FROM THE BIG LEAGUE TO THE BIG SCREEN, BILLY SAMPLE
“Oh, I had my moments, just not enough of them…kind of a blue collar type player. I gave you whatever I brought to the yard that day.” Those are the words of Billy Sample, former Major League Baseball player and now filmmaker, when asked to summon up his professional baseball career. A modest response given that he played for the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves during the eight seasons of his professional baseball career.
After retiring from playing baseball Billy became a baseball broadcaster and writer. He’s broadcasted for the Braves, Mariners, Angeles and his writing has been published in Sports Illustrated and The New York Times. However, Billy Sample now hails in a different world, filmmaking. He wrote a screenplay and it was acclaimed “Best Unproduced Screenplay” at the Hoboken Film Festival. He then proceeded to make it into a film, Reunion 108, a satirical comedy inspired by his years of playing professional baseball.
You wrote, co-directed, produced and acted in your feature film, Reunion 108. How did you, a former professional baseball player, become a filmmaker? Can you talk about that transition from athlete to filmmaker?
Well, James Suttles, the director of the film, made all of the calls on set. I learned a lot watching him and hopefully will get a chance to use some of that knowledge in the future. I learned from my own mistakes as well. As a former ballplayer I was used to seeing as far and wide as my eyes could see in an attempt to absorb all that might help me to make a better decision. However, as a filmmaker, I learned that my concern should be whatever the camera sees.
Reunion 108 has a series of flashbacks that detail certain antics possibly experienced by baseball players. How many of these antics did you witness, were a part of or did you just hear about them?
Of the many flashback scenes from Reunion 108, about a fourth of them were my own personal experiences, but I won’t detail which ones. The others I either knew or heard about them. The flashback scene that emanated in the funeral home is the only one that was slightly embellished.
You had an incredible cast of SAG-AFTRA actors playing baseball players. How did you come about casting them all for Reunion 108?
A couple of the actors I knew before casting: Keith Collins, who helped give me the vision of producing, Gabe Hernandez, who I knew from the Rookie Career Development Program from Major League Baseball and Justin Grace. I knew Justin, who grew up in the Boston area could mimic batting stances and I wrote that into the script. And James Suttles has an easy and empathetic manner with the actors. For instance, in the audition if there was someone who was a bit overmatched, instead of immediately dismissing them, he’d ask them to try the read in a different way. It’s been very rewarding because since then I have seen a number of the actors in television programs from Law & Order to Bones and to other theatrical releases.
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