This passionate documentary short follows filmmaker and superfan Kathleen Jayme as she searches for her childhood basketball hero, Bryant ‘Big Country’ Reeves.
Dive into the latest documentary short from writer, director and producer, Kathleen Jayme, a five-foot-tall Filipina-Canadian filmmaker and impassioned fan of the Vancouver Grizzlies. In spite of the fact that the “Grizzlies” were quite literally the worst team in the NBA for just under two decades, a young Kathleen Jayme was completely inspired by the team and one player in particular: one Bryant “Big Country” Reeves.
The heartfelt film, Finding Big Country, follows Jayme’s journey to track down her childhood hero after Big Country’s disappearance from the public eye seventeen years prior. The star of the Vancouver Grizzlies from a small town, Big Country had been sought-after for interviews since his mysterious disappearance and none had been successful before Kat Jayme and her team’s valiant efforts. Even if you aren’t an avid basketball fan, Jayme’s enthusiasm is infectious to a fault. You’ll be gripping the edge of your seat as you follow her search to the fated encounter and the ultimate dream of her childhood self. Beyond that, you might even learn something about your own humanity. In the words of the director herself:
“At the heart of it, Finding Big Country is a film about embracing our failures and chasing our childhood dreams and it is my hope that after watching the film, audiences reflect on their own failures and view them in a different light. This film is my biggest project to date and I feel honored that Big Country has trusted me to tell his story and am excited to share it with the world.”
We spoke more in-depth with Kathleen Jayme about the origins of the project, where her passion comes from and the power of pure intentions. And feel free to stream the film in full below!
Where did your passion for sports come from? Have you always had that as your main interest or hobby?
I’ve loved playing sports ever since I was a little kid. I have an older brother and always wanted to be exactly like him. So when he was into hockey, I was also into hockey. When he liked baseball, I also liked baseball. And then he started playing basketball and I instantly fell in love with the game. What was awesome was that dribbling and shooting actually came very naturally to me. Sometimes, I’ll find old footage of me playing as a kid and I’m even impressed with how good my shooting form was at such a young age. But I definitely have to credit my love of sports to growing up with an older brother. I often say that I got into basketball because of my brother but I took it a step further than him and became absolutely obsessed with every aspect of the game.
How old were you when you discovered your love for the Vancouver Grizzlies?
I started playing basketball when I was five or six and was seven years old when the Grizzlies came to Vancouver. So it was really the perfect time for them to arrive in my hometown. They really fueled my obsession and love for the game.
What drew you to Bryant “Big Country” Reeves?
Growing up, I knew he was our number one draft player and the Grizzlies’ main star. He was also the biggest on the court and had the coolest nickname – you don’t forget that stuff when you’re seven years old.
Heh, true. So now you’re out with this awesome documentary Finding Big Country. What lead you, in your adulthood, to try and go find Big Country?
There are many people who approach me after screenings of Finding Big Country to ask why I would make a film about one of the worst teams in the NBA. I tell them that I actually didn’t know we were that bad. As a kid, watching Big Country and the Grizzlies, I just had so much fun at games. It’s where I started dreaming of playing pro.
When I started dreaming of becoming a filmmaker, I knew that THE story I wanted to tell in my career was the one about the Vancouver Grizzlies. And when I began my research in 2015, I started to find more and more articles about how no one could get in touch for a sit down interview with the big fella. I told myself I’d be the first one to get that interview. Plus, he was my favourite player so this plan seemed pretty awesome to me.
Were there any challenges you faced along the way? Either in finding the man himself or actually filming the experience?
Even though I told myself that I’d get the job done, I wasn’t really sure how this was going to happen. So I started calling… everyone. I called anyone I could find that might be remotely connected to Bryant and thankfully people weren’t hanging up the phone when they heard my voice on the other end. Bryant’s friends I spoke to were all extremely kind and willing to help. It was definitely daunting at first, but once I started to speak to the right people, doors began to open that eventually lead to Big Country. I definitely encountered times during the film where I felt like I was being questioned for telling this sports story and I realize that I’m the last person many would think to tell this story – a five foot Filipina-Canadian female filmmaker. But many things are changing in the film and sports industry and I’m here to say that just like playing sports, sports stories aren’t just told by male filmmakers.
What was it that was driving you the entire time to track him down and meet with him?
One of the goals with this film was to really shed light on how amazing Bryant’s story was to Vancouver and to the rest of the world. Once you begin to understand where he came from and what he accomplished, it’s truly incredible. Not only that, Bryant is such an amazing, humble and kind human being. I think he’s an inspiration to the type of role model I’d like to strive to be as an athlete and as a filmmaker.
Was it difficult to focus on the experience while also remaining aware of the filming process?
When you’re the director as well as the subject who has to be in front of the camera for the majority of the time, it can be stressful and overwhelming. I definitely have to credit my producer, Michael Tanko Grand, and my cinematographer, Michael Dinsmore, who were on double duty while we were on set shooting, as I asked both of them to also play the role of director whenever I was in front of the camera. When I was with Bryant, I wanted to be fully present and in the moment and not worrying about what shots we were getting or needed to get. I made sure that we had a cinematographer who could be my eyes and who was someone I could trust fully to get everything I needed. Michael Dinsmore was exactly that. And while I’m at it, I want to give another shout-out to my editor, Greg Ng, who wove everything together so beautifully. It was a dream team and a dream experience as well!
What was your biggest takeaway from that experience? Either in filming and producing this doc or even just meeting your childhood hero?
I learned so much while making Finding Big Country. The whole experience is actually still super surreal when I think about it. But one of the coolest things I’ve learned is how our dreams can morph and change into things that turn to be even better than what we originally dreamed of.
Any advice to women or girls out there looking to follow a far-fetched dream?
One of the best life lessons that one of my basketball coaches taught me that definitely helped me make Finding Big Country is “passion persuades, persistence pays off” (thanks coach, Sef!). You’re going to face a lot of brick walls and a lot of “no’s” but it’s part of your job to protect your dream and believe in yourself even when others don’t. Another great lesson that a film mentor taught me, which I believe wholeheartedly is: “when your intentions are pure, the angels will come.”
My team and I are currently working on the feature length documentary about the Vancouver Grizzlies. It’s also been my dream to tell the full story and get to the bottom of why the team left. It’s my hope that these films help get the conversation going to get a team back to Vancouver. #BringBackTheGrizz!!