Signs of the Time

The Myth, The Mystery, The Legend of Baseball's Greatest Innovation

Award winner in Cooperstown

leave a comment »

Don Casper at the Hall of Fame Exhibit for the History of Baseball and Movies

Don Casper at the Hall of Fame Exhibit for the History of Baseball and Movies

For the 4th year in a row, the Baseball Film Festival has presented newly-released films of any genre with a baseball component.  Stephen Light, the festival organizer, mentioned during his opening remarks that they had more submissions this year than ever and had tough choices to narrow the field down to the 13 films shown over 3 days in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  Signs of the Time was accepted as an official selection amongst other feature documentaries and shorts.

The opening night program consisted of a great film called “The Lost Son of Havana” which follows Luis Tiant’s life and career in baseball and as he returns to Cuba for the first time in 46 years.  Executive Producer Bobby Farrelly and Producer Kris Meyer were there to present and give a Q&A.

Our film played right after to a packed house starting around 8:15pm, including a father and son who told us they traveled from Maine to see the film because they knew Bill Werber and had visited with him before he passed away this past spring.  We also had a deaf gentleman from Brockport who came down to see the film for the first time!

Future Hall of Famer Jim Hughes found in Cooperstown!

Future Hall of Famer Jim Hughes found in Cooperstown!

The rest of the weekend was a mix of watching baseball films, meeting filmmakers from around the country, sharing stories and going in all the shops on Main Street.  If you’ve never been to Cooperstown, the fall is a real pretty time to go and the crowds are not huge so it’s easy to get around and see lots of stuff.

A couple noteworthy films that we saw are:

We Believe – a feature documentary about the century long love affair between the city of Chicago and the Cubs.  Although they haven’t won a World Series in over a hundred years, it stills remains one of the most devout fan bases and nicest ballparks in the major leagues.  Director/Writer John Scheinfeld was on hand to present the film.

A Shortstop in China – follows Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. as he embarks on a 10-day tour of China for the State Department as an official representative of the United States and baseball.  The film was produced by Renegade Productions out of Baltimore.  It’s a very well put together film with alot of great moments.

Ghost Player – reveals the 18 year journey of a group of ballplayers that entertain crowds in Dyersville Iowa where they filmed the movie Field of Dreams.  This group that started as just something fun to do on a Sunday ended up touring throughout Europe and Japan and changing lives.  Filmmaker Joe Schermann presented the film.

Jim Hughes and Don Casper with Award outside the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown

Jim Hughes and Don Casper with Award outside the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown

The Festival culminated with the Awards Ceremony Sunday at 3pm.  Although we were hopeful, being up against the many worthy films we had seen made no guarantee to win something.  However… the film and baseball gods were smiling on us that weekend as we were selected for the 2009 Award for Baseball Excellence.  The Award for Baseball Excellence is given to the film that excels in one or all of the following categories: research, historical context, appreciation of the game, and the embodiment of the spirit of baseball.

2009 Award for Baseball Excellence

2009 Award for Baseball Excellence

Thanks to all the judges and audience that supported our film and to all the other filmmakers who participated.  It is real special to be part of a festival with such passion and achievement within the same genre.

It was extra special for me because my Wife, Mom Dad, Brother, and In-laws were all there to share it with us.

Written by Don Casper

October 5, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Hall of Fame’s Baseball Film Festival a hit

leave a comment »

Troika of movies take home hardware in event’s fourth year

By Bill Francis / National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Published: 10/05/2009 2:10 PM ET

Baseball Film Festival concluded Sunday in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. (Bill Francis/Baseball Hall of Fame)

Baseball Film Festival concluded Sunday in Cooperstown at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. (Bill Francis/Baseball Hall of Fame)

As big league baseball’s regular season came to a conclusion, except in the American League’s Central Division, the Fourth Annual Baseball Film Festival was ending another successful run.

The three-day long event, held at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, ran from Friday through Sunday. In all, 13 films of varied baseball subject matter, ranging in length from 12 to 90 minutes, were shown at the Hall’s Bullpen Theater.

The festivities came to an end Sunday afternoon with three awards handed out at a closing ceremony in the Museum’s Grandstand Theater. Capturing the Best Film Award was The Lost Son of Havana, the Award for Baseball Excellence went to Signs of the Time, and El Play captured the Award for Film Making Excellence.

