Contest: Win a DVD of “23 Blast”

Posted on January 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

I’m delighted to have three copies of the heartwarming and inspiring “23 Blast” to give away. 23 Blast is the name of a football play, and “23 Blast” is based on the real story of Travis Freeman, a high school football star who lost his sight, but, with the help of a courageous coach and committed teammates, was able to keep playing. Directed by Dylan Baker, who co-stars as Travis’ father, the film also stars Stephen Lang as the coach.

To enter, send an email to me at with 23 Blast in the subject line and tell me your favorite sports team. Don’t forget your address! (US addresses only) I’ll pick winners at random on January 29, 2015. Good luck!


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Contests and Giveaways

Interview: “Avatar” Villain Stephen Lang on Playing a Good Guy Coach in “23 Blast”

Posted on October 24, 2014 at 5:56 am

Stephen Lang is best known for playing the villain in “Avatar.” But in “23 Blast,” based on the real-life story of Travis Freeman, a high school football player who lost his vision but stayed on the team, Lang plays a good guy, the coach who encouraged and supported him. I talked to Lang about acting and what it is like to play a real-life character you know will be watching.Copyright 2014 Touchdown Productions

I’ve seen you play a lot of bad guys and a lot of guys from other eras and it was really nice to see you playing just a regular nice contemporary guy. What was that like for you?

I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought, being nice or not nice, you know when I was still making this film, but when I watched the film I was like, “ Huh, what is it about this that…oh yeah, I am actually sympathetic. Wow.” And I realized, gee it’s kind of a while since I played someone who is not doing things bad things to people, so it is really quite a pleasure to watch.

From the very first scene, when you’re coaching the little kids, we see how decent and honorable your character is.

I love that scene. This is one of my favourite scenes in the movie. You know if you recall in this they were really little kids, you know.  And the bench was kind of high and their feet didn’t even touch the ground; they all were in football uniforms. And we only had this one bench and it really was not a very long bench. And we had like eight or nine kids crammed down to the bench, right and I was kind of at the end of the bench. So if you were the kid furthest away from me you had to lean far out so we could see everybody. And there was a kid who leaned far back, he just tumbled off and fell on his head. Once we made sure he was okay, it was very funny, a kind of slow motion dance.  It was what we would have called precious.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dylan Baker last week, so I got his take on what it was like to be a first time director, but tell me about what it was like to work with him.
I’ve known Dylan and have really a lot of respect for him as an actor – as an actor’s actor.  I was pleased to be asked to be part of his effort and I suspected that he would do a good job. I knew he would do a good job with the actors. And in fact, he did. And you know, he was well supported, I think from the technical side. I think he came into it knowing a certain amount but until you have actually directed, I mean so what. But he was really up to the task in that movie, it looks quite splendid.  And I enjoyed working with him very much. We worked to fine-tune it together. He was very open to what I brought to it, and it was always very clear about stepping in and saying, “How about if we tune this, try this and everything.”  I worked in concert with him. And I know that when I deal with him, I’m dealing with somebody who is intimately familiar with the whole process. So it was an altogether pleasurable experience.

When you take on a role like this, how much is what is on the page and how much is based on meeting the real person?

It really would depend on the project. If you were playing Bear Bryant for example, a coach who is nationally renowned,  it would be really a wise thing to study very, very hard, understanding that the audience already has an expectation of the character. But Coach Farris is a wonderful guy, he is physically quite different from me and I met him during the filming and enjoyed meeting him but I felt there was enough on the page for me to work with and to create my version of who this coach was and hopefully he is satisfied. There are no historical imperatives for me to be concerned about. When I played Stonewall Jackson, you want everything dead on accurate as you can be or if you are going to make an alteration, you want to know you are doing it because it is a choice, maybe because dramatically it may better than the truth. There is a tremendous amount written and said about Jackson so we know. The same cannot be said of Coach Farris. Although down in Portland I think he is quite well known and anyway, a nice guy.

Did you play high school football?

Yes, and I was a center, like Travis in the movie. I had a coach who was a really good man and a really good coach, for football and lacrosse.

You have done a lot of theater. Can you tell me a little bit as an actor about what it is that you can do in a film role that you can’t do on stage?

I would say in film very often it is a question of mastering mechanical skills, whether it be hitting your mark while you are riding a motorcycle or jumping off something. Not that that doesn’t occur on stage but theatre is that experience that you shared that you’re having and it is there and it is gone. Film is just this recorded out of sequence moments.

