The film ‘Seeds of Greenwood’ features the first class Thunder Fellows; The Circle Cinema screening is Saturday | Local News

The Thunder Fellows after-school program was launched, Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti explained after his 2020 visit to the Tulsa Race massacre site, ‘to help bridge the opportunity gap’ for black students from Tulsa.

The first Thunder Fellows class is made up of 26 9th and 10th graders from schools across the metro area. Based in a downtown space near ONEOK Field, the program includes a data and analytics curriculum and hands-on experiences that could lead to careers in the sports, entertainment, or technology industries.

When the students applied to be members of the first class Thunder Fellows, they did not expect to see their faces and their experiences on a movie screen.

But as the students were followed for months by media personnel and OKC Thunder cameras, the result is “The Seeds of Greenwood” – a 50-minute documentary starring Crossover Prep student Reece Robinson and his friends. fellow Thunder Fellows classmates, as well as Thunder Fellows staff: Executive Director Cedric Ikpo, Program Manager LaKena Whitley and Operations Coordinator Ricky Graham.

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At 2 p.m. Saturday, free and open to the public, the film will be screened at the Circle Cinema. Thunder Fellow students and their families got their first look at the OKC Thunder Films production, which includes original music composed and performed by artists from Oklahoma City’s Notis Studios.

Presti and Mike Johnson, now the head of a creative artist agency, were childhood friends in Massachusetts and remain close today. They are members of the nine-person Thunder Fellows Advisory Board.

The Greenwood movie includes Presti and Johnson discussing the importance of a Thunder Fellows-like opportunity. There are also home movie footage of them playing soccer and basketball as kids.

From a Thunder press release: “A century after the Tulsa Race Massacre, ‘Seeds of Greenwood’ explores how today’s generation is planted and nurtured in the fertile soil of Tulsa’s historic Greenwood neighborhood. “

Within the Thunder organization, Dan Mahoney explained, there was a desire to chronicle the first Thunder Fellows school year before the filmmakers even had a sense of the students’ personal stories.

Said Mahoney, Thunder vice president in charge of broadcast and corporate communications: “Would these kids be open to being filmed? We just felt that this unique first cohort of Thunder Fellows was an important story to tell.

Most of the filmmaking was done by Michael Zubach, the Thunder’s videographer and “Seeds of Greenwood” director; and Paris Lawson and Nick Gallo, who are secondary Thunder TV reporters and digital contributors.

“When they came to Tulsa and watched these kids,” Mahoney explained, “they identified Reece (as a compelling figure). Along the way, they learned his routine: getting up before sunrise and riding in a city bus to school.

“That’s when Zubach came back and said, ‘Yeah, I’d like to follow him. The decision was made that this would be a great way to open the film.

The documentary ends with Reece Robinson as a passenger on a shuttle, returning home mid-evening after his day started at 5:50 a.m.

“There was intentional storytelling there — to show what his journey looks like every day,” said Matt Tumbleson, Thunder’s vice president of basketball communications and engagement.

While Mahoney and Tumbleson serve as executive producers on the film, Ikgo, Lawson, and Gallo get producer credits.

Ikpo’s response to the film: “It’s surreal.”

“It’s a great opportunity to tell the story of creation,” he said. “I am very happy with the film and the reception has been fantastic, both from the public and from the children. We wanted the children to feel good. »

About 60 students applied to be members of the first class of Thunder Fellows. Because awareness is so much greater now, Ikpo expects a much heavier response on apps.

“The recruitment process is taking place this summer,” Ikpo said. “We are now in a crossroads — evaluating the success of the first year, looking at what worked well and what didn’t, and trying to replicate what worked.

“We are not yet able to accept all applicants, so we will need a rigorous vetting process. We want to stay engaged with the original cohort members, but we’re looking forward to some new faces.

“I am delighted to see the level of interest in this year’s selection process.”

For the 2022-23 school year, as explained on the Thunder Fellows website, the program is open to black students in the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grades “based on availability.”

More information can be found at www.thunderfellows.org. The application deadline is September 2.


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