There are several important aspects that a filmmaker must consider when crafting a basketball movie. It should have a compelling story, layered characters and of course, effective basketball sequences. Over the years, directors have employed different methods when it comes to filming such scenes and, as a result, viewers have been treated to unique styles. Through his work on Rise (which can be accessed with a Disney+ subscription), director Akin Omotoso managed to add to this great tradition by capably recreating the on-court theatrics of Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. And believe it or not, the movie’s techniques were actually influenced by a Ben Affleck movie.
Akin Omotoso is a self-proclaimed sports fan, who has a great deal of respect for the game of basketball. So when it came to Rise, he put a lot of thought into how he wanted to film scenes in which the sport was being played. And he had some talented collaborators to help him out in that department. When I spoke with him during the junket for the Disney+ movie, Omotoso showered praise on his basketball coordinator, Aimee McDaniel. The film industry veteran brought a lot of experience, including her work on Ben Affleck’s The Way Back, which set the tone for how this latest production would be handled:
2020’s The Way Back sees Ben Affleck play an alcoholic construction worker who seemingly finds a shot at redemption once he becomes the basketball coach at his former high school, where he was a sports phenom. The R-rated film featured a sweet story and boasted some strong scenes that took place on the hardwood, despite the fact that its director doesn’t actually view it as a sports movie. Akin Omotoso and his team were wise to bring Aimee [McDaniel] on for their movie, and her efforts shine through in the finished product.
Though the Nigerian filmmaker did want to inject a level of realism into the Antetokounmpos’ sports biopic, he also wanted to make space for a bit of movie magic at times. He went on to explain during our conversation that he was aiming to make Rise both “realistic” and “cinematic”:
When it comes to movies like these, one does want to be as authentic as possible, there are certainly moments where extraordinary things happen purely for entertainment purposes. I mean, one can look no further than Happy Gilmore or some of the Rocky movies to find scenes that aren’t entirely feasible. Yet that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) take away from one’s enjoyment of said flicks.
Now that Akin Omotoso has gotten his feet wet with Rise, I could definitely see him taking on another basketball movie somewhere down the line. And should he do so, I hope he’ll continue to utilize the talents of people like Aimee McDaniel, who can help him draw the cinematic line between what’s real and what isn’t.
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