'Undefeated' directors on Memphis, Oscars, working with Diddy

With the Academy Awards less than a week away, the directors of the made-in-Memphis documentary "Undefeated" have been busy making the press rounds to talk about their Oscar-nominated film, the story of the underdog Manassas High football team and the volunteer coaches who worked to restore pride and winning at the historic school.

The New York Times' Carpetbagger blog spoke to the two directors, Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin, about filming in Memphis and about new business partner Sean "Diddy" Combs, who is set to executive produce a fictionalized feature film based on "Undefeated."

Q. Did you make this film before "The Blind Side"?
A. Mr. Lindsay: We were aware of the book but the film was not in production, nobody was even sure it was going to get made. We went to Memphis on a couple exploratory missions, and then right as we were moving there in July, "The Blind Side" started production. And the movie came out, Sandra Bullock won an Oscar, and we were still in Memphis [working].


Q. What has it been like working with Sean Combs?

A. Mr. Lindsay: When the Weinstein Company called us and told us that he wanted to add his support to the film and come on as executive producer, I was kind of cautious. I obviously don't know the guy personally. Beyond knowing what he would be able to do in terms of reactions, why is he doing this? We went over to his house, which was ridiculous, last week and we walked away thinking he was genuinely moved by the movie. And there was also a moment when I was talking and I was like, why is this guy from the "Mo Money Mo Problems" video  staring at me? It's because we're having a business conversation! And that's even stranger.

Mr. Martin: It's pretty amazing. Literally this guy almost single-handedly created the soundtrack to my high school experiences.

On The Huffington Post, Lindsay and Martin tell the story behind the film in their own words, starting with a memorable quote from a teacher:

"North Memphis looks like New Orleans after the flood; we just never had a flood." That's how the neighborhood where Manassas High School is located was described to us by a teacher and, unfortunately, it's a chillingly accurate description. The closing of the Firestone plant in the 1970's started an economic downturn that the community has yet to recover from. An all too familiar story for many communities around this country.

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