Emmy awarded to documentary produced in partnership with Syracuse’s Onondaga Historical Association

Jim Tucker of the 1955 Syracuse Nationals NBA Championship team held the record for fastest recorded triple-double in a game in NBA history for 63 years. His story was told in Readily Apparent Media’s 2017 film “Let ‘Em Know You’re There: The Story of Big Jim and the Triple Double.” The film won a Regional Emmy Award Saturday evening for the Mid-Atlantic Region in the One-Time Sports Special category.

Most, if not all sports fans know the incredible story of Jackie Robinson’s role in integrating Major League Baseball. But what about Tucker and his teammate Earl Lloyd?

Although Tucker didn’t play a ton of minutes on the Nationals Championship team, he is notable alongside Lloyd as the first Black NBA players to win the NBA title.

After three years in the NBA, Tucker went on to have a successful career as a corporate executive with Pillsbury, which may be an even more amazing feat considering that he grew up during the Jim Crow-era. Tucker is currently battling Alzheimer’s, a fight which is explored in the film and parallels to how his story has been nearly forgotten among basketball history.

The film was directed by Field Humphrey and produced with his team at Readily Apparent Media, including producers Patrick Newman and Ben Altenberg. Over the phone, Humphrey and Newman discussed their excitement to have a hand in memorializing Tucker’s life for his family and for the city of Syracuse.

Humphrey has been friends with Tucker’s grandson for years and decided along with Newman to take on this story as their company’s first project. They felt the need to bring Tucker’s wife, Jan, into the film because of how the couple has learned to cope with Jim’s disease: with old basketball photos and reminders of a life lived that is slowly being forgotten.

“Part of the ethos of Readily Apparent, when we started this, we wanted to make films that really spoke to important topics about life,” Newman said. “So, once we had that talk with Jim and Jan, and they let us know what they were going through, we thought it was important to touch on this human theme that we learned through our time with them.”

The Onondaga Historical Association (OHA) also received production credits. Executive Director of OHA Gregg Tripoli, a credited co-producer on the film, was in Pittsburgh to accept the Emmy award. He noted he will donate the award to the OHA.

“We’re thrilled to be able to shed light on his story and on this remarkable man,” Tripoli said about Tucker. “And what he contributed to the world and how his life is such an inspiration for people.”

Tripoli mentioned the importance of Tucker’s story to integral members of the African-American community here in Syracuse, such as Manny Breland, who also appears in the film.

Breland, the first African-American to receive a basketball scholarship to Syracuse University, noted in the film how Lloyd and Tucker were major role models to him. Although Tucker was mostly a bench player, he served as an inspiration for young men like Breland after signing with the Nationals and recording his triple-double record at Syracuse’s War Memorial Arena.

A triple-double occurs when a player records double digits in three categories in one game. In Tucker’s case, he had 12 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in just 17 minutes after coming off the bench against the New York Knicks. Tucker held that record for 63 years until it was broken in 2018 by Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic, who also makes an appearance in the film.

“Sorry for ruining your film,” Jokic jokingly said to the filmmakers during their interview.

“Let ‘Em Know You’re There” immortalizes Tucker and how the 1955 Nationals team changed basketball forever.

“We’re all just so excited that Jim’s getting one more trophy,” Humphrey said.

Watch the film on Amazon here

— Article by Matthew Ryan Geraci, The Stand Staff Reporter

Story originally published on The South Side Stand. Link here: https://mysouthsidestand.com/more-news/local-honor/


Fast Times at American High

“Shouldn’t you be filming this audition?” The nervous actress-hopeful asked me with a look of pure confusion. “I mean, how will they know if I’m really good?”

“Uh, well, actually if you’re really good, then I’m just gonna mark it down on this little notepad here and, um, then we’ll know. And then we’ll let you know. Ok, should we start?”

In July of 2019, I went to report on and write a story about a new local film production company called American High, which is based in little old Liverpool, NY. The company’s mission is to create classic, R-rated, high-school based comedies reminiscent of the John Hughes-era films of the 80s. This is a story of how, within one hour, I turned from a news reporter to a talent scout in charge of an auditioning room.

Throughout all of our lives, both good and bad things will happen to us. If we spend too much time thinking about why they’re happening, the good ones will surely pass us by.

The anxiety was kicking in to extreme-o levels and I was ready to turn the Jeep around and head home.

