11.02.18

Gabe Polsky Talks His Sports Documentary, "In Search Of Greatness"

In 2015, filmmaker Gabe Polsky’s debut documentary “Red Army” garnered critical success as well as award season buzz (it received a WGA nomination for Best Documentary Screenplay). This year he returns with his new documentary, “In Search of Greatness,” which examines the importance of creativity in athletic ability as well as the discussion of nature versus nurture and the roles they play. Featuring original interviews with iconic athletes Wayne Gretzky, Jerry Rice and Pele, the documentary discusses in-depth the role creativity plays in the success they’ve achieved – the film looks to other athletes as well, such as Serena and Venus Williams, Ali and many more.

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**As Captioned Live **

>>> IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE REAL GREATNESS I NEVER ACCEPTED IT.

>> THE GREAT PLAYERS HAVE A SHINE IN THEIR TECHNIQUE. IT ISN'T JUST TAKING PART IN A GAME, ALSO PERFORMANCE.

>> THERE ARE WHAT APPEAR TO BE PARADOXES.

>> SHORTER AND HAS A VERY SHORT REACH.

>> I HAD TO GET LOW TO GET IN CLOSE.

>> YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE BETTER GENETICS?

>> NO.

>> I DIDN'T HAVE THAT STRENGTH AND SIZE. CREATIVITY WAS SURVIVAL.

>> A LOT OF IT COMES OUT AND THEN YOU NEED THE SKILLS TO MAKE IT WORK.

>> I HAD TO FIGHT FOR EVERYTHING I HAVE.

>> WE LOST OUR CREATIVITY AND IMAGINATION. WE'RE SO STRUCTURED NOW.

>> EVERYTHING SLOWS DOWN JUST A LITTLE BIT. THE WAY I VISUALIZED IT AND DREAMT ABOUT IT, THAT WAY.

>> WOW! [APPLAUSE].

>> GABE POLSKY, IN SEARCH OF GREATNESS, WHAT AN AMAZING MOVIE. I WANT TO THANK ALL THE FOLKS WATCHING ONLINE TO THE BUILD SERIES. THANK YOU FOR SHOWING UP HERE AND LEARNING ABOUT THIS INCREDIBLE INCREDIBLE FILM. I WANT TO TALK TO YOU, GABE, ABOUT THIS MOVIE. I WATCHED IT AND I FELT LIKE THIS WAS A UNIQUE LOOK INTO MY OWN MIND ON SOME LEVEL, NOT THAT I'M SAYING I WAS GREAT, ALTHOUGH WE CAN SAY IT. [APPLAUSE].

>> I'M REALLY -- YOU KNOW, WHEN I HEARD YOU WERE DOING THIS WITH ME, I FLIPPED OUT, WAS INCREDIBLY HONORED AND EXCITED. THANKS FOR DOING THIS, BY THE WAY.

>> NO. MY PLEASURE. I WANT TO GET INTO THE CRUX OF IT, BECAUSE WHEN YOU STARTED OUT THIS PROJECT AND DREAMING THIS UP, WHY DID YOU CHOOSE IT, FIRST OF ALL, AND DID YOU HAVE AN IDEA WHERE IT WOULD GO AS A DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER, IT'S NOT THE SAME AS MAKING A MOTION PICTURE AND HAVING A BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END. DID YOU HAVE AN IDEA IN TERMS OF HOW THIS WOULD END UP AND, OF COURSE, WHERE IT'S GONE?