What’s the best advice you ever heard about acting?

Hit your mark and tell the truth. One actor did say to me years ago something which I have thought of over the years, because you know it is a tough business, right? In the best of careers there are disappointments, things that you think are going to turn out great don’t turn out great – and along with the moments of joy and the actor said to me right at the beginning, forty years ago, he looked at me, he says, “Hey, remember this; get angry but don’t ever turn bitter.” That’s pretty good advice in a way, you know. And keep getting better, keep learning all the time because if you are standing still then you’re petrified in this business. That is why I have to play a role like this. It was cool for me because I can be the authority thing, the bad guy thing, I can be that. It is nice to get an opportunity to work with little kids or to play a more sympathetic role now and again.

What are you most proud of with this film?

It is a true story. And I think the thing that is most outstanding about it is that it is a film that could have been done in a less sensitive, way it could have come very perilously close to a kind of a cloying sentimentality. And I think that was avoided totally, completely. It is told simply and at times it is charming, at times it is highly emotional, at times it is quite funny. And it is told literally with an authenticity and an honesty and a simplicity that is very, very moving, a real testament to the filmmaker, to Dylan and to his editors and the choices that they have made.

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Actors Interview Spiritual films

23 Blast

Posted on October 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some teen drinking
Profanity: Mild schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Teen drinking, drinking game
Violence/ Scariness: Character becomes blind, scenes in hospital, sad offscreen death
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: October 24, 2014

23 Blast is the name of a football play, and “23 Blast” is based on the real story of Travis Freeman, a high school football star who lost his sight, but, with the help of a courageous coach and committed teammates, was able to keep playing.

The real hero of the movie is the coach, played by “Avatar” villain Stephen Lang, with a touch of dry with along with his determination and sense of honor. The film’s very first scene, with the coach working with a group of young boys as he learns he will be getting a job with the high school team, introduces us to him as a man of character who understands that the win that counts is the integrity and teamwork he instills in his players. And it introduces us to the tone of the film, honest, unvarnished, and real. You may think you know where a fact-based story about a blind player on a high school football team is going, but this film will surprise you.23blast

That first scene also introduces us to the boys who will become the stars of the team, Travis (a very likeable Mark Hapka) and Jerry (Bram Hoover, as the bad boy with a good heart but a weak will). They are very different people. Travis plays by the rules. He is respectful, reliable, and grounded in his faith. Bram cannot resist a party, and as for rules, they are for ignoring or for breaking. But on the football field, they have a bond. Their passion for football, and their deep understanding of its options, demands, and strategies connects them. Travis is devoted to football because it is his nature to give himself fully to whatever he takes on. Bram is devoted to football because it is the only place where he feels at home.*

One night following a game, Travis becomes ill at a party. The next day he wakes up with severe swelling on his face. His parents take him to the hospital and the doctor tells them he needs immediate surgery. “You’re going to have to take the cross off,” the nurse says as he is wheeled into the operating room. He survives the surgery, but he is blind.

At first, Travis is devastated. He will not leave his room. He refuses to cooperate with the occupational therapist (a warm and spirited Becky Ann Baker). But a dream of a sermon seemingly directed to him and a visit from the coach opens up possibilities he thought were foreclosed. “I’m going to need you to step up,” the coach tells him. “The team needs a leader. Are you that guy?”

It seems impossible. How will he run, tackle, catch? The coach makes him the center and he has to learn a whole new set of skills. But learning that he can learn is revelatory. Some of his teammates are not on board. His ties with Jerry are tested by Jerry’s irresponsible and self-destructive behavior. But the coach understands that the most important thing he can teach these players is not the techniques or strategy but the meaning of being a part of something bigger than each of them.

This is quiet, even modest storytelling, with a surprising final punch, an inspirational tale that never becomes sugary or preachy.

Parents should know that this film includes teen drinking and a drinking game. A character becomes blind and there is a sad offscreen death.

Family discussion: What do we learn from Travis’ dream about the sermon directed at him? Why was Patty able to help him? Would you be willing to have a disabled player on your team?

If you like this, try: “Brian’s Song” and “Remember the Titans”

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Based on a true story Disabilities and Different Abilities High School Movies -- format Spiritual films Sports
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