Reached by telephone after the awards were presented, an overjoyed Kris Meyer, a producer of The Lost Son of Havana who represented the film in Cooperstown along with Executive Producer Bobby Farrelly when it was shown Friday, said, “It has been an incredible honor to make a film about one of baseball’s legends, and to screen it in Cooperstown at the Baseball Film Festival and to win it is just icing on the cake.

“Hopefully, we’ll return with another film soon.” The Lost Son of Havana documented former Major League pitching star Luis Tiant’s emotional return to his home in Cuba after 46 years in exile, and Signs of the Time examined the complicated history of hand signals in baseball. “Just blown away,” said Signs of the Time Director Don Casper when asked for his thoughts afterwards. “To receive an award for baseball excellence from Cooperstown is a real honor, especially when you make a baseball film. Being here for three days, seeing the quality of films that we were up against, it makes it even more special because there were really a lot of great quality films here.”

El Play told the story of an aspiring Dominican ballplayer from the baseball hotbed of San Pedro de Macoris and his struggles as he chases his dream of becoming a professional.

“This is thrilling,” said El Play‘s director and producer, Pablo Medina, while clutching his award. “Just having gotten into this film festival is an honor as much as winning. I was not expecting it, and I’m not being modest.”

Judging this year’s Baseball Film Festival entrants were Jeff Katz, a baseball author/writer living in Cooperstown, Oneonta (N.Y.) Daily Star sportswriter P.J. Harmer, and Rob Edelman, a professor of film history at the University of Albany and the author of The Great Baseball Films. “I enjoy all of the films,” Katz said. “There was just a wide variety of subject matter. And even the films that weren’t award winners you could tell there was a real passion behind it.

“But I will say that I’m just endlessly impressed with The Lost Son of Havana. That really was one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, let alone a great baseball film. It was so well done and so emotional.” According to Stephen Light, the Hall’s manager of museum programs, the more than 20 films submitted and 13 shown were records for the four-year-old festival.

“I thought it was a great film festival because of the strength and diversity of the films,” Light said. “We had so many different topics and it just showed, I think, the strength of baseball as a film topic.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Written by Signs of the Time

October 5, 2009 at 3:10 pm

2009 Top 11 Festival Must See Films in Tacoma

leave a comment »


As Executive Director at the Grand Cinema, one of the most common questions I’m asked every fall is “which films do you recommend in the film festival?”  With more films and better quality than ever this year, that question is becoming tougher to answer.  Difficult as it may be, I’m up to the task.Tacoma Film Festival

The list here is in order by the dates films play.  If you think it is tough deciding on which films to recommend, it would be tougher to rank them in a specific ‘must see’ order.  So it is safe to say that everyone should attempt to see as many of these as possible.

One added aspect of a festival is the chance to often talk to the filmmakers.  I’m happy to say that most of the films I mention here will have the filmmaker in attendance. There are MANY more great films in the festival, but for me, this would be my TOP 11 (because ten is always too few for the festival) FILMS FOR 2009.


Philip Cowan

(in order by date played)

Lovers in a Dangerous Time – This is a movie about a relationship that is so incredibly obvious to the viewer, but not always as apparent to the characters involved.  By the end you really feel for the characters because they really pull you in to the story.  This is a true indy film that we are happy to present for our Opening Night Gala.  The filmmakers will be in attendance and there will be great food to go along with the film.  What is there not to like?  Thursday, October 1, 6:30 p.m. (food), 8:00 p.m. (film) at Annie Wright (and minus the food and filmmakers, the film plays again October 6, 4:45 p.m. at the Grand).

North Face – This is one I originally saw at SIFF earlier this year and is a perfect movie for anyone who loves movies the Grand typically plays.  It is 1936 in Germany and there is a race to be the first to rock climb the near vertical Eiger North Face.  This is a well made drama based on a real event that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Friday, October 2, 6:00 p.m. at the Blue Mouse Theater

Winning Isn’t Everything AND Signs of the Time – This is a great pairing of two very well made documentaries.  One is on the NCAA championship women’s soccer program at the University of North Carolina.  The other explores the origins of baseball hand signals and is narrated by Richard Dreyfuss.  You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy either film because both move well past the sport that anchors the films.  Friday, October 2, 6:30 p.m. at the Grand AND Signs of the Time only (paired with a different film) Monday, Oct 5, 2:15, also at the Grand

