LeBron James shattered the hearts of Clevelanders July 8, 2010 during ESPN’s televised on special The Decision, as he announced he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat.
Losing LeBron, the MFA thesis feature documentary directed by Emerson College graduate students Nicole Prowell Hart and Allyson Sherlock, captures the Cleveland residents following James’ shocking decision. Despite the movie’s focus on James, its true cynosure is the city of Cleveland itself, cataloguing the hardships the city has faced with montages of abandoned factories and workplaces.
“The story of LeBron is the jumping off point,” said Hart. “We really wanted to examine why [Cleveland] has an inferiority complex and why the rest of the country seems to gang up on the city.”
Originally, the idea for the flick, which arose from a mock - pitching project in an Emerson College business course with Professor Linda Reisman, was not supposed to wade out of the think-tank.
“Losing LeBron was a class project that was never supposed to actually get made,” said Hart. “After we finished pitching, Linda came up to us after class, and she said ‘I think you girls should go make that movie.’”
The project was especially relevant for both students because Hart has family living in Cleveland Heights and Sherlock went to high school in Akron, Ohio, James’ hometown.
In order to fund the production of Losing LeBron, Hart and Sherlock formed a KickStarter campaign, helping them raise $10,000 in 30 days. After the fundraiser, the two said they headed to Cleveland where they shot over 220 hours of footage between 2010 and June 2011. The 59- minute feature-length documentary was screened in the Bright Family Screening Room on Sept. 19.
Although Hart and Sherlock entered production with little to no structure or script, after finding their subject the whole picture began to come together.
“We found characters as it went along,” Sherlock said. “We just sort of found the ones that were most appealing to us and followed it.”
Beginning with a montage of sports disappointments including The Drive, The Catch, The Shot, The Fumble, and The Move, that Cleveland has endured over the years, intertwined with personal reactions to each of the moments. After years of coming so close and losing in the final seconds, Cleveland thought it had found its “Chosen One” in LeBron James.
Losing LeBron captures the aftermath of James’ adjudication, from workers tearing down the giant banner of James to “booing” him during his first home game with the Miami Heat against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The film is not biased, presenting both sides of the argument and highlighting both the residents of Cleveland who are extremely angry with James for abandoning them and those who understand his ambitions and want him to succeed no matter where he goes.
“He was in the fabric of that community,” Sherlock said. “Everybody knew who LeBron was, everybody was wearing a LeBron T-shirt, there were Lebron video games, LeBron commercials, LeBron shoes. I mean, it was just pervasive in the city.”