>> I HAVE BEEN THINKING ABOUT IT, ALL THESE THINGS MY WHOLE LIFE. THE IDEA WHAT IS GREATNESS, HOW IT CAN BE CULTIVATED. I GREW UP PLAYING COMPETITIVE SPORTS AND PLAYING DIVISION I HOCKEY. EVER SINCE I WAS A KID, YOU KNOW, I WENT TO THE STADIUM BECAUSE I WANTED TO SEE SOMETHING MAGICAL HAPPEN. I WANTED TO SEE, YOU KNOW, SOMETHING I'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE, YOU KNOW, THE MAGIC, CREATIVITY, REALLY, THAT'S WHY I WAS GOING AND SPENDING MONEY. THOSE GREAT ATHLETES IN THE FILM, THE MICHAEL JORDANS, THE MESSI'S, ALL THEM, WHEN THEY HAVE THE PUCK AND DO SOMETHING INTERESTING WITH IT, THAT'S CREATIVITY, THE ESSENCE OF SPORT. THEN, WHEN I WOULD GO BACK TO MY OWN TEAM AND TRY AND EMULATE THESE GUYS, FIRST OF ALL, THEY WERE NEVER TEACHING THIS KIND OF CREATIVITY IN SPORTS. I DON'T KNOW WHY. THEY DIDN'T ALLOW YOU TO EXPERIMENT IN COURAGE AND CREATIVE THINKING OR PLAYING. THAT WAS SURPRISING. WHEN YOU TRY TO BE CREATIVE, YOU'RE PUNISHED FOR IT. YOU'RE SHOWING OFF AND IT GOT WORSE AS YOU GOT HIGHER AND HIGHER UP THE FOOD CHAIN. I WAS BAFFLED BY THIS AND THOUGHT IT WAS A DESTRUCTIVE ATTITUDE. THE SYSTEMS MEANT TO CULTIVATE CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION AXLEY DO THE OPPOSITE. IT WAS VERY STRANGE, ESPECIALLY IN SPORT. I DON'T KNOW WHY. IT WAS A CULTURE OF SOMETIMES TOO NARROW-MINDED. A LOT OF KIDS GET DISCOURAGED AT AN EARLIER AGE WHERE THEY COULD BE HAVING A GREAT TIME, PLAYING SPORTS, LEARNING THE LESSONS. I SAW THAT AS A TREMENDOUS PROBLEM. I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND WHY NO ONE WAS COMMUNICATING THIS. WE SPEND SO MUCH MONEY ON SPORTS.

>> IT'S THE HOLY GRAIL, I LOOK AT MY DAUGHTERS, THEY PLAY SOCCER. THEY DREAM OF BEING ON THE NATIONAL TEAM, THE REALITY IS SO SMALL, WE'RE BUILDING THESE KIDS TO BE PROFESSIONALS BUT TAKING AWAY THIS PLAY ELEMENT. YOU HIT ON THIS BIG TOPIC A TEACHABLE MOMENT FOR ME AS A PARENT. TALK ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT PLAY IS AND UNSTRUCTURED PLAY IS FOR OUR CHILDREN AND HOW IMPORTANT IT WAS AND IMPACTFUL IT WAS FOR THE FOLKS YOU HIGHLIGHTED IN THE FILM.

>> IF WE ACCEPT THAT THE GREATEST ATHLETES OF ALL TIME ARE ARTISTS AND CREATIVE, THAT'S WHY WE WATCH THIS, THEY'RE MORE ARTISTIC THAN OTHERS, LET'S SAY. LET'S NURTURE THAT. HOW DO YOU DO THAT? THE IDEA IS TO PLAY AND BE ALLOWED TO FAIL AND UNDERSTAND YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. THAT'S WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT. GREATNESS IS REALLY -- IT SOUNDS CLICHE, IT REALLY IS ALL ABOUT HAVING FUN TO. THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE. THE PEOPLE DOING THE BEST IN WHAT THEY DO, DOESN'T MATTER IF IT'S SPORTS OR ANYTHING ELSE, THEY LOVE WHAT THEY'RE DOING, THEY'RE HAVING FUN. JOYFUL, LIKE A CHILD TAKEN AWAY. IF KIDS ARE FORCED TO DO THINGS, NO ONE WILL DO A GOOD JOB IF THEY'RE FORCED TO DO ANYTHING.

>> I THINK AT THE END OF MY CAREER, EVERYTHING WAS SO ANALYTICAL AND DATA POINT CENTRIC, WE WERE TRYING TO GET THE BALL ON THE ATTACKING THIRD AND CROSS THE BALL IN. THE RESEARCH SHOWED THE MORE ATTACKING THIRD THE MORE WE WERE LIKELY TO WIN THE GAME. IN TERMS OF TALKING TO OUR KIDS WE'RE SETTING THEM UP FOR FAILURE NOT ONLY BECAUSE I THINK THE YOUTH SPORTS SYSTEM IS COMPLETELY BROKEN, HIGHLIGHTING THIS SPECIFIC THING IN THIS FILM WILL VERY MUCH TEACH PARENTS EVERYWHERE HOW IMPORTANT UNSTRUCTURED PLAY IS. I WANT TO THANK YOU THAT.

>> THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.

>> FOR SURE.

>> I WANT TO KNOW WHY DID YOU CHOOSE GRETZKY AND JERRY AND PAILLE? HOW HARD WAS IT TO SECURE THESE INTERVIEWS? WERE THEY GOOD GUYS? WERE THEY NICE?