Freeing Silvia Baraldini – This documentary follows the life of a political activist who was arrested by the FBI and sentenced to 43 years in prison.  Where is the line between crime and political activism?  As an added note, the filmmaker was once associated with the Grand and will be in attendance to talk about the subject.  Friday, October 2, 5:45 p.m. at First United Methodist Church AND Saturday, October 3, 8:45 p.m. at the Grand

Sweet Crude – This noteworthy documentary is playing around the world, from the Seattle International Film Festival earlier this year, to Vancouver, Canada and Strasbourg, France.  There is good reason too.  It is the story of Nigeria’s impoverished Niger Delta under which a billion dollars of crude flows. Some might remember the news stories that developed last year when the filmmakers were detained in Nigeria for a week while shooting the film.  With the filmmaker in attendance, the film and discussion should be fascinating for everyone.  Saturday, October 3, 12:45 p.m. at Tacoma Art Museum

Spooner – This feature film combines charm, romance and quirky humor into a nice film.  Herman (Matthew Lillard) is turning 30 and is finally moving out of his parent’s home.  When the girl of his dreams enters his aimless life, he tries to win her over before she leaves on a planned trip out of the country.  The director and screenwriter will be in attendance.  Saturday, October 3, 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Cinema

White on Rice – This is a quirky multi-cultural film from a director who previously played a film in the Tacoma Film Festival.  It tells the tale of Japanese man now living in the states as he seeks a girlfriend…but with one specific woman in mind.  The film has some very funny moments in it and is very well made.  It is also starting to appear in theaters already so watch it here first!  Sunday, October 4, 6:30 p.m. at the Grand (it also plays with a great local short film The Day My Parents Became Cool)

Comedy Shorts – This grouping tends to sell out annually and for good reason: comedy shorts are a ton of fun.  There are too many to list individually but this year’s group has ten films ranging from 3 to 17 minutes in length.  It is a fast paced screening and has many films that have won awards at other festivals.  This plays twice because of its popularity.  Sunday, October 4, 6:30 p.m. at SOTA AND Wednesday, October 7, 6:30 at the Grand.

Drama Shorts – The topics on these vary but there is some great filmmaking to be found here.  These seven short films originate everywhere from Germany to the Pacific Northwest.  Two of the most notable in the group are Short Term 12 which won prizes at both Sundance and SIFF and the German film Land Gewinnen which gives you a peek inside what it might be like for an immigrant child trying to go to school.  It really moves you.  Monday, October 5, 6:45 p.m. at the Grand AND Friday, October 2, 6:30 at SOTA

Four of a Kind – From Australia and with the filmmaker and lead actress in attendance!  Four different women with four intertwining stories.  Add in a bit of mystery and you have a movie to remember.  Tuesday, October 6, 7:00 p.m. at the Grand

The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle – The pedigree of this film kind of speaks for itself.  It debuted at Sundance and has since played at festivals such as SXSW, Seattle, San Francisco and Calgary.  To describe this comedy would be truly difficult, so I’ll give you one sentence fragment from their website: “cookies cause spectacular visions, wild mood swings, and quasi-pregnancies in the male janitors.”  This one is a lot of fun and the filmmaker will be here for Q&A.  CLOSING NIGHT FILM, Thursday, October 8, 6:00 p.m. at the Grand Cinema

Written by Signs of the Time

October 4, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Film Festivals

Fairport-produced baseball movie gathers honors

leave a comment »

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Rochester,NY,USA
Jim Mandelaro

Much has changed about Signs of the Time since the locally produced documentary premiered at the George Eastman House last year.

Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss is the new narrator.

Major League Baseball footage has been added, including the controversial 1975 World Series play involving Cincinnati batter Ed Armbrister and Boston catcher Carlton Fisk.

And the 60-minute baseball film is on the festival trail, already winning “Best Documentary” at the High Falls Festival in Rochester last May and the SoCal Film Festival in Huntington Beach, Calif., last weekend.

Ray Manard, Executive Producer

Ray Manard, Executive Producer

“It’s a different film (from the original version),” said executive producer Ray Manard of Crystal Pix, a production company in Fairport.

“But the film is more than just about baseball. It’s about communication.”

Signs explores the contributions of deaf baseball player Dummy Hoy and legendary umpire Bill Klem, a Rochester native, toward the development of hand signals used in baseball.

