The University of Houston football team and fans are taking over Atlanta for Thursday's Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Florida State. The 12-1 Coogs started out on fire, remaining undefeated for much of the season and nabbing a top 20 poll ranking.
A lot of buzz and excitement surrounded the 2015 season, but perhaps none as thrilling as the short film, The UH Football Experience, which won three Lone Star Emmys and set the tone for what's been dubbed the "H-Town Takeover."
CultureMap sat down with Alex and Whitney Douglas, the husband-wife duo of Sculpting With Time Productions, to get some insight into the award-winning video they made that gives such depth and insight into what football means here in Texas, especially here in Houston.
The film spotlights the UH football program as it ushers in a new era with the state-of-the-art TDECU Stadium, complete with sweeping aerials and behind the scenes footage. The captivating seven-minute video offers a glimpse into the athletic program as the team prepares for its historic 2015 season, led by head coach Tom Herman.
“We are so honored and excited to take home these prestigious awards,” said Alex Douglas. “As two people who were born and raised in Houston, we loved creating something that has inspired the university’s players and students throughout their current undefeated football season,” said Whitney Douglas.
The duo spent eight months creating and refining the piece, which premiered on the Jumbotrons throughout TDECU Stadium during the Cougars' annual spring game. Throughout an impressive season and heading into a big bowl game, the short film has had a huge impact on the the team and fans.
Culture Map: Putting together any project such as a film, even a short one, is an incredible labor of love. What does it feel like to be recognized for the awards you received? Is there one that means a little more or one that surprised you?
Alex Douglas: To be nominated along with so many talented filmmakers was such a huge honor for us, as some of the top professional and college sports teams in the country are in Texas. And to win three Emmys among such esteemed company was surreal... especially receiving the award for Outstanding Achievement as Director. This one was special because our film was competing against all short form films, whether seen in commercials, the news or in the sports world.
CM: You are both born and raised in Houston where football is such a big part of life. What does football in Houston mean to you? Many outside of Texas can't grasp just how big it is here.
AD: Texans take such pride in football. It's a part of life. I grew up playing football on the front lawn every day after school with all my friends. Rain or shine, we were out there. Kids are raised on football here. Before I can even remember, my mom used to take me to the Oilers training camp in San Marcos. We would sit outside all day in the Texas heat just to get a glimpse of some of my gridiron heroes. In Texas, football is not just a sport, it's a culture.
CM: Many might say other colleges, even in Texas, have a more well known football program - what was it about University of Houston?
Whitney Douglas: Being based out of Houston, we've kept our eyes on UH as they've been undergoing some fundamental shifts within the past few years. Dr. Renu Khator was making headlines with some pretty huge investments in the school, and with the construction of the $128 million-dollar TDECU Stadium, we knew something big was on the horizon... The story we wanted to make wasn't just about a football team and how many championships they had won. But it was one that told the story of the process, and the sheer dedication that these athletes need in order to achieve greatness. And when Coach Herman joined the team, we knew this was a total game changer.
AD: It doesn't surprise me at all to see UH have such an amazing turnaround this season. They're in the national spotlight and are being mentioned in the same conversation with some of the greatest college football programs in the nation.
CM: How was it working with UH? Did they give you incredible access to their team, behind the scenes, locker rooms?
WD: Working alongside the UH athletic department and the players was an awesome experience. The media department gave us full access to the players, the practices and the games. As the season progressed and we got to know the players more, we felt like this wasn't just work, but a project that we were really personally invested in.
CM: I just love this quote in the movie…“On our jersey it doesn’t say The University of Houston – it just says Houston and that’s not by accident.”
AD: Coach Herman said it well, and this quote really encapsulates his message to the team. While filming the players we noticed not only a sense of team pride, but a huge sense of pride in representing the city of Houston itself.
CM: How did you make money on this film? Or was that not the goal?
AD: While UH hired us to make this film, it was never about the money. As filmmakers, it's important to us that we're super passionate about the projects that we chose to take on. There is just so much time and energy that's given to each piece we make, and we naturally want to be a part of projects that we're really excited about. Working with UH on this piece was a perfect fit.
CM: What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
WD: Work on projects that you're really excited about, and try to stand out and do something different. Find your voice, as you can speak better from your perspective than from someone else's. It's going be a hustle and artists aren't usually the best business people. You set the bar and standard for your work. So just give it everything you have.