When the Vancouver Grizzlies NBA franchise left the city in 2001, the fans wanted answers. 20 years later, local super fan Kat Jayme has finally revealed the whole Grizzlie Truth.
Set The Tape’s Nicholas Lay sat down with Kat at VIFF 2022 to discuss her epic behind the scenes journey, the reaction from the fans, and what it was like to chill with multiple former NBA stars.
Nicholas Lay: Finding Big Country was a great success in 2018. What sparked the decision to make a feature focusing on the short rise and epic fall of the Grizzlies?
Kat Jayme: When I first pitched Finding Big Country it was actually the full story of the Grizzlies with subplots featuring Big Country and myself, but because of the budget and the amount of time we had we decided to make it a short film and use it as a proof of concept for the feature documentary. Finding Big Country was only supposed to be a 20-minute film, but we let it become what it needed to be, which was 43 minutes, and it opened a lot of doors when it came out in 2018. From there Crave and Uninterrupted come on board in 2019 and we were fully funded in 2020.
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NL: You tracked down a ton of former NBA talent, including the Grizzlie who never was, Steve Francis… how did you even begin that process?
KJ: I had started to get in touch with a few players during Finding Big Country, including Mike Bibby and Shareef [Abdur-Rahim]. I told them that down the line I hoped to make this feature film, would they be interested, and everyone said yes. As soon as I got the first person involved, which was Bryant [Reeves, a.k.a. Big Country], I went to Mike and Shareef, and from there other key people connected with the Grizzlies were ready and willing to be involved. There were some players we tried so hard to get but couldn’t make it happen, like Michael Dickerson, Stromile Swift, Antonio Daniels, and Greg Anthony. I would have loved to have gotten them, but in the end we had everyone who we absolutely needed, and that was Country, Mike Bibby, Shareef, Steve Francis, and Stu Jackson.
NL: Which player was the most fun to hang out with?
KJ: The players were all so special in their own way. I spent the most time with Country as I was with his family for five days at his ranch, where he took me ranching and we played basketball. I spent three days with Mike Bibby doing basketball drills and playing video games, went tandem biking with George Lynch by Santa Monica Beach, and re-enacted basketball plays with Chris King. Darrick Martin was a lot of fun; he was the player who famously trash-talked Michael Jordan and he taught me how to trash talk, which was awesome but so awkward on my part, so part of me was glad it hit the cutting room floor!
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NL: You travelled all over for the production, including behind enemy lines in Memphis. Do you have a favourite moment from the shoot?
KJ: There were so many great moments, but every moment with a player really got to me. Like, I couldn’t believe I was sitting there watching a game with Antonio Harvey. I watched him play in that very same game as a kid, and now here I am watching it with him. There were a lot of surreal moments like that. The childhood fan still exists within me and it was so cool to meet these athletes who I’ve idolized and see them as regular human beings, but at the same time there was always a part of me that was like, “Oh my god, that’s Aaron Scott or that’s Big Country”.
Another favourite moment was when we met Antonio Jnr. in Memphis. I always thought we should go to Memphis but at first I didn’t know what I was going to do there. I knew I wanted to find some fans and decided I wanted to find the six-year-old me, which turned out to be Antonio Jnr. He stole my heart right away and you can’t argue with his suggestion that maybe Vancouver and Memphis can share the Grizzlies, which really won me over. The Vancouver Grizzlies will always be my team, but this film taught me that there should not be an “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to the Grizzlies. It is as much the fans in Memphis’ team as it is ours.
NL: Many of the players attended the premiere in Vancouver. What was it like to share that moment with the fans?
KJ: This was an event to honour the Grizzlies and the former players were overwhelmed by the reaction. It was a really cool atmosphere. We gave each of the players their time to be recognized by a raucous crowd that came out to see them, and there was boos and cheering for different people as their names came up during the film. Steve Francis was booed several times, but by the end when we introduced him, he got a standing ovation. It took a lot of courage for Steve to come here and he really wanted to make it happen. It was great to hear the cheers eventually overpower the boos.
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NL: Do you see the NBA returning to Vancouver in future and would it need to be the Grizzlies or nothing for you?
KJ: I definitely see the NBA coming back to Vancouver, though I don’t think it’ll happen overnight. Prior to this film I wanted it to be the Grizzlies, but unless it’s another relocation, which I would hate to see happen to the fans of another franchise, I have accepted that it will likely be a new team. That would suck, as my room as always been decked out in Grizzlies stuff, but I think that’s the only way. There are talks going on in the city and with other groups about a team coming back, and I’ll continue to help by using my voice through my films. We just sold out the Centre for Performing Arts for our premiere, so there is clearly still an appetite for basketball in Vancouver. When people watch the film and we put events on around the city, people are galvanized and want to see the NBA return to Vancouver.
NL: You’ve made several films focused on basketball and Vancouver. What’s next for you as a filmmaker?
KJ: I have a few projects going on at the moment. I’m co-directing a film about the 2011 Stanley Cup Game 7 riot in Vancouver with Asia Youngman and I’m also getting started on a documentary about [Canada soccer legend] Christine Sinclair. Several of my friends also have films at VIFF this year that I’d recommend. Nisha Platzer is debuting Back Home, Sophie Jarvis has Until Branches Bend, and there’s Golden Delicious by Jason Karman. There’s so many of my friends premiering films at VIFF this year and it’s so cool that we get the chance to celebrate together.
NL: Thank-you so much, Kat.
KJ: Thanks Nicholas!
The Grizzle Truth will announce theatrical release dates towards the end of the year.