It’s one of 13 films playing this weekend at the fourth annual Baseball Film Festival at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Signs is up for three awards: Best Film, the Award for Baseball Excellence and the Award for Film Making Excellence. The movie will be shown tonight along with The Lost Son of Havana, which chronicles the return to Cuba of Luis Tiant after 46 years.

Don Casper, the director of Signs of the Time, will be in Cooperstown to speak about the film.

Nearly 200 actors, writers, directors and producers worked on the film over a five-year period. Signs includes interviews with Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Earl Weaver and Brooks Robinson.

When the festival season ends, the film will have been shown in about 20 venues. In addition to Cooperstown, it also will be shown this weekend in Tacoma, Wash., and Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Coming up, it’s Secret City, Tenn. (mid-October); Celebration, Fla. (late October); and the Red Rock Film Fest in Utah (November).

Crystal Pix executives originally compiled a long wish list of possible narrators, including George Clooney, Harrison Ford and Billy Crystal.

“We wanted an actor with a good voice, and we wanted someone recognizable,” Manard said.

Dreyfuss won a Best Actor Oscar for The Goodbye Girl in 1977 and was nominated in 1995 for Mr. Holland’s Opus. He also was on the list. When he said “yes,” the search ended.

“He has a connection to deaf culture through Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Manard said. “I’m not sure why he decided to work with us, but it may have been that.”

Dreyfuss was in New York City last October promoting the movie W (he plays Dick Cheney), and Crystal Pix execs met him there to record the narration.

Signs of the Time Movie Poster

Signs of the Time Movie Poster

Including the Armbrister-Fisk play also was a coup. The filmmakers had to take the footage out of the original due to Major League Baseball restrictions. Now it is included.

In the 10th inning of Game 3 of the 1975 World Series, Armbrister collided with Fisk while attempting to sacrifice bunt. Fisk threw wildly to second base in an attempt to throw out Cesar Geronomo, and the Reds went on to win 4-3. Plate umpire Larry Barnett was criticized for not calling interference on Armbrister.

“Back that, there was no signal for interference,” Manard said. “All (Barnett) could do was point ‘fair ball.’ He couldn’t communicate ‘no interference.'”

Now, there is a signal for such a play.

“That controversy demonstrates the need for communication with the umpire and players on the field,” Manard said.

Crystal Pix eventually hopes to sell Signs of the Time to a network and then market it for home distribution. MLB Network, ESPN, A&E, The History Channel and the new Smithsonian Channel and Documentary Channel are possible buyers.

© 2009, The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

Written by Signs of the Time

October 1, 2009 at 11:41 am

Posted in Press Articles

World Class Film Festival with a Small Town Charm

leave a comment »

IMG_7725They definitely know how to do it right at the Rome International Film Festival, about an hour and a half outside of Atlanta. Jim Hughes and I spent two wonderful days getting to know the people and the rich history of Rome, GA, a vibrant small city in the middle of several colleges in the area. Harry Musselwhite and his wife, Laura, really made us feel like we were celebrities as we screened the many films shown at the classic DeSoto theater and enjoyed their well-planned and well-executed hospitality.


One of my favorite documentaries was The Human Experience, a great concept film about two young brothers trying to find their place in life. Another film, shot close to home was Pound Cake, written by and starring Troy Hall and Kevin Logie, plus many other great actors (including Kathleen Quinlan and Jay O. Sanders). Definitely a laugh-out-loud type of film and since it’s set in Buffalo, NY in the 1980’s … how can you go wrong?

Of course, the main reason we were there was to showcase our documentary, Signs of the Time, which was very well received by a crowd of over 100 people. We also made it to the Final Four of nominations in the category of Best American Documentary. Though we didn’t walk away winners, we felt pretty good about our experience in Rome and I look forward to the opportunity of making it back there again. Thanks Harry and Laura!


Written by Ray Manard

September 27, 2009 at 8:43 am

Posted in Film Festivals

SoMuch at SoCal!

leave a comment »

The sunny skies and laid-back attitude of Surf City USA warmly welcomed Ray, Jim and Signs of the Time to the SoCal Independent Film Festival.  Set in idyllic Huntington Beach California, this marathon movie event showed more than 100 official entries over 6 days. Named by MovieMaker Magazine as one of the “top 20 film festivals worth the entry fee”, SoCal is an edgy and enjoyable festival. We were excited and proud to be there.

