It is the season for soccer and it is always the season for family! Our family loves spending quality time with each other while watching movies. We recently enjoyed the new DVD starring US soccer star, Alex Morgan, in the her newest movie called “Alex & Me”. After enjoying the movie with my family, I had them help me come up with questions to ask Director and Writer Eric Champnella. Please enjoy the Q&A from our Eric Champnella Interview below! Sponsored post because we were provided a free DVD to screen the movie. Our posts also contain affiliate links if you happen to make a purchase based on our suggestion, we might earn a small commission which is how we earn money and cover our website expenses.
Eric Champnella Interview
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DO THIS MOVIE?
My daughter. She’s 10 years old and has been playing soccer since she was five, the last several of those on a club team here in Southern California. And like a lot of young girls who play the beautiful game, her idol is Alex Morgan. She’s read all of Alex’s books and Alex Morgan pictures and posters cover her bedroom walls. Alex has been such an inspiration for my daughter, I wanted to try to inspire other young girls with a movie about going for one’s dreams, whether they play soccer or not.
I also have a son. But while there are a number of these types of inspirational sports movies for him and young boys, there aren’t a lot for my daughter and young girls. So, I wanted to make a movie for my daughter and daughters everywhere (that, if I did it right, brothers and boys will enjoy as well).
HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH ALEX MORGAN? HOW OFTEN WAS SHE ON SET AND HOW ACTIVE WAS SHE IN CREATING THE MOVIE?
I simply can’t say enough good things about working with Alex. She took making this movie as seriously as her soccer and worked incredibly hard. Getting to know her, I’ve learned that when she commits to something, whether it’s soccer or acting for the first time, she gives 100%. More importantly, I can honestly say that, as good as she is as a soccer player, she’s an even better person. She was so humble, gracious and kind to everyone involved with this film, as well as people that just came to watch. Word got out in the neighborhood that she was in New Orleans shooting a movie and several times our set would be surrounded by young girls – soccer balls or #13 jerseys in hand – and as soon as I said “cut” on her last shot of the day, she went straight to them and signed every autograph and posed for every selfie.
Alex shot her scenes in about two weeks and she was a true collaborator on the set. From our first conversation, I told her that I didn’t want her to say something if it didn’t feel authentic to what she would say or how she would say it (since she’s playing herself). And that was doubly true when it came to anything to do with soccer. A couple times she would point out something in the script, and I knew that I had explained a drill or a move like a soccer dad and not how one of the best soccer players in the world would. But she would just smile at my “soccer dad-ness” and make it better.
IN THE MOVIE, REAGAN LOOKS A LOT LIKE ALEX. WERE YOU ORIGINALLY LOOKING FOR AN ACTRESS THAT RESEMBLED HER OR WAS THAT PURE LUCK?
Pure luck. Nickelodeon was our partner on this film and the executive there, Mike Sammaciccia, wanted me (along with my producers, Mike Karz and Bill Bindley) to meet Siena (Agudong) who had her own show coming out on their network. Talking to her for five minutes at that first meeting, I knew she was our Reagan. We were so incredibly lucky to have her. Siena is so talented. I remember telling Alex when we were shooting that someday we were both going to be telling people we worked with her. I believe she’s going to have a very, very long and successful career.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON THIS MOVIE? WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU?
Several years ago, I wrote a movie called THUNDERSTRUCK, starring the NBA’s Kevin Durant. Since its release, I talked every so often with the film’s producers, Mike and Bill, about doing another youth-centered, sports-themed movie starring a real athlete. But I wasn’t passionate about any of the ideas we discussed. Until one day, about two years ago, I stopped by Mike and Bill’s office to simply say hello and, as we talked ideas again, Bill offhandedly asked, “What about doing something for girls, with a female athlete like…Alex Morgan?”
I think I said yes before he finished the second syllable of Alex’s last name because of my daughter.
So my producers reached out to Morgan’s representatives…and we were quickly told it wasn’t going to happen as she was too busy preparing for the 2016 Olympics.
But I didn’t give up. Heck, if I wanted to make a movie about believing in one’s dreams, I couldn’t quit at the first obstacle.
So I wrote a letter to Morgan explaining why this project was so important to me, so personal. I told her about her impact on my daughter and how I wanted to make a movie to inspire other young girls like she had inspired mine. Via a connection at her agency, I sent the letter.
And I waited.
Then I waited some more.
Finally, long after the Olympics had ended, I heard back: Alex had read the letter and was intrigued. A phone call was set. I prepped for it like an athlete getting ready for the big game. When we talked, in addition to my vision for the movie, I wanted Alex to get a sense of my passion for this project. To know this wasn’t just a job for me, not merely a paycheck. It was personal. Thankfully, that must’ve come through because Alex signed on.
Now we had to set the movie up. And unfortunately, in today’s Hollywood, these types of “sports” movies – ones like I grew up on as a kid, several of which used to be released each year – don’t get made a lot anymore. It’s primarily superheroes and sequels now. Blockbusters and “based on….” Smaller films like this are very hard to get green lit today.
But I believed. Turns out the theme of the movie was bleeding into my drive to get it made. And luckily Warner Bros. – the studio that made THUNDERSTRUCK – believed, too.
As for what’s next, I just finished the manuscript for a novel I wrote that I’m really excited about. On the movie front, I have two different projects in the family space that I’m working on. But, in this business, you just never know which one will go first.
ALEX NEEDED HER FAMILY’S SUPPORT TO SUCCEED. HOW HAS FAMILY HELPED YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
I’m so glad you asked this question. I owe so much to my family. When I was a little boy growing up in suburban Detroit, my parents encouraged me to dream. And after graduating from the University of Michigan, they supported me moving to LA to pursue a career in this unpredictable industry rather than pressuring me to do something “safe.”
And my wife is my rock. We had our premiere for ALEX & ME recently in Hollywood and, as I spoke that night, I said that it’s easy to support someone on a night like that – in a sold-out theater during a film’s world premiere. But my wife is and always has been there for me during the tough days in this up-and-down industry – when the calls aren’t getting returned, when someone else got the job, when the movie falls apart. She believes in me just as much on those tough days as during the good times like this when I have a movie out. That means more than I can put into words.
And my kids inspire my storytelling and what movies I want to make today. As mentioned, ALEX & ME was inspired by my daughter (who plays “Bug” in the movie) and one of the things I’m trying to do next is inspired by my son (who is the boy on the school bus). When my son turned to me after the premiere and said, “I’m proud of you, pops,” that’s the best review I’ll ever get.
On the surface, many will say ALEX & ME is a “soccer” movie. But the best sports movies are not about the sport. And ALEX & ME is really about dreams and family.
Alex & Me