Life imitates movie

Hailey Grimes of Farwell was one of several area residents who portrayed basketball players Saturday at Rock Staubus Gymnasium during the filming of “Believe in Me.” (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By David Irvin

Twelve-hour days, extended periods of boredom, sporadic outbreaks of basketball and the occasional twisted ankle. Life has been tough for the basketball players turned actors and actors turned basketball players during the filming of the movie “Believe in Me.”

But the friendships and memories make it worthwhile, not to mention an opportunity to grace the silver screen.

While eastern New Mexico has played host to the Believe in Me production team over the last month, the movie company in turn has catered to the hopes and aspirations of local basketball standouts.

Farwell High graduate Hailey Grimes landed the role after a friend at the Chamber of Commerce suggested she try out for the part. On Saturday she landed on a bum ankle and was sidelined after spending much of the day on the court. Even after her ankle injury, she vowed to get back in the game.

Despite the bumps and bruises that can occur while filming realistic-like basketball scenes, Melrose grad Allison Cochran and the other actors and players have shared a unique experience together they will always cherish, she said.

“Everyday there’s a funny story. One of the girls will do something crazy and we’ll laugh about it for days,” Cochran said. “But then there’s a lot of bad things that happen, like Hailey and her ankle.”

Cochran said before training began, she was worried the girls chosen to play basketball in the movie would not gel as a team. Now she thinks the girls came together very well, and forged some new friendships in the process.

“These girls are absolutely terrific, and it’s going to be a bad day when we all have to split and go our separate ways,” she said. “We (the players on the team) have come together so team-like, it’s amazing. We’ve come together like a team would.”

The man responsible for blending the players together is Clovis High School girls basketball coach Miles Watters. He also plays a part in the movie as coach of the defending championship team that goes up against Middleton team for the state title.

“We spent a couple of weeks going through a basketball camp,” Watters said. “And we choreographed a bunch of plays for every game that we did.”

He said the players have had terrific attitudes and have learned to play as a single unit.

“(They are a) great bunch of kids. They want to please, and they work so hard,” said Watters, who led the Lady Wildcats to a runner-up finish in Class 5A last season. “You don’t know what to expect from a lot of these actresses, but they have just been super.”

Playing on Watters’ team in the movie is former Clovis basketball standout Andrea Dawson. She said girls chosen as the defending champions were picked on height and skill, two characteristics good for the archetypal David and Goliath struggle being played out on the court. Dawson helped Clovis win a state basketball title in 1999 and also played two years of Division I basketball at Liberty University in Virginia.

When the producers and casting directors were looking for area talent, they took an inverse approach from most movie makers, co-producer Cotty Chubb said. They first focused on their talent on the court, and secondly on whether they could deliver lines.

“We wanted to find girls who could really play,” Chubb said. “We didn’t want everybody to be Hollywood beautiful. We loved the American faces that we found here. They are ballplayers. We were looking for spirit, for people who thought they could be part of a team.”

While Chubb was watching clips of the action recently, he saw exactly what he had envisioned when selecting talent.
“I was watching Hailey (Grimes) from Farwell bring it up the court,” Chubb said. “The ferocity and intention and power that this young women bringing it up the court … she was alive, she was glowing.”

The company is scheduled to conclude shooting the basketball scenes today at the high school.