>> IT WAS VERY CHALLENGING AS YOU CAN IMAGINE TO SECURE NIECE GUY, THE GREATS, BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOTHING TO PROVE. THEY ALREADY DID IT. ANYTHING IN ADDITION MEDIA-WISE IS BASICALLY A LIABILITY. I DON'T NEED TO PROVE ANYTHING, SAY ANYTHING, I'LL JUST SHUT-UP AND STAY THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME. WHAT DO THEY NEED? I HAD TO PERSUADE BASICALLY THEM AND THEIR MANAGEMENT FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS THIS WAS SOMETHING DIFFERENT. THIS WAS A SPECIAL IDEA A WHOLE REDEFINING WHAT SPORTS IS. THEY DIDN'T REALLY -- GET IT THROUGH THEIR HEADS. SOMEHOW IT WORKED. THESE ARE ATHLETES WHEN I WAS A KID I WAS INSPIRED BY AND GOING FOR ATHLETES BASICALLY UNDENIABLEBLY THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME IN THEIR RESPECTIVE SPORTS. UNDENIABLY. YOU CAN'T GET EVERYBODY YOU WANT. I WON'T TALK ABOUT THE PEOPLE I DIDN'T GET. YOU DO THE BEST YOU CAN. I KNEW NO ONE WAS GOING TO LISTEN TO ME, GABE POLSKY. IF ANYONE IS GOING TO DELIVER THE MESSAGE, IT HAS TO BE THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME. THEY WILL SAY THAT GUY, HE WASN'T THAT GOOD OR THIS WOMAN. IT HAS TO BE THE GREATEST. THE RISK WAS MAYBE THESE GUYS DIDN'T AGREE WITH ME OR SEE IT THE SAME WAY. YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING?

>> OF COURSE.

>> WHEN I STARTED TALKING ABOUT THESE THINGS WITH THEM. FIRST OF ALL, THEY DIDN'T KNOW WHY I WAS THERE. THE MESSAGE NEVER GOT THROUGH, WHEN I SAT DOWN WITH THEM, THEY SAID, OKAY, YOU HAVE THIS AMOUNT OF TIME, I'M JUST DOING A REGULAR INTERVIEW. WHEN I STARTED GETTING INTO IT AND TALKING ABOUT THESE THINGS, THEIR EYES LIT UP. IT'S SO RARE THEY GET TO TALK ABOUT THE CREATIVE ASPECTS OF THE GAME, FROM PARENTING AND ALL THE THINGS IN THE FILM. THEY UNDERSTAND -- THEY LIKE IT WHEN SOMEBODY CAN LOOK AT WHAT THEY DO ON A DEEPER LEVEL AND THAT ARTISTRY OF IT. WHAT IS THAT ARTISTRY.

>> AS A PRO ATHLETE, THAT'S WHAT WAS EYE OPENING FOR ME. MY WHOLE BODY WAS LIKE -- I WAS LEANING IN AND WANTING TO KNOW MORE, NOT JUST ABOUT WHAT THEY FELT AND THEIR EXPERIENCE, I WANTED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ALL THE OTHER GREATS. WHAT WAS THEIR EXPERIENCE. THE TRADITIONAL FROM ATHLETE, RIGHT? THESE MEN THAT YOU TALKED TO ARE ALL PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES, FORMER GREATS. THE TRANSLATION TO THE EVERYDAY PERSON IS SO WOUND INSIDE THE THEME OF THIS MOVIE, BECAUSE WE ARE ALL THE GREATNESS, RIGHT? WE'RE THE GREATEST OF OUR OWN LIVES. I THINK THAT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL HOW YOU WERE ABLE TO PULL OUT THE VERY SPECIAL QUALITIES OF THESE GUYS THAT MADE IT TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF THEIR SPORT. HOW DO YOU DEFINE GREATNESS? WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF GREATNESS?

