When former Penn State student Brandon Kelley finished writing the script for his film “Coach” in March of 2011, he hadn’t even heard of Jerry Sandusky. As the news unfolded, however, many opposed the idea of Kelley making his movie due to the coincidental similarities in the two stories regarding child abuse and molestation.
Now a 22-year-old camera operator living in New York City, Kelley has been awarded the 2012 Silver Award in the Student Film Competition at the California Film Awards for “Coach.” As the film was going through production, Kelley was asked by many different parties to either change the script or refrain from making the movie because of the relevance of his storyline to the events occuring in Happy Valley. But the fact of the matter was that his inspiration did not stem from the Sandusky scandal at all.
“The influence for the film came from a story that a family member told me,” Kelley said. “In the original story the coach was a priest and the kids were white and went to catholic school. I thought that this was a little overdone and cliche so I changed it to inner city.”
Unfortunately, aspects of the film like child molestation and the coach being considered “a local hero among the parents,” made his film seem too closely associated to the scandal, which first led his parents to criticize his decision to make the film.
Here is how Kelley described the film:
“The film is about two friends, Malcolm and Antoine. Malcolm is a troublemaker and often drags Antoine into his mishaps. One day they are caught and sentenced to the care of a local basketball coach. Things start out well, and the two grow to like the coach. Then, while Malcolm is sick, Antione is molested by the coach.
“After my parents, members of the College of Comm mentioned that the script would likely be seen as based on the scandal. They told me it might be possible to change the script due to the circumstances, but I refused. Other members of the faculty encouraged me to go ahead and make the film.
“Then came the donors. Many of them were hesitant that the script so closely resembled the scandal that was occurring at my school, even though I had approached most of them prior to the scandal breaking. In the end, everybody let it happen and Coach got made.
“At the moment, because it’s still technically in the festival circuit, there isn’t a place to see the film. It’s been screened in Philadelphia, Richmond, Toronto and San Diego. However, I hope to have the film online this year with the Director’s cut.
“I am in pre-production on another short, ‘Something to Talk About,’ and writing my first feature, a disturbing psychological thriller. I hope to have StTA complete by May in order to hit the good festival deadlines.
“This was a group project. The core group (those actually in the 449 class) was made up of ten members; myself, writer/director; Tim Tye, Director of Photography; Nesha Rosado, Producer; and Rolanzo White, sound/editing. We extended our crew, based on the film’s needs to include Nathan Robb (Class of ’13), Colin Powell (Class of ’12), Jon Noll (Class of ’13), Amanda Duda (Class of ’13), Jackie Cohen (Class of ’13) and Allison Ornick (Class of ’14).”