Seattle filmmakers’ hit documentary on the sordid Sonics saga goes from YouTube to cable TV this weekend on CNBC.
Just in time for the start of the NBA playoffs, the Sonics are back on national TV.
Well, more like their video echo. A new version of the documentary film, “Sonicsgate,” the critically acclaimed 2009 chronicle of the NBA team’s sordid departure, will receive a national cable-TV airing on CNBC Friday and Sunday.
Painful as is the re-visit of the local sports calamity, Seattle filmmakers Adam Brown and Jason Reid are proud that their work will reach millions who haven’t seen the two-hour free version on YouTube.
“It’s a real validation of our goal to influence the return an NBA team to Seattle, and what a crime it is not to have one here,” said a giddy Brown by phone. “Whether it’s with the league office or at the level of the city council, we wanted to help provide momentum for a return.
“And of course, it’s helpful to get our names out to help us with funding for future projects. People in our industry work for decades to get a film on TV, so it speaks well of our crew and the people who have supported us.”
Executives at CNBC in December saw the video on YouTube and immediately pursued cable rights, asking if it could be re-edited into a one-hour format (actually 43 minutes). After a collective deep breath, the crew said yes.
“To meet the deadline, it almost feels like we haven’t slept for four months,” Brown said, referrring not only to the re-editing, but the heavy task of getting licenses and permissions for the film’s interview subjects, documents and videos that weren’t necessary for the non-commercial version.
Remarkably, the result may be an even more powerful tale, because the new edition is the best of the best in a production that won a “Webby” award in 2010 for Internet achievement in the sports-video category from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.
The sad saga’s manipulations, dissembling, prevarications and outright lying by all the principals seem even more galling and shameful in the new version.
“Adam and I went through the original, shot by shot and line by line,” said Jason Reid, director and co-producer. “The first hour was surprisingly painless, but the last 17 minutes . . . we almost killed ourselves. It was a really wild ride.
“But now it’s more powerful. It’s like getting in the ring with Mike Tyson in his prime. It hits you hard in the gut, and it keeps hitting you.”
The outcome is more journalistic with less mockery and snideness. They added new material — interviews with Shawn Kemp and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, as well as the audio of the City Council’s “yes” votes to accept a settlement that freed the Sonics to go to Oklahoma City — that doesn’t need to be supplemented.
Particularly absurd was the inclusion of a TV clip of new owner Clay Bennett trying to explain away co-owner Aubrey McClendon’s indicting 2007 remark to an Oklahoma City media outlet that it had always been the intention of the ownership group to move the team, not build a new arena in Seattle. Flustered, Bennett said that it must have been a “stroke moment” beeause McClendon doesn’t remember saying it.
And these clowns and their fellow desperadoes outsmarted the Seattle people who wanted the team to stay.
“We let the words of the participants,” Reid said, “speak for themselves.”
The fury and helplessness of fans, combined with the mendacity of Bennett, the stewardship betrayal of previous owner Howard Schultz and the arrogance of NBA Commissioner David Stern ooze from the screen.
It’s been nearly four years since the dirty deed went down, but it will be an introduction for many viewers nationally of the duplicitousness and deviousness that has been a dark part of the fabric of pro sports for decades.
CNBC (Channel 46 for Comcast subscribers) will show “Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team” at 7 p.m. Friday and rerun it at 7 p.m. Sunday. Friday night, Brown, Reid and crew will host a viewing party at SPORT restaurant in Fisher Plaza at Fourth and Denny. Information is available at Sonicsgate.org, and the DVD of the new version is available at Sonicsgate.com.