socal ext

SoCal Screening Venue

The schedule offered a fantastic balance of both traditional films and some delightfully bizarre entries that would make Quentin Tarantino squirm in his seat. Our first session was a collection of short films called Off the Beaten Path. This was followed by – please enjoy the impending cinematic weirdness here – Way Off the Beaten Path. One of our favorites, Blood Shed, was shown during this deliriously weird session. The film is a charming tale of a Canadian Hillbilly who murders and mutilates his backwoods buddies. Encouraged by his psychotic mother, who is portrayed by a life-size talking muppet, he ecstatically dispenses buckets of blood via shotgun, shovel and chainsaw. I must admit, horror is my least favorite genre, but this movie was so quirky, so delightfully depraved that it was clearly created with tongue firmly in cheek. Other similar charmers included The Electric Chainsaw Massacre, The Family, and Sexual Tension – the Super Adventures of Steve and Stephen. For a laugh-out-loud experience, I encourage you to leave your delicate sensibilities behind and visit these worthy films on-line.

We also saw a terrific variety of more traditional entries that offered exceptional production value, inspired writing and great acting – all the elements that are so difficult to achieve in independent filmmaking. This consistently high level of movie-making skill made our final night at the awards party particularly gratifying. Every film, including ours, received a nomination in their category. With such superb competition, our expectations for winning Best Documentary were very low. With little shot at winning and having milked our $14 event cocktail for just so long, we yearned for the familiar conversations and $3 beers at the dated but wholly satisfying hotel bar.  Thankfully, the admiration for our filmmaking colleagues prevailed.

Jim and Ray with Award

Jim and Ray with Award

We stayed for the ceremony and supported their exceptional efforts with another $28 round of vodka tonics. You may see it coming, but it was as surprising to us as a Hitchcock plot twist. When Best Documentary was announced, Signs of the Time got the nod! The overwhelming response to our win by many of the filmmakers in attendance was gratifying but not unexpected. With unrestrained generosity, they celebrated the honor with us just like it was their own. In fact, we didn’t make it back to the hotel for another four hours and I don’t recall spending another $14 the rest of the night.

Written by Jim Hughes

September 25, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Film Festivals

Temecula Valley Welcomes Signs of the Time

leave a comment »

Signs of the Time was selected to be screened at the 15th Annual International Film and Music Festival on September 9-13th in Temecula California.
Temecula Valley is located in Southern California’s beautiful Wine Country just north of San Diego. Don Casper, Caroline Manard and myself (Anne Mills) were all very lucky to be able to attend the festival this year.

Caroline Manard, Don Casper, Anne Mills at the TVIFF Opening Night Party

Caroline Manard, Don Casper, Anne Mills at the TVIFF Opening Night Party

We arrived on Wednesday to the Opening Gala Party which was something like I’ve only seen on TV at festivals like Sundance and the Toronto Film Fest. All filmmakers were escorted in antique cars to a red carpet welcome! There were Marines and local pagent queens lining the red carpet, flash bulbs going off and they even announced our movie and the filmmakers names as we walked the red carpet towards the theater. Local media were interviewing the film makers and taking our photos in front of the huge TVIFF banner.
WOW was that my fifteen minutes of fame?

Signs of the Time played the next day (Thursday) at 3:00 and received very good reviews.

The whole week we saw many features, documentaries, animations, and shorts. Some of my favorites were “Love Hurts”, “White on Rice”, “The Ranch” and “Chicory N Coffee”.

Jim Rothman, Anne Mills, Don Casper

Jim Rothman, Anne Mills, Don Casper

My favorite short movie was  “I’m Not Matt Damon” – directed by and starring Jim Rothman who is real actor in Los Angeles. His dream of making it big in Hollywood has one big problem..he happens to be a dead ringer for Matt Damon and no one will cast him. See Don Casper and myself having dinner with Matt Damon (I mean Jim) at the awards banquet.  I am planning on telling all my friends it is really Matt Damon, and that him and I hung out all week.

One of my favorite events was on Thursday night. A film festival supporter from Temecula hosted a party at his home for the filmmakers and musicians. The house, or should I say estate was probably 10,000 square feet, had a pool, tennis court, media room, fountains and was entirely done in marble, both inside and out. As I sipped my drink, ate his wonderful food by the pool, I suddenly wondered, how long could I live in his home before someone found me?

Signs of the Time played again on Friday night at 5:00 and again was followed by lots of praise and questions of how they could purchase the DVD!

