. Most people didn’t know that I quit my job to make this film. That I produced, directed, filmed and edited the film myself obviously with the help of others mind you. Most people weren’t aware that we had a hundred bucks to make the film in the beginning or that I borrowed my friends film equipment so that I could try to tell our story. At that time in the whole process people didn’t understand that this film didn’t exist without the culture of Husker fans that helped create it. I was given so many opportunities to make our film because of the people in Nebraska lending me a hand. Thats the thing that I took away from all of this, people will still help you if you ask. Thats all you have to do is speak up, work like you mean it and give it all you got.
Lets be honest, not very many people have seen my movie. Maybe 20,000 – and that’s a guess. Thats not very many, thats about 1% of Nebraska. This movie will never win awards or accolades. It didn’t get into the “big” film festivals. No one has heard of the first time movie director who made a movie about the fans of Nebraska and his hometowns culture. That wasn’t why I made it. I made it because I love Nebraska and I’m proud to be a Cornhusker. I can say this with 100% certainty – I am more proud of where I’m from than anything else about me. I’m proud of growing up with dirt under my fingernails and calluses covering both hands. I’m proud of falling off of roofs, jumping from hay bail to hay bail and swinging on rope swings in my cousins barn. I’m proud that I learned to run a jackhammer when i was 14. My dad taught me to work hard, speak your mind and always be a Husker. Los Angeles won’t change that.
When I look at that football on my shelf thats what I see. I don’t see a bunch of college football players autographs, I see a state that understands me because somewhere inside they are just like me.
Oh and One last thing, Tommie Frazier told me, “Win or lose, if you gave it all you got thats all that matters, that’s what they care about.” Well, for what its worth, I gave it all I got and as we start the 2014 season I hope that, more than just winning, we play hard, we play right and we give it all we got because thats all that really matters. the movies tag line is: “Being a husker is bigger than football” and I believe in that more now than I ever have.
Go Big Red,
Lately I’ve been so involved in post production and the “filmmaker” side of this project that today I took a few minutes to remind myself a few things. I began thinking about how far we’ve come and more importantly how we got here. This is a project that started out as en exploration of Nebraska fandom over 2 years ago. It was just an idea, a Craigslist ad, a couple hundred bucks, and some camera equipment that I borrowed from a friend. Honestly, I just missed Nebraska and was looking for any excuse to be there in the fall. I wish it was a more altruistic or “Hollywood” story than that but I just really wanted to see a couple of football games and hopefully meet Eric Crouch. He was our first and only interview we lined up. Since him we’ve interviewed about 20 “Husker celebrities” and more fans than I can count.
We say it’s not about football. That its bigger than that. That’s what we tell ourselves – I hear it almost every day, I’ve believed it my whole life. I was afraid that as I immersed myself in it that I would find out that we weren’t that great, let alone the greatest fans in college football. Like the time I accidentally bumped into Sean Penn and he gave me a dirty look. Not that it makes him a bad person but it took him out of the running for my favorite. And Husker fans don’t claim to be “not bad” fans or even “good” fans. We wrote above every entrance that we are the “greatest” fans. That’s Bold.
I could make a movie about making this movie and it would be just as interesting as the movie itself. I got email after email from people sharing stories and offering help because they just wanted to “be involved”. Many of them just loved Nebraska. Many just knew a Nebraskan that they loved. I’ve had camera men help me for free because we didn’t have a budget at first, sound guys, people who just wanted to hold a mic. Farmers that would let me use their land as long as I promised the pictures would only “be used for good”. Strangers sent me pictures and videos, invited me into their house, made me honorary members of their clubs. I was invited into old coaches house and offices and stadiums. I was given rides in helicopters to film Lincoln in ways hopefully it hasn’t been seen before. I’ve been given pictures from NASA. I’ve had some of the busiest men on the planet change their schedule to work in a time to talk to me about being a Husker. We would spend the first half of our time talking about football then we would talk about how we grew up. I also met many talented artists and musicians but the ones that came through the most where the ones I’ve known my whole life. I was looking to find music for the film. A good song that made sense. I couldn’t afford them, they were very expensive and I’m not a wealthy man. Never have been. My friends got together and made a song for my film that is incredible. 2 of my best friends from childhood, one of their dads and some dude I’d never met wrote and sang the main theme song of the film. I would call us a grass-roots project but I like the term home-grown even more. When people from other places see the help I receive their minds are blown away by the kindness , the loyalty, and the support I’ve received. Some don’t believe it and they search for the agenda.
Sometimes it’s important that we stop and remind ourselves how lucky we are to grow up in such a great place. So I wanted to take a second to thank everyone who’s helped me.
I wish I could do or say more. The film will be ready this fall and I hope I did Nebraska justice. While “Through These Gates” is about being a Husker it’s not just about football. It’s bigger than that.
- Published in From The Director's Chair
I try to be as vanilla as possible about the politics and debates that surround Bo Pelini and the team on my website and Facebook page. I avoid posting about Bo’s comparison to Dr. Osborne and how Taylor is no Tommie. I don’t feel the need to get into how this is or isn’t a new era or how much Milt Tenopir may or may not have been better than Barney Cotton. I keep my digital mouth shut about how the media does or does not antagonize Bo and his staff.
