James: KTCA had a guy dedicated to fundraising, so he set out to help raise money for the film, but he didn’t have any success. One of the things he heard a lot was, “Where’s the educational value?” So we came up with the idea of doing a short called “Higher Goals” that would be more educational in tone, and we’d use it to raise money for Hoop Dreams.
Marx: “Higher Goals” is much closer to what our starting vision was [for Hoop Dreams].
James: William is in the story as the rising star, Isiah Thomas is in it being the pinnacle, the NBA superstar, and a girl basketball player from Marshall High School named Kim Williams is in it. She went on to play some pro ball.
Marx: Then we had the near-miss, Skip Dillard, who was a star at DePaul University and almost made it on the Bulls. When we found him, he was in prison at Joliet.
James: We also did an attempt at comedy. We had Tim Meadows of Saturday Night Live fame to play a basketball-crazed high-schooler who learns the importance of an education.
Allan: We raised a lot of money and oversaw the distribution and launch on PBS. It even was nominated for an Emmy.
James: Immediately, the money was there to do the educational version. It helped pay the bills, but it didn’t raise any money for Hoop Dreams.
With no money, we literally shot five days in the summer going into freshman year. Then all of freshman year, we shot an additional seven days. In sophomore year, we shot a total of 10 days. It was whenever we could get Peter and his camera.
Gilbert: I left for a while and shot this 100th-anniversary film for Standard Oil, I’m embarrassed to say because of my politics. We went to 26 countries shooting at plants. The fact is, we could have shot it all in Gary, Indiana. Plants pretty much look the same anywhere you go.
James: So now along with not having any money, we didn’t have Peter, so I was really frustrated. I think in the first two years, we only shot a total of like, 22 days. If you look at the movie with that in mind, the first two years are over by the 40-minute mark.
Marx: But that was the beauty of taking Peter on as a third equal partner: When any one of us was off making a living, there was still one or two of us to push this rock up the mountain. I remember when Steve couldn’t make it to some of the early shoots, I would take over as director. But around freshman year at some point, Steve expressed that he did not like the fact that I was over his shoulder so much. He basically asked me to not come on some of the shoots. Our original vision was to collaborate and grow each other as directors. But I thought, “Okay, this is a request that I can honor.” So it wasn’t until senior year that I went back on shoots.
James: This was a tense time between Frederick and me, and all these years later, we have some different recollections of who did what and what was said. But it’s true that at some point early on in the process, I did say to him I needed some space. I felt like he was looking over my shoulder a lot, and I felt somewhat insecure about just directing, period. So him doing that made me very self-conscious and nervous, but I don’t remember ever saying to him, “You can’t go on any shoots,” or expecting him to never go on shoots again.