Caroline Manard and Lucas Grabeel

Caroline Manard and Lucas Grabeel

Saturday night, we attended a music festival at the La Cereza Winery. This was a beautiful winery with a spanish architecture.  There was a stage where several muscians performed and there was even a Hot Air Balloon! Again I was listening to more music and drinking more wine..Hey, that’s what you do when you are in Temecula, drink Wine!  It was a great opportunity to listen to up and coming artists like The Bayliens, The Souljourners and Lucus Grabeel from Disney’s High School Musical. Lucas not only performed several times that week, but was submitting his own music videos to the Festival as Executive Producer.  Caroline made sure to have her picture taken with Lucas for her daughter Abby.

Finally, Sunday night was the awards banquet and dinner. “Earth, Wind and Fire” were being honored with a lifetime achievement award and it was really fun to see them. Unfortunately, they did not perform, but gave us a few of their “cool” dance moves on the way off the stage. I was hoping they would perform my favorite songs, “Boogie Wonderland”, “Let’s Groove Tonite”.  But alas, I had to sing those songs myself. Until Don asked me to please stop singing Anne.

Anne Mills and Don Casper at TVIFF

Anne Mills and Don Casper at TVIFF

We had an awesome time the whole week and met alot of other filmmakers.  Jo Moulton, who runs this film festival did a tremendous job and made it lots of fun. I would recommend any filmmaker to attend this one next year if given the chance.

Written by Annie Mills

September 22, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Film Festivals

Fourth annual Baseball Film Festival returns Oct. 2-4

with 2 comments

Three-day event highlights baseball on big screen

hof_logoNational Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Published: 09/08/2009 8:51 PM ET

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will recognize the twin traditions of baseball and film when, for the fourth consecutive year, it hosts the Baseball Film Festival in Cooperstown, Oct. 2-4.

Thirteen films, with themes ranging from women in baseball to a baseball league in Israel, will be screened on Friday, Oct. 2, through Sunday, Oct. 4, as filmmakers compete for three awards given at the conclusion of the festival: the Best Film Award, the Award for Baseball Excellence and the Award for Film Making Excellence.

Tickets for the screening of Film Festival entries are free of charge but are limited and must be reserved. Members can reserve their tickets immediately, and any remaining seats will made available to the general public beginning Monday, Sept. 28, by calling the Membership Department at 607-547-0397 or by visiting the membership desk in the Museum. The awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 3 p.m. in the Grandstand Theater and is open to the public. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

A complete list of the films to be screened and competing for top honors during the weekend:

Session 1
Friday, Oct. 2, 6 p.m.

The Lost Son of Havana (105 min.)
After 46 years in exile, former Major League Baseball star Luis Tiant returns to Cuba, where he encounters unexpected demons and receives unexpected gifts from his family.

Signs of the Time (60 min.)
Where did baseball hand signals come from? In exploring this seemingly simple question, the feature-length documentary Signs of the Time unveils stories of inspiration and controversy that transcend sports. Narrated by Academy Award-winner Richard Dreyfuss, the film unravels the mystery surrounding baseball’s greatest innovation.

Session 2
Saturday, Oct. 3, 9 a.m.

Girls of Summer (85 min.)
A positive, respectful look at the WBL Sparks, the first all-girls baseball team to compete in a boys’ national tournament at the Cooperstown Dreams Park in Cooperstown, N.Y. Interspersed throughout the WBL Sparks’ story are historical segments telling the personal stories of the women who, since the mid-1850s, have played, coached and umpired baseball.

Major Leagues? (25 min.)
This story from Cuban filmmaker Ernesto Perez Zambrano tells the story of women taking the field and playing baseball in Cuba.

Session 3
Saturday, Oct. 3, 12:30 p.m.

We Believe (100 min.)
From the director of The U.S. vs. John Lennon comes a new documentary film celebrating the unusual love affair between a great city, Chicago, and one of its baseball teams, the Cubs. Like any relationship, it has its highs and lows, joys and sorrows, moments of exhilaration and heartbreak. About hope, faith, optimism and loyalty, this film is about America, family and tradition. But first and foremost, We Believe is an entertaining movie, packed with emotion, humor, wonderful human moments and unique insight.

The Farm Team (15 min.)
A first-hand look at the challenges of the grounds crew of a Minor League Baseball team in Mobile, Ala., the rainiest city in the United States. It’s a portrait of three hard-working guys who not only love the sport of baseball, but also the field the game is played on.

