INDIE PRODUCER COMPILES FOOTAGE FOR DOCUMENTARY
The San Quentin Tennis Club has the attention of independent film Producer Jennifer Winters. She came to the prison to gather the final footage for her documentary of the club on a hot Saturday morning in May.
“We’re impressed by the team,” said Winters. “They can go toe-to-toe with the outside teams.”
Winters started the project last December after she read an article by Associated Press writer Janie McCauley.
“It’s not a special thing … I just highlight a largely forgotten about population of people,” said McCauley. “I just shared the humanity that exists in here, the community. We all need to feel cared about and seen. I recognize that humanity can be lost in here.” McCauley was in the middle of her routine workout between matches.
After reading McCauley’s piece, Winters decided that the prison tennis club is unique and deserving of a special, short documentary for the Tennis Channel on cable television, a channel devoted to tennis.
Winters is an avid tennis player, and admitted that after observing the San Quentin group play, her game does not compare to the inside guys. After meeting the players and team Captain Earl Wilson, she perceived the multi-faceted benefits of the game for the incarcerated.
“People think of the fun and game of the sport, but tennis can have a greater purpose. It provides rehabilitation,” said Winters.
Outside players matched up on the court against the insiders, but one outside guest was particularly and distinctly familiar with the prison atmosphere.
Former San Quentin resident Mace Thompson spent eight years inside. Throughout those years, he was in recovery and has been since he made parole. He said that tennis played a significant role in his recovery after leaving prison.
“When I got out I went to Glide Memorial. I faced some challenges at first. One day I went to play some tennis at one of the local parks and it transformed my life. Mentally, spiritually. My innate talent for the game [emerged] on the court. I’m humble when I’m on the court,” said Thompson.
The head of the volunteer team and founder of the Bay Area based program Boarder Youth Tennis Exchange, Charlie Cutler, was in an intense doubles match. He and Earl Wilson were playing against James, and the son of outside volunteer Margorie Moran, Steffon.
James forced an error by Cutler with a strong play that drew a reaction from the crowd. Cutler had taken a little too much off his swing. Not much later, Cutler evened things up with James after a good rally. After switching sides and another good rally the game was won by Charlie and Earl.
After the matches were over, Winters and her team did a special interview with Earl Wilson after discovering that he had developed an efficient way to thread a tennis racket by hand.