Jenny Mackenzie, Ph.D.
When I turned 42, I decided to leave my chosen profession of social work to follow my passion and go to film school. It felt like it was the perfect career path since it was still about social change. Instead of being in an office listening to an individual’s struggle, I would be behind the camera. I wanted to be able to share with larger audiences the ways in which people overcome life’s challenges. So from social worker to documentary filmmaker, still being able to address social and racial justice issues, felt like a natural fit.
Being physically active and competing athletically has been an important part of my life, and I know that it contributes to children becoming strong, confident, and successful adults. When I became a mother, I knew that coaching them in various sports would be a fun way to stay connected to my own daughters and a good opportunity to work with other kids in the community. While I was in film school, I was coaching my youngest daughter, Lizzie’s, soccer team, the Mighty Cheetahs, in their third year of play. They had already had two undefeated seasons, the first against girls their own age, and the second year against girls a year older, winning nearly every game both seasons by enormous margins. By their third year, I knew something had to change and decided to put them in the all-boys division to truly test their mettle with real competition.
The fall of 2005 was the Cheetah’s first season playing in the boys’ division and it was also my first year in film school. My mother, a playwright who was visiting from New York, came to our second game of the season. As a writer, she is always looking for a great story with compelling characters and a good dramatic arc. Mom heard a lot of the sideline bantering, felt the tension on the field, and said “Jenny, this is a great story, you have to start filming these games!” So I did.
First, I hired a friend who was a classmate from school to film the rest of our games. Then we did individual interviews with some of the Cheetahs, as well as the boys they played, their parents, and a few experts. As the process unfolded, we quickly realized we had a great little film on our hands. Geralyn Dreyfous, an award-winning executive producer, came on board in the Fall of 2006. She helped me to find our editor, Christine Elder, who pulled the footage together into a compelling and comprehensive rough cut. Finally, we brought in writer and producer, Jennifer Jordan, to further craft, edit, and tighten the story into what you see today.
So, with a lot of fabulous teamwork, great timing, and incredible luck, we’ve been able to produce a film of which we are immensely proud and hopeful that its young and passionate voices will resonate to an ever-larger audience.
It’s an entertaining story that addresses social justice issues so that people of all ages can have a dialogue about equal rights, fair play, and teamwork, and continue to create progress. It’s about creating possibilities for children that aren’t limited by gender, race, or class. Isn’t that what we all want?