Session 4
Saturday, Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m.

A Braves New World (55 min.)
A Braves New World chronicles how the “Miracle in Milwaukee” began the shift westward of America’s pastime. Includes seldom-seen archival footage and photos, along with over 25 on-camera interviews, including former Braves players, management and sportswriters.

Session 5
Saturday, Oct. 3, 7 p.m.

She’s Baseball Mad! (12 min.)
Did women save Major League Baseball in Seattle? A look at the female connection with baseball and the role women played in building the most family-friendly ballpark in the nation.

Road to the Big Leagues (60 min.)
How does a tiny island roughly the size of Connecticut produce baseball superstars like Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero, Hanley Ramirez, Sammy Sosa and David Ortiz? Have you ever wondered what their journey was like to the pros? What about for the thousands that try but never make it big? Road to the Big Leagues tells the story of one of baseball’s most-heralded breeding grounds, the Dominican Republic, and provides a close examination of its special brand of baseball.

A Shortstop in China (50 min.)
Shortly after being enshrined in Cooperstown, Cal Ripken Jr. was named public diplomacy envoy by the U.S. State Department. True to form, America’s Iron Man embraced the challenge of his new career as diplomat. His first mission: travel to China and share the game of baseball — the Ripken Way.

Session 6
Sunday, Oct. 4, 9 a.m.

El Play (30 min.)
El Play tells the story of Jairo Candelario, a young aspiring baseball player from San Pedro de Macoris, a small city in the Dominican Republic famous for birthing some of the world’s most talented baseball players. The film paints a detailed portrait of Jairo and his tireless commitment to the game as he balances his hopes of signing a professional contract with the reality of its improbability. Interviewed are professional scouts, coaches, family members, a baseball historian and San Pedro-born Robinson Cano, the second baseman of the New York Yankees.

Holy Land Hardball (83 min.)
When Boston bagelmaker Larry Baras wanted to create a professional baseball league in Israel, his idea was met with incredulity, dismissal and even hostility. He attempted it anyway. Among the ballplayers swept up in his unlikely quest: a 41-year-old father of three with a Peter Pan complex; a 27-year-old Brooklyn artist/DJ still finding himself after the disappointment of not being drafted out of college; a 34-year-old father-to-be whose own father, now deceased, fought for Israel’s independence in 1948; and a 22-year-old African-American who was told by a preacher at a young age he would one day “play in front of God’s people.” Also along for the ride are former Jewish Major Leaguers Art Shamsky, Ken Holtzman and Ron Blomberg as team managers in the Israel Baseball League.

Session 7
Sunday, Oct. 4, 1 p.m.

Ghost Players (54 min.)
Field of Dreams Ghost Players is a documentary that chronicles the adventures and misadventures of a boisterous and unlikely team of middle-aged Iowa baseball players. In 1989, Hollywood went to Iowa to shoot Field of Dreams. Little did anyone know this blockbuster would spawn a comedic baseball show starring local ballplayers that had an 18-year run and traveled the world.

Written by Signs of the Time

September 9, 2009 at 10:23 pm

Posted in Press Articles

Spirit Quest Film Screening

leave a comment »

Caroline Manard, Don Casper, Greg Ropp, Anne Mills, Matthew Johnson, Jim Hughes

Caroline Manard, Don Casper, Greg Ropp, Anne Mills, Matthew Johnson, Jim Hughes

It was a homecoming of sorts.  It was my first return to Erie, PA since we shot part of the movie there in the Summer of 2007.  While planning the movie, we needed to find a location to shoot our Bill Klem re-enactment that could pass as a 1920’s era baseball field.  Ainsworth Field in Erie, PA fit the bill, but in addition the folks we met were excited about being part of the project.  That made a huge difference for us.

John Fette and the Glenwood Baseball League Players became 1920’s ballplayers and the residents of Erie donned period suits and hats, becoming fans at a 1921 ballgame in Boston.  In one long sunny day in August 2007 the shoot was complete.

Soon after, the film went into post-production and about a year and a half later the finishing touches were being put on the film for it’s first public showing.  This past weekend was our first opportunity to share the final product with the folks of Erie.  Spirit Quest Film Festival organizer Greg Ropp really welcomed us and featured our film along with it’s ties to the Erie area.

Although this festival is in it’s first year, it was run quite well, mostly due to Greg’s long experience in running the Eeerie Horror Festival.  The film screened in the historic Erie Playhouse and we had a great turnout including many of the folks who were in the film as actors and extras.

