#SLFeatured: The Making of "Mama's Boy"
“Mama’s Boy” is a story of love, loss and inspiration for a special young man named Zach Hollywood, along with his family and friends.
Hollywood is a redshirt freshman on the Ball State men’s basketball team from Bourbonnais, Ill. He played four years of basketball at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, before committing to play at Ball State on May 4, 2016.
The story’s main focus is Zach’s mom, Susan, who passed away on August 1, 2016, just two weeks before he started classes at Ball State University.
John Gordon was the lead producer of the story, with assistant producers Ryan Pietraszewski and myself. John and Ryan are also former students at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, which created a friendship with Zach from the beginning.
“Obviously the story was never a thing to think about right off the bat, but our friendship become closer after that (Susan’s death) happened,” Gordon said. "Throughout the first semester, I thought this story could be pretty powerful down the road, but obviously I didn’t want to do it right away because it’s a time sensitive topic.”
After a few months passed, he presented the idea to Zach.
“He was actually all for it," Gordon said. "He viewed the story as a good piece of closure for both he and his dad."
Once Zach and his family were ready to tell their story, the production process started. John, Ryan and I had several conversations about which angle of the story to tell.
“Like any story, it changed along the way," Gordon said. "A lot of things that I thought were going to make the story just didn’t get in."
After his mother passed, Zach was given a Ball State t-shirt with his mother’s handprints on the front. Zach still keeps the shirt and cherishes it.
Zach was also given a necklace from his high school baseball team to represent his mom. You can see the necklace in the story during Zach’s interview in the Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School bleachers.
John, Ryan and I were presented with the hard task of deciding which pieces would make the story. It took days of collaboration to decide which avenues best represented Zach, Scott and Susan within the story.
“There were a ton of obstacles, but we were able to overcome them by planning, by FaceTime calls, and by really just looking at the timeline and discussing what we can do to get over those humps,” Gordon said.
We decided the main theme of the story would be told by connecting the viewer with the relationship Zach and his mom maintained.
Early on in the story, we tried to give the viewer an inside look at who Susan was as a person, without necessarily displaying the fact that she is no longer with us until later.
“That was the biggest obstacle,” Gordon said. “We tried to get the viewer to not think about the possibility of Susan passing away because we wanted to create that connection.”
We felt by connecting the viewer with Susan as a person, we could tug at people’s emotions once they felt that attachment. We tried to give the viewer an insight to all the senses of Susan and the loving person she was.
“In our rough cut edit, we didn’t have any of Susan talking in the video," Gordon said. "We thought if we just added one more sense of her talking in the video, the viewer would be able to connect more, and I really do think that was a big step."
Another area of emphasis was displaying the loving relationship both Zach and Scott shared with Susan. We tried to show the audience the relationship by developing family stories early on, including the story of Susan in the bleachers and Scott and Susan’s start to their relationship.
When it came to telling the story of Susan’s death, we had to be sensitive to the topic. We all agreed the story was best told by the people closest to her -- Zach and Scott.
During the five and a half minute segment of Susan’s passing, we decided to move the story along with pictures of Susan, her family and friends.
“We relied heavily on pictures, but we felt those pictures best represented the family’s relationship,” Gordon said.
When it came down to the end of the story, the toughest part was finding a way to eloquently transition from Susan’s death to Zach’s help with special needs.
As producers, we knew we needed to give the viewers time to soak in what had just unfolded in the story, but we also wanted to share what Zach is doing now to honor his mother.
“Once we got to the moment that she passed away, we knew this story was going to be extremely powerful all the way to the ending with Sam Renchen," Gordon said. "I think if anything that brings the most closure that he is able to move on from his mom passing away in such a strong way because he truly is trying to make his mom proud.”
We tried to use a combination of inspirational quotes from Zach’s interview as well as music to bring the audience back up to an inspirational level by the end of the story.
Through this whole process, John, Ryan and I learned so much about the power of storytelling.
We absolutely could not have done the story without the help of Zach and Scott Hollywood always being there to help out in any way possible.
We would like to say thank you once again to Zach and Scott, as well as the rest of their family and friends, for letting us share their powerful and inspirational story.