Magazine article Variety

'Knuckleball' CATCHES LIGHTNING in a DOCU

Magazine article Variety

'Knuckleball' CATCHES LIGHTNING in a DOCU

Article excerpt

Filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg weren't serious fans when they started working on their baseball-themed documentary "Knuckleball," but their uncanny choice of subject material not only suggests they may have a future in player development but has also proved to be a game-changer for their film.

The movie chronicles the experiences of two pitchers, the New York Mets' R.A Dickey and the Boston Red Sox's Tim Wakefield, during the 2011 season as they battle to succeed at the Major League level throwing baseball's rarest pitch, the knuckleball. While the story is compelling, the project's prospects took an upward turn when Dickey's career trajectory unexpectedly skyrocketed this year, with the journeyman pitcher suddenly becoming one of the top performers in the National League. (Wakefield retired before the start of the 2012 season after 17 years in the majors.)

"At the end of the 2011 season, R.A. Dickey was no one's idea of a star," ESPN Insider baseball writer Paul Swydan says. "But he has become a marquee attraction - the kind of player that both die-hard fans and casual fans are excited to see, whether it be at home in Flushing, N.Y., or out on the road. That he has done this at age 37, which is very old for a professional baseball player, makes his story that much more remarkable."

FilmBuff, a distribution company that specializes in Video on Demand, secured distribution rights to the doc in June, with Dickey riding a nine-game personal winning streak that would peak at 11. Still, at the time, he had yet to establish himself as a full-fledged media darling. But as the season has worn on, Dickey has hit his stride, including an engaging appearance on "The Late Show With David Letterman" in July, and the sales success of his memoir "Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball," which hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Suddenly, the film's game plan was transformed.

"I could have spent millions of dollars and not created the phenomenon that R.A. Dickey has become," says FilmBuff head of marketing Julie La'Bassiere. "There's no question that had he not had the type of season he's having, we probably wouldn't have been able to do everything we're doing."

Considering Dickey's newfound profile, FilmBuff is giving the movie a limited theatrical release with weeklong runs in Boston (beginning Sept. 18) at Coolidge Corner Theater, and in New York, starting two days later, at the IFC Center. …

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