Ray Manard & Don Casper answering audience questions

Ray Manard & Don Casper answering audience questions

We shared in a Q&A with the audience right after the screening.  It was great to come back and share the film with the people who helped make it.  Thanks to Greg Ropp, Matthew Johnson and the many actors and extras of Erie, PA!

Written by Don Casper

September 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Film Festivals

Signed and sealed

leave a comment »

‘Signs of the Time’ salutes William Klemm and Dummy Hoy as baseball originators.


Erie-Times News 9-3-2009

The base runner slides into home, the catcher tags him, and the umpire emphatically gestures with his thumb. You know he’s out. If you attended a ballgame around the turn of the 20th century, though, you’d be clueless. In baseball’s early days, umpires shouted their calls. They didn’t use their arms or thumbs, and ballparks had no announcers to tell you anything. So how did baseball signals originate? The story is trickier than spotting a balk. Rochester director Don Casper’s documentary “Signs of the Time” — partly filmed at Ainsworth Field — zeroes in on the two most likely candidates. Pioneering umpire William Klemm, a member of baseball’s Hall of Fame, is credited on his Cooperstown plaque with introducing arm signals. Deaf player William “Dummy” Hoy, who mostly played for the Cincinnati Reds, developed a system of hand signals with his third-base coach so he’d know if pitches were balls or strikes. He retired in 1902 — three years before Klemm started umpiring.

“Signs of the Time,” narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, includes re-enactments with actors playing Hoy and Klemm. “Both of these individuals lived lives before movie cameras were [prevalent] and, in some cases, there are not a lot of photos of them,” Casper said. “So to tell the story of what kind of people they were, we re-enacted key moments or slices of life from their careers to demonstrate their personalties. “That’s really what the film’s about — illustrating what kind of people they were.” For scenes with Klemm, Casper needed a ballpark that could replicate the early 1920s. Ainsworth Field fit the bill. “We chose Erie because it had a great look to it, and No. 2, the people we met there in charge of the field were really excited about it,” Casper said. Glenwood League players donned vintage uniforms to play period ballplayers in the scene. About 100 or so area residents wore period clothing for Ainsworth crowd shots. One long day of shooting in Erie resulted a three-minute scene.

For Hoy’s scenes, Casper shot at the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Rochester, which replicates a 19th-century village, including a ballpark. Hoy’s scenes take place in 1887, when he played for Oshkosh, Wis. Casper said “Signs” leaves it up to audiences to draw their own conclusions about who deserves credit for inventing signs. But it’s clear where his heart lies. He became interested in making the film while working as a TV director and producer at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a federally funded deaf college in Rochester. “I found a group of deaf individuals who were trying to campaign to get their hero Dummy Hoy inducted into the hall of fame based on his career and what he contributed by inventing hand signals. I had never heard of Dummy, so I started reading more about him and the efforts to get him recognized and thought it was an interesting story.” Hoy racked up more than 2,000 career hits and still ranks among baseball’s all-time Top 20 base stealers. He died at age 99 in 1961. He hasn’t made it to Cooperstown yet, but is enshrined in the Cincinnati’s Hall of Fame. Casper said he was too modest to campaign for his own induction. “Hoy was the type of guy who was real humble. He wasn’t the type who was going to go out there and stand on a mountain top and claim credit for everything. He felt, ‘Well, my accomplishments will be recognized.’ That’s not necessarily the way the history books are written.”

“Signs of the Time” also includes interviews with such baseball notables as Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson, Fred Lynn, and Bob Feller. Oscar-winner Dreyfuss adds marquee value and more by narrating. “He played the father of a deaf character in ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus,’ a great role of his. He had experience dealing with a lot of issues in movies, like striking down the barriers of communication and learning sign language — all themes the movie deals with,” Casper said. “So we thought it was a good fit, and apparently he agreed.” Casper and others involved with “Signs of the Time” will attend the Erie premiere. It’s open to everyone — including the deaf. “That’s why we’ve subtitled the movie, so everyone can enjoy the film,” he said.

“Signs of the Time” will be shown Saturday at 7 p.m. during the Spirit Quest Film Fest at the Erie Playhouse, 13 W. 10th St. Admission is $5 at the door. Tickets also available online at

Written by Signs of the Time

September 4, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Press Articles