James: My recollection is that following the camp and a week of shooting William, we all decided it would be great if we could follow these guys over a period of time. I thought it would be great that in four years we’d see if Pingatore would make good on that promise to Arthur about college. I wondered if William could be the next Isiah. That was our fantasy. Even though we didn’t have any money, could we do that? I know Frederick has a difference of opinion on that.
Marx: My recollection is vastly different. There was no question that what Pingatore said to Arthur about college stood out and made an impact, but I remember we spent the whole first year trying to cut a demo. I was living in New York at the time, and flying back to Chicago to do shoots. I remember either the summer after freshman year or the start of their sophomore year, I said to Steve, “We should film them all the way through high school.” My thinking was, “It’s going to take a long time to raise money, and until then, we only have to buy tape stock.” I don’t believe it was until sophomore year that we sat down with the families and said, “We now have a clear vision of what the film is.”
James: I remember presenting to the families that we’d only check in from time to time. We don’t know how often, but it would be over a period of time.
Agee: When they told us they’d be coming back periodically, I just thought I was fortunate they picked me, so I was going to do anything they asked and be available. I thought it would be a nice project, and maybe it could help my basketball career.
James: With the $2,000 from the grant, we gave a little to Peter, who minimally paid off his partner who shared the camera with him. We didn’t raise another penny on Hoop Dreams for two years. From time to time, we would do a little bit of filming and we’d cut stuff together to send to potential funders.
The usual reaction was, “This isn’t serious enough, this is just kids who want to play basketball.” And documentaries at that time were being made about serious, sobering issues. They were medicine. I remember distinctly having this conversation with a higher-up at Corporation For Public Broadcasting [CPB] when we applied to them. He’s an executive who is African-American. He said, “It’s very interesting, but I don’t feel the stakes in this.” I said, “What do you mean?” And he goes, “If one of these guys became a drug addict or was killed, well, then you got something. Now that’s a story.” And I was like, “We’re hoping neither of those things happen to these guys.”
Somehow a public television channel in Minneapolis, KTCA [now called Twin Cities Public Television], heard about the project.
Quinn: They had come to Kartemquin to talk about what we were doing next, and if we could do something together. We brought up Hoop Dreams and they immediately jumped on it.
Catherine Allan (Executive Producer / Senior Executive Producer, Twin Cities Public Television): Gordon Quinn sent us a film that Kartemquin had produced, Golub, and we helped them get it on PBS. We met with them, and they showed us a 10-minute reel of Hoop Dreams, and it just had great scenes. They were looking for a producing station that could help raise money and ultimately get it on PBS. So we signed on for that.
James: Once they got involved, our proposals became much more professional, and we cut a new demo. That paved the way for us to get money from CPB. We got $70,000 from CPB and KTCA would guarantee another $60,000. So for $130,000, we’d deliver an hourlong film ready for broadcast.
Quinn: Steve and I went to Minneapolis to negotiate. It was a tough negotiation, because we were dealing with the CFO of the station. So he was looking at the bottom line, and we were explaining we needed this money to keep the project going.
James: It seemed hard for us to do the movie that we wanted for that kind of money, but we had no choice.
Quinn: They turned out to be a full partner in the film.