4 dudes and a camera: Move over, Spielberg

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4 dudes and a camera: Move over, Spielberg

Americans don't like soccer and independent films are out. That's what everyone told Tim O'Mahoney, but he refused to listen.

Relaxing in a pub in Itaewon, wearing sandals and sunglasses, Mr. O'Mahoney, 32, looks like the stereotypical Californian. For all intents and purposes, he should have been home recently, cheering the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals, not here in Asia making a documentary about a sport the United States doesn't watch.

Mr. O'Mahoney has never made a movie, he knows nothing about cinema, and Hollywood told him that digital films are a dime a dozen.

Then again, it's because everyone thinks that he shouldn't be here that he is.

"Americans don't understand the game, but the rest of the world doesn't understand Americans' misunderstanding of the game," he said, taking a gulp of his Heineken. Now he's in Korea to put a face on the United States, and a digital camera serves as his paintbrush.

His first mission is to explain Americans' lack of interest in the world's most popular sport. It's not a short attention span, Mr. O'Mahoney says, but a saturated sports market and a lack of exposure to the intensity driving soccer's ardent supporters that is missing from American stadiums. Moreover, U.S. soccer has a loud, energetic and growing fan base that other countries often discount too readily.

Explaining these foreign misconceptions, however, is only the first part of Mr. O'Mahoney's cinematic crusade. He spent most of last year traveling around the world; when he returned to California, he found the ignorance of most Americans overwhelming. The documentary that Mr. O'Mahoney and his three-man team are producing tries to capture the game's passion and pass it on to everyone on couches in suburban America.

"It's a film about people," he says. "Soccer can somehow make hated enemies shake hands and party. I want to use soccer as a metaphor for foreign relations."

First he sold his film idea to Mike Crehan, his buddy from Santa Clara University, and a soccer guru. Mr. Crehan brought in his big brother Tom, who has Hollywood know-how. A California consultant introduced the group to Alex Teles, a 26-year old Brazilian with a background in graphic design and animation. Add some private funding and five months of grueling preproduction administration and the crew was ready to fly to Seoul.

"The rest of the world plays together and we don't play," explains Mike Crehan, a 32-year-old ferry boat captain. "We're going to bring the world to Jesus!"

Are they idealistic? Probably, but two and a half weeks before the final World Cup match, this team has already gathered footage from many World Cup cities, stadiums, games and press conferences. They've interviewed U.S. players and spoken with fans from 22 of the World Cup's 32 participating countries. Eight people are collecting clips back in the United States while the four-member team in Asia stops in Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon and Yokohama, Japan -- well, if Japan grants Mr. Teles a visa.

"We all have faith that if we do the best possible job we can, then it will all work out in the end," Tom Crehan, 33, says. It will take more than good field work, however, to get this documentary on television. After all, the crew members ran into two other aspiring film groups within their first two weeks in Asia. But if this team isn't supposed to be here, then why do people keep coming up to their camera and telling their story, and why are American soccer representatives discussing the film's future over bulgogi and beer in Itaewon?

by Daniela SantaMaria

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