March 1, 2012

'Crooked Arrows' Coming to Theaters May 18

by Matt Forman |

"Crooked Arrows" co-producer Mitchell Peck (left) said of the movie, set to debut May 18: "I'm really proud of it, and it's certainly a dream come true."
Image courtesy of Crooked Arrows 

Circle the date and spread the word: "Crooked Arrows" will hit theaters May 18.

The producers of "Crooked Arrows," lacrosse's first mainstream feature film and the Native American community's first family motion picture, announced Thursday the movie's national release date.

Lacrosse Magazine separately confirmed that "Crooked Arrows" will be released in 250 theaters in 50 markets nationwide come mid-May, corresponding with a time when interest in the sport is arguably at its highest — during the heart of the NCAA Lacrosse Championships.

"We've worked a long time on this movie, I'm really proud of it, and it's certainly a dream come true," said co-producer Mitchell Peck, who championed the script in the mid-1990s, and after nearly breaking into the Hollywood studio system decided to pursue its production independently three years ago.

"We've put it together carefully and lovingly, and with integrity. I feel like we've succeeded. We're excited that it's going to make a positive impact on the lacrosse and Native American communities. It's absolutely unique in telling stories in both of those worlds. But we feel like there's going to be a great interest well beyond those communities too. We're just thrilled with it. We know we have a movie that will make a lot of people happy."

The fictional-but-believable movie that embraces the sport's Native American roots features the "progress of a team, its coach and their unlikely journey to the New York State prep school championship game," as detailed in a press release Thursday.

The Native American hero team, comprising real-life current and former Iroquois lacrosse players, undergoes a transformation under the film's star Brandon Routh ("Superman Returns"). The plot follows a "misfits versus the establishment" storyline, similar to "The Mighty Ducks," "Hoosiers" and "Bad News Bears," with additional dynamics: "a father-son relationship, redemption, kids humanizing the coach, coach educating the kids, the truths in the Native American world." But the feel-good script is met with unprecedented attention to detail in lacrosse action, led by Sports Studio's Mark Ellis, considered the best in the business at shooting sports action.

If early anticipation and feedback is any indication, "Crooked Arrows" has tremendous potential to impact popular culture at large. The movie's trailer, which debuted in January at the US Lacrosse National Convention, presented by Champion, has been viewed nearly a half million times across multiple digital platforms. And at a test screening in California three weekends ago, a nearly 300-member target audience gave the film a standing ovation.

"We wanted to make sure we got the best possible information about our movie so we could end up with the best possible version of it," Peck said. "We distributed 30-question surveys to the audience that asked: What was your favorite moment? What was your least favorite moment? What did you think of the pacing? What did you think of the beginning and end? Every aspect of the movie is asked about. Everyone loved it. We tested extremely high in the top two boxes — excellent and very good. In fact, the only area of improvement that was suggested to us was an area that hadn't even yet been addressed: the music, which could not have been done until after the screening. You need the screening to tailor the editing process."

That will be the producers' task for the next two and a half months: match the music to the picture, which has been locked from editing. The test screening used temporary filler music that somewhat resembled the emotions a scene tries to invoke.

"Now we have to put in the right music, the right songs and the right score, which really makes a tremendous difference in the feel of the movie — the emotional resonance," Peck said. "The music in the background is an integral and vital part of the movie. That's what has to happen now, which couldn't begin until now when the picture is locked, because you don't know when to do a needle drop. You can't lay the music in until you have the architecture of the picture. We've gotten some beautiful music submissions from all over the country, and Native American communities have responded to our open invitation to submit music as well."

Before the public release, "Crooked Arrows" will premiere in four to-be-determined locations in cities with special meaning in the movie's creation: Washington (political leaders), Boston (where majority of the movie was filmed), Syracuse (near Onondaga Nation, home of many of the Native American "hero" team members) and Baltimore, the last of which through its partnership with US Lacrosse. Peck called the premiere "the cherry on top, a gift back to our special friends involved in the process, and it's a culmination and celebration on the eve of the movie's release."

As one of the final stages of the creative process, the producers have distributed under strict supervision DVD copies of the movie to several key constituencies, executives and investors. "We can't wait to share this beautiful movie with everyone," Peck said, "but it's important for us to keep the genie in the bottle until the release."

Neal Powless, a co-producer of the movie and the first Native American named to the all-world team in 2002 with the Iroquois Nationals, said "The momentum associated with this movie is so powerful. I get excited when I think about it and I have to calm myself down."

"Everyone I've shown it to have all said the same thing: 'You did it. You've put Native culture and heritage into a movie that highlights lacrosse, highlights the roots of the game and pays us respect.'"

"There's just not another movie out there like it. That's what people will want to go to see," said Powless, whose full-time job is assitant director for the Native Student Program at Syracuse University. "It's a movie, but it's a real movie. People will be talking about it for years to come."

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