‘Fuck it. No chance I’m talking to anyone of any importance here. And even if I do, I’ll blow it some way. For sure.’

So, I drove away from the high school-turned film production site known as Syracuse Studios and pulled into the parking lot of a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. For some reason my nerves love taking shits and then drinking coffee. It’s a vicious cycle.

But after I had relieved myself and slurped half of the iced coffee plus an espresso shot down, I knew I had to go back.

When I returned to the building, my parking spot was gone and the line from the entrance of the ‘school’ had poured out to the front sidewalk and around the block. There were a few hundred hopeful background extras here, maybe a couple thousand.

Here in Liverpool, NY, just north of Syracuse, local actor wannabes were working on their vocals and practicing lines from their favorite movies, ready to be thrust into the next Hollywood film from American High founder Jeremy Garelick and his team.

I wasn’t here as an actor, but as a journalist. Finally gathering myself and preparing to interview some of the locals waiting in line about what it meant for their city to become the ‘Hollywood of the East Coast,’ I crawled out of my Jeep and approached the masses, notebook in hand.

I made it to the head of the line and peered around to see who might want to talk to a reporter – actually, who was I kidding? They would all love to pour their hearts out to a news guy, if given the shot.

Suddenly a figure emerged from the school’s front doors and leapt down the steps, meandering around the line of audition attendees. The man wearing a red, white and blue hat that read ‘American High’ and sweating through his t-shirt was a man that I immediately recognized from my research into the blossoming new film production company.

At this moment, I knew I had my shot.

You see, I was here to cover the new company and write a fluffy story about how the influx of a film industry would affect the economy and the people of Syracuse and Liverpool. But, once I learned more about American High and its mission, its early successes, and the drive of its leaders such as Garelick, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

With absolutely no experience in film, I was still cultivating just how to make that idea a reality. So, at first, I stuck with the journalist thing. I approached Garelick and explained that I was a journalism grad student at Syracuse University and that I wanted to interview him once he had wrapped up the day’s auditions. I mentioned that with the looks of the growing crowd, he might be in for a long day, but he promised he would talk to me afterwards.

Not two minutes later, he had emerged again from the building, pointed at me and waved me over.

“Hey, man, we didn’t really expect this many people to show up to the casting call today. Would you mind helping us out a little? Just pass out some of these casting sheets and make sure everyone in line gets one?”

It was at this moment I had to make a decision: Would I continue to be a reporter covering a story, or was I about to provide free labor to this sweaty guy who also happened to be a smart and successful Hollywood movie writer and creative?

Well, this story wouldn’t be nearly as fun if I stayed on as a boring old reporter would it?

After making sure that the few hundred people in line all had gotten their casting sheets, I went back up to Garelick and asked him if I could help with anything else.

“You want to conduct some auditions?” He asked me.

“I mean, I have no experience and have no idea what I’d be looking for, but I love movies so I’m sure I could figure it out.”

“Perfect. We’ll set you up in a room. All you have to do is read a few lines with them, take their picture and if they’re really awesome, then make a note of it and let us know afterwards.”

And with that, I was set up in a makeshift nurse’s office set with a few lines from American High’s newest movie.

I’m truly a lucky individual and have been given so much in my life and had the opportunities to experience life in wild ways. I’ve jumped out of a plane, lived in the Rocky Mountains and survived the ‘riots’ that encompassed the University of Dayton’s historic Elite 8 run in 2014.

But never have I felt the rush of intense energy, happiness and excitement that I felt that day. I’ve always wanted to create, and, with my abilities, that’s mostly meant in the writing world. However, making movies or even writing movie scripts was never a thought that had honestly crossed my mind. Now, it’s often all I can think about.

The team at American High is now in the throes of their newest film. They’ve already created five feature films, not to mention a show on Netflix. They’re serious about their craft and although I haven’t seen a single scene from one of their movies (since they haven’t been released yet), I have a feeling that each film will be heartfelt and genuine… and hopefully a bit raunchy, too.

Heartfelt and genuine. That was the vibe I got that day from my few hours spent at an American High casting call. That’s the vibe I will continue projecting into the universe regardless of where my career takes me. And from my brief interactions with some of American High’s team, I think they’re going to keep that vibe as well.

Syracuse UFO statisticians making headlines

SYRACUSE, N.Y. –  A new method of studying unidentified flying objects has worked its way into national news outlets in recent years. Syracuse-based data statisticians Cheryl and Linda Costa hope the headlines will keep rolling long after the 2017 release of their book, “UFO Sightings Desk Reference.”