>> IT'S A GOOD QUESTION, A HARD QUESTION. I'M STARTING TO SEE IMAGES OF THESE GUYS IN THE FILM AND STEVE JOBS AND THESE GUYS, PEOPLE WHO ALMOST THE INTANGIBLES. CLEARLY, STATISTICALLY, THERE'S A POSITIVE CORRELATION BETWEEN CREATIVITY AND STATISTICAL DOMINANCE, GRETZKY, ALL THESE GUYS, THEY ARE WHO THEY ARE. IT'S ALMOST LIKE THERE'S A SPIRITUAL ELEMENT TO IT, AND A DEEPNESS. WHEN YOU'RE WATCHING IT, YOU'RE SEEING SOMETHING THAT'S SO SEAMLESS AND BEAUTIFUL AND GRACEFUL, CRIST, AGAIN, I'M SEEING SOMETHING I'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE. WHEN YOU SEE A NEW ARTIST THAT POPS UP ON THE SCENE, WHATEVER, BLOWS YOUR MIND, WHY? YOU WANT SOMEONE TO BLOW YOUR MIND. THAT'S WHAT CREATIVITY IS, PERFORMANCE AND SPORT IS, ACTING, ANYTHING, YOU WANT SOMETHING NEW AND GREAT. OBVIOUSLY, NOT JUST NEW AND IT DOESN'T MOVE YOU. THAT'S NOT -- THAT'S ALSO NOT POWERFUL. IT HAS TO CONNECT WITH SOMEBODY. YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING?

>> YEAH. I THINK WE'RE IN SUCH AN INTERESTING TIME BECAUSE WE'RE SO STATISTICALLY MOTIVATED, RIGHT? IF I HAVE THIS MANY GOALS AND THIS MANY ASSISTS, I WILL GET THIS MANY DOLLARS, RIGHT? THE WAY THE CREATIVITY PIECE IS SO ELEMENTAL TO EVERY ATHLETE AND EVERY PERSON IS REALLY IMPORTANT. WE ARE ALL ARTISTS, RIGHT? ACTUALLY, EARLY IN MY CAREER, MIA HAMM, SHE TALKED ABOUT THIS CRAFT. I THOUGHT, THAT'S WEIRD, WHY WOULD SHE USE THAT WORD. TRULY, IT IS WHAT IT IS. IT IS A CRAFT YOU ARE CONTINUALLY HONING EVERY SINGLE DAY. I THINK WHEN WE TALK ABOUT GREATNESS AND THE THINGS THAT GO INTO IT, IT IS NOT IN MY MIND, ESPECIALLY AFTER WATCHING THIS MOVIE, NOT ABOUT STATISTICS BUT THE ENTIRE HUMAN EXPERIENCE, HOW THEY DEVELOPED, HOW THEY GREW, WATCHING AND LISTENING TO GRETZKY AND HIM, WATCHING A HOCKEY GAME AND TRACING WHERE THE PUCK WENT THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE TIME, THERE'S TECHNOLOGY NOW THAT DOES THAT FOR YOU, RIGHT, THAT CAN SHOW WHERE THE PUCK OR BALL LIVES FOR THE MOST PART OF THE GAME. WHAT DID YOU LEARN?

>> LIKE GOING TO AN ART MUSEUM AND YOU GO TO A PAINTING, AND THEN YOU SEE SOMEONE TRYING TO ANALYZE EVERY STROKE AND HOW DID THIS STROKE AND GOES AT THIS ANGLE, AND THEN YOU START WRITING ABOUT IT. IT JUST TAKES AWAY FROM THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE. YOU CAN'T ANALYZE THINGS LIKE THAT.

>> WHAT DID YOU LEARN? WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST TAKE AWAY YOU FELT YOU GOT OUT OF NOT JUST MAKING AND COMPLETING THIS FILM, EVEN NOW IN THE AFTERMATH, YOU'RE GETTING OSCAR BUZZ. ARE YOU EXCITED? THE FILM DROPS TODAY. EVERYBODY NEEDS TO GO SEE IT. WHAT WAS THE ONE BIG TAKE AWAY YOU LEARNED FROM CREATING THIS FILM?

>> OH, MAN, I JUST -- I MEAN, IT CAN BE VERY LONELY IF YOU'RE TRYING TO BE CREATIVE IN THIS WORLD BECAUSE THERE'S A LOT OF SYSTEMS THAT KIND OF GET IN YOUR WAY, BASICALLY, VERY VERY LONELY. TO GET VALIDATED BY THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME, AND THEY SEE IT THE SAME WAY AND THEY HAD TO -- THEY NEVER COMPROMISED THEIR VISION AND SORT OF -- THERE'S SOMETHING -- NOW, LOOK BACK ON IT, IT'S JUST, I GUESS THAT'S -- I GUESS THAT'S WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT, ALL THAT SORT OF, I GUESS, STRUGGLE SEEMS TO MAKE SENSE NOW.