First things first, the bowl game was very sad for me just as it was for everyone else. Notice how I said sad and not angry. I doubt Bo or any players were super stoked about it either. I’d go as far as saying that however bummed out I may have been, I probably did not even feel half the disappointment that they felt.
Honestly I’m not really surprised by all the inner bickering between fans, I’ve grown used it. It has happened all but 3 years of my lifetime. Can you guess what 3 years those were? I’ll give you a hint: They involve Warren Sapp, Steve Spurrier and Peyton Manning.
What truly bothers me is that I keep hearing how the Cornhuskers have become “irrelevant”. That one stings a little. Not because I think its true, not by a long shot. Not even an iota of a little bit. I’ve spent the better part of 2 years traveling all over the country talking to Cornhuskers – players, fans, and coaches and Ive seen grown men tear up talking about their childhood and watching games or chats they had with their ex-players. I’ve been sent emails from fathers about how proud they were that they took their sons AND daughters to their first game. My friend Nic tells a great story about learning to curse quietly so he didn’t wake up his baby girl during the games. How can something be irrelevant when it means so much to so many people.?If it was irrelevant then people wouldn’t get so passionate about it.
And I’m sure I’ll hear from people saying, “that’s not what they mean when they say irrelevant.” Well, that’s how this husker took it and I’m sure others have as well. I guess my point is can we just shut up already about the B1G championship and focus on beating the snot out of Georgia because I think we can as long as the team isn’t reading about how much they suck everyday. C’mon man let’s get it together already.
- Published in From The Director's Chair
I decided this evening that I wanted to tell my story. Why, I, Ryan Tweedy – the maker of this film, is a Cornhusker. I’d like to start out with a few things that I’m not. I’m not a Writer, so forgive my bad placement of commas and mis-spelled words. I’m not a business man, so forgive my many emails and facebook statuses asking for donations. I’m not a poet, (however I used to try to be one) so forgive my ramblings and run on sentences. I am however a Lincoln kid.
When I was in the 5th grade and I was finally allowed to ride my bike to Wes’ baseball card shop next to the Taco Inn on 70th between A and O. I would ride by this brown and white house across the street from the Shopko on 66th street that someone told me was Tom Osborne’s house. Every time I would ride by I would stop and wait a few minutes to see if he would come out. I wanted to see the legend that showed up on 10/11 news every night. The legend that my dad talked about, that my brother occasionally cursed about, that all the old guys at the restaurant had a new play written for. The guy that perfected option football. I never seen him. He never came out. I’m still not sure if it was his house. When I was in Middle School I played Midget Football. I played for the Executive Club, 2 years with Runza and then with the Fire Fighters. I played with a kid named Scott Sylvester. Tweedy and Sylvester, you couldn’t write it better. And every year the leaves turned brown and it got too cold to ride my bike to Seacrest field for practice and I knew winter was right around the corner. Every Saturday somewhere I was watching the Huskers. Side note- I always thought that Leodis Flowers was related to the weatherman Jim Flowers (I think that was his name). I remember thinking it was weird because the weatherman didn’t look like much of a football player. I was young. I watched Schlesinger break 2 touchdowns against Miami, Davison make “The Catch”, Tommy Frazier do everything. I got to grow up with all the greats. Crouch, Frost, The Peter brothers, Alberts, Thomas, All 15 Ruuds. That is why I was a fan then. The legends, the heroes, the guys that could do all the things I couldn’t.
When I was 24 I graduated college. I moved almost immediately to Chicago. A few months later the leaves turned brown. The first football saturday rolled around and no one was there when I yelled “Husker”. It just died. I eventually taught my friend “Fish” (His last name was Fisher and he was also a drinker) from Downers Grove Illinois to yell “Power”. To this day he cheers for the huskers. I eventually picked up a shift at a sports bar on Saturdays so I could watch the games for free. It felt empty the first couple of seasons. I missed my family. I eventually found people to cheer with but a lot of them just wanted a team to cheer for and they figured “I’ll just cheer for my friends team”. I appreciated the gesture but it wasn’t the same. When I was 26 I moved to Los Angeles. Theres was no more fall, there was no more snow, and to an extent there was no more midwest. It was a different world here. I felt like a Nebraskan that got picked up and dropped off on an alien planet somewhere. A lot of people don’t eat here. On purpose. It can be a very strange place. First thing I did was find a husker bar. There’s a lot of them. I went to a couple Nebraska Coast Connection meetings and learned where to go. I met a girl. We’re together still – She’s Russian so I feel teaching her to yell “Go Big Red” is more than appropriate. Every husker Saturday I find the biggest group of Huskers wearing red that I can, I take a moment to scan the room in hopes that Dr. Tom may have shown up there, and for those couple of hours a week, for those couple of weeks a year, I feel like I’m home. This film is about my home.
- Published in From The Director's Chair