The Costas don’t claim to know what aliens look like or even that any of the 146,801 reported sightings in the U.S. from 2001-2018 are otherworldly. Of those sightings, 6,217 occurred in New York, the state with the fifth-most reported sightings in the country. The authors looked only at dates, times, locations and UFO shapes of all reported sightings.

They also created algorithms to separate sightings down to the state, city and county. Through the research they’ve learned that many UFO spotters are dog walkers and smokers and that sightings often occur near large bodies of water. The data-based approach is the first of its kind when it comes to UFO studies.

Linda Miller Costa worked in Washington, D.C., for 35 years as a science research librarian, and recounted frustration with the science-world’s resistance to UFO research.

“It was time we bring ufology into the modern age,” she said.

For a year, the Costas dissected each report from two organizations: the Mutual UFO Network and the National UFO Reporting Center.

As a result, their work was featured in a New York Times article, written in 2017 by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Ralph Blumenthal.

Cheryl Costa, who wrote a column for the past six years covering UFOs in the Syracuse New Times, hasn’t always been a UFO data statistician. A military veteran and retired aerospace security engineer, Costa noticed a change in media approaches to extraterrestrials.

Society once overwhelmingly feared the idea of otherworldly beings, partially due to the panic-inducing 1938 national radio broadcast of a seemingly realistic alien-invasion in Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds.” Now that “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” exist, among many other productions, pop-fiction aliens are widely revered. Even with all the interest, most government and media entities have stayed wary of commenting on the topic.

So why has it taken a new approach to spark journalistic interest in UFOs?

“No one wants to be painted with the stigma stick,” Cheryl said of the assumption of tin foil-hat wearing for anyone willing to explore the topic publicly.

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Recently, the Costas held the first ever UFO Town Hall in Homer, NY, 30 miles south of Syracuse. The event gave residents a chance to discuss their UFO sightings and allowed the Costas to explain their research.

Do the numbers mean each of the 100,000-plus sightings are confirmed aliens? According to the Costas, at least 70% are most likely “junk.”

Homer local Pierre Beaudry suggested something else that could be to blame for some of those reports.

Citing an idea known as “broadcast theory,” Beaudry said, “Light is being reflected into the sky, which is then being reflected back to Earth.”

Regardless of what these sightings truly are, the Costas hope people will keep talking about them.

Pet food from the heart

IMG_E6343SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Westcott Community Center in Syracuse was filled with a scent that pet owners know too well on Saturday afternoon – pet food. Volunteers from the Kia Foundation Inc. lugged in 2,000 pounds of food and supplies for their latest monthly giveaway since the company’s inception in September 2018.

A line of pet owners compiled at the door and stretched to the street. Inside, The Kia Foundation’s founder, Sam Washington, pointed at the lack of pet resources in Syracuse. For some people in financial distress, a beloved pet may be all they have.

“It started from a love of animals,” Washington said, recounting the passing of his dog Kia, a Shar Pei and Pitbull mix, in 2009 when medical options became too expensive.

Now, Washington and his wife Kate Berry, the program’s director, have created a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that provides a platform to help dog owners. The organization holds monthly events and delivers food to immobile pet owners meeting certain qualifications.

Back in line, some people were individual pet owners; some were foster or rescue home owners who use the free food for their own pets while spending money to take care of the animals they provide shelter for. Whether they saw the event online or just happened to be walking by, people came in droves.

Sara Allen got a ride from her hometown of Fulton, 30 miles away, to attend her third giveaway. She uses the food to feed her own pets, while spending her own money to take care of feral cats in her neighborhood. After waiting in line outside, Allen walked into the building and looked around at the tables, which overflowed with pet food and toys.

“There’s several generations of pet helpers right in this room,” she said as she looked at Washington’s five young children, seated behind the tables to help pass out supplies.

Washington’s oldest son, Sam jr., 16, showed videos of the family at their house scooping food into bags to prepare for the event. Although Washington and Berry both work full-time jobs, they always find time for giving back.

“It doesn’t even feel like work when you’re helping out the community, and we’ve identified a need that hasn’t been identified before,” Berry said about juggling their busy schedules. The family discovered the lack of pet services here in Syracuse; now, as an organization, they’re helping to fill that void.