>> NOW THAT IT'S GETTING SOME OSCAR BUZZ, WHAT DOES THAT FEEL LIKE FROM A FILMMAKER'S CREATIVE PERSPECTIVE, IN TERMS OF GREATNESS, YOU ARE ONE OF THE GREATS OF MAKING FILMS AND YOU ARE PROVING THAT WITH THIS OSCAR BUZZ AND THERE WILL BE STATISTICAL ELEMENTS TO THAT. HOW VALIDATING IS THIS FOR YOU AS AN ARTIST IN TERMS OF WHAT YOUR VISION WAS AN SEEING HOW IT'S KIND OF COME TO FRUITION?

>> I THINK YOU WILL UNDERSTAND THIS THAT THERE'S NOTHING KIND OF BETTER -- I CAN REMEMBER, WHEN YOU PLAY IN FRONT OF A STADIUM FULL OF PEOPLE, AND YOU GET ON THE ICE, AND YOUR FIELD, IT'S ALMOST LIKE YOU'RE FREE. IT'S JUST AN AMAZING FEELING TO PERFORM IN FRONT OF PEOPLE AND SHARE, COMMUNICATE YOUR ABILITY OR SKILLS, ALMOST LIKE THIS LIBERATING THING. I DON'T KNOW. I DON'T GET THE EXACT SAME THING OUT OF FILM MAKING, BUT WHEN I MAKE A MOVIE THAT PEOPLE WATCH AND THEY JUST LOVE IT, YOU KNOW, AND THEY TALKED ABOUT IT AFTERWARDS, IT MOVED THEM, THERE'S SOMETHING GREAT ABOUT THAT FEELING. AS FAR AS OSCARS AND STUFF LIKE THAT, I DON'T THINK IT'S HEALTHY TO REALLY PAY ATTENTION TO THAT STUFF. IT HELPS YOUR CAREER BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY -- HERE'S THE THING. EVERYONE WANTS PLAYING TIME, RIGHT? YOU WANT TO BE ON THE FIELD.

>> WANT THE BALL.

>> GIVE ME THE BALL, I WANT TO DO SOMETHING. IF YOU GET AWARDS AND WHATEVER THAT HELPS YOU GET THE BALL MORE, GET IT, KEEP IT, YOU WANT TO MAKE THINGS, YOU WANT TO PERFORM.

>> RIGHT. IT'S NOT ABOUT THE END RESULT.

>> YOU WANT TO KEEP MAKING THINGS.

>> AS AN ARTIST AND FORMER ATHLETE, I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND THAT. SERIOUSLY, THIS FILM WAS MOVING. I CAN'T BELIEVE HOW MUCH I ENJOYED IT. I THINK WE WERE ABLE TO EXPLORE INTO THE MINDS OF REAL GREATS AND PEOPLE WHO I THINK IN 10 YEARS, WE WERE TALKING BACKSTAGE, IN 10 YEARS, THE CONVERSATION MIGHT BE EVEN DIFFERENT ABOUT HOW MUCH MORE CREATIVITY IS GOING TO BE IMPRESSED UPON OUR YOUNGER GENERATION AND HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO MAKE SURE THAT IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE STATISTICS, AND ALL GREATS WILL TELL YOU, IT'S ABOUT THE IMAGINATION AND THE PLAY. THANK YOU FOR MAKING THIS BEAUTIFUL WORK OF ART, FOR ME TO BE ABLE TO SHOW MY CHILDREN AND FOR, HOPEFULLY, THE REST OF THE WORLD, TO SHOW THEIR CHILDREN, TOO. THANK YOU. ONE THING I'D SAY ABOUT THIS FILM AND I FULLY BELIEVE THIS TO BE TRUE IS THAT IT'S JUST AS MUCH ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH, THIS FILM, AND HAPPINESS AS IT IS ABOUT ANYTHING, GREATNESS. WHATEVER. THIS IS A FILM ABOUT LIFE AND HOW WE CAN, YOU KNOW, BE THE BEST -- BE OUR BEST SELVES AND NURTURE HAPPY KIDS, YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING?

>> AMAZING. WE HAVE Q&A, WE HAVE QUESTIONS FROM THE PEOPLE IN THE AUDIENCE.

>> NO?

>> NO, WE DON'T HAVE Q&A. ARE WE OUT OF TIME? WE ARE OUT OF TIME. WE JUST TALK TOO MUCH.

>> WE WERE SELFISH.

>> I WANT TO THANK YOU AND GURU FOR HAVING US ON. THIS IS MY FIRST TIME. I THINK I DID AMAZING. YOU DID BETTER.

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