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Interview: Chris Robinson, director of ‘Shooting Stars’

By June 2, 2023No Comments5 min read

Few athletes are as globally recognized as LeBron James. Throughout his career, James has won four NBA Championships, four NBA MVP Awards, and recently became the highest scorer in the NBA’s history. In addition, he has won two Olympic gold medals and is a well-established philanthropist. The comparisons to Michael Jordan even hit an all-time high after he starred in 2021’s Space Jam: A New Legacy. What the masses are slowly beginning to realize is behind this basketball superstar, there’s a beautiful story of perseverance, friendship, and community. This is the focus of the new Peacock original film Shooting Stars.

Directed by Chris Robinson and based on the book of the same name by James and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Buzz Bissinger, Shooting Stars explores the journey of LeBron James and his childhood friends (also known as the Fab Five) as they rise to become the top-ranked high school basketball team in the nation. Unlike common practice in many biopics before, this film transcends the spotlight on the individual achievements of a landmark figure. Instead, it tells a coming-of-age story that combines the inherent pressures of teenage life with a focus on the community surrounding James – his neighbors, his friends, and his coaches, and how they all come together to achieve a shared goal: supporting the emerging basketball career of the Fab Five.

More than just basketball

These themes caught the attention of the Emmy-nominated Director Chris Robinson who commented in an interview for InBetweenDrafts that this movie goes beyond the sport of basketball.

“I think that it’s more about themes, right? Whatever the mechanism is, whether it’s skating in ATL or trying to make a musical group in Wu-Tang: An American Saga, I think it’s about other things. There’s a mechanism, right? That kind of brings us in, but then those themes of, for this film, of brotherhood, loyalty, and family, surpass the basketball. We shot basketball in the best way we could and in a way that honors LeBron James’ talent,” said Robinson. “But, I think what really attracted me to this story was the stuff outside of basketball: the relationship between the friends and the foundation that was built in order for him to have steady ground, a launch pad, so to speak, to turn into who he is”.

For Robinson, shooting basketball the best way he and his team could meant innovating in the depiction of an already captivating sport. One of the outstanding things about Shooting Stars is the fact that, despite containing several basketball games, the sport never feels dull. The reason for this is that Robinson, and his long-time director of photography, Karsten “Crash” Gopinath aimed to shoot each game differently and in ways that impacted the narrative of the film. Previously, Robinson stated that the team used vastly different camera techniques on each game to achieve this.

“We shoot one game low from the floor with a skate dolly; we shoot another game in the middle of the paint, where we feel like we’re one of the players,” Robinson remarked. “As they grow, they start playing above the rim, so our camera angles change to show the most acrobatic feats of athleticism. Hopefully, we can show the audience basketball in a way that they’ve never seen before”.

In addition, Robinson has listed that films like Saving Private Ryan inspired him to be inventive with shutter speeds and even in regards to his use of high-speed cameras to be able to slow time in the dynamic and fast-paced environment of a basketball game.

This is all amplified by the talented cast. The Fab Five (portrayed by Marquis “Mookie” Cook, Caleb McLaughlin, Avery S. Wills Jr, Khalil Everage and Sterling “Scoot” Henderson) all have significant athletic backgrounds. In fact, two of them played basketball in high school and, like their on-screen counterparts, have aspirations to play in the NBA. These skills, combined with Robinson and Gopinath’s creative vision, make for a depiction of the sport that is not only believable but deeply engaging. 

Standing where LeBron built his life

Complimenting its action on the basketball court, the film has the added layer of realism due to shooting on location both in Akron and Cleveland. This gives it all a unique sense of being grounded. In fact, the locations play a role as big as the characters to convey the reality that LeBron and those around him were in.

“It was very important for us to be in Akron, to be in Cleveland and the state of Ohio,” said Robinson. “From the tone of the area, to the weather, to the architecture, it was all very important to know where he played those games and where he built his life”. 

Being able to interact with these real life places also made him understand the mindset and values of both Akron and LeBron.

“When I got there, I got to understand how the people are, how they have this certain kind of culture of hard work. It’s a very Midwestern mentality. No matter what the circumstances are, from living in the projects to living in a big house, there’s a certain politeness that is exuded. I think that when you see LeBron, and you hear him talk, you realize that him being from Akron makes total sense,” he said. “However, there are some dark places in Akron too. Seeing the projects where LeBron comes from, being in his actual home, gives you a certain amount of understanding as a filmmaker. Even though it’s a film, it’s based on a true story and it informs. You don’t have to stretch to get to the most important parts. Like this is, I’m standing here, like this is what it is”.

Learn about the story of LeBron James and the Fab Five in Shooting Stars, streaming on Peacock on June 2nd, 2023. Watch the trailer below.

Pedro Luis Graterol

Based in Mexico, Pedro Graterol is the News editor for TV and Film of InBetweenDrafts. He is a Venezuelan political scientist, violist, and a nerd of all things pop culture. His legal signature includes Sonic The Hedgehog’s face.

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