Filmmaker Sean Menard went from multiple rejections to having superstars Drake and LeBron James back The Carter Effect documentary.
Rewind nearly 20 years to 1998 when a talented, young college star from the University of North Carolina named Vincent Lamar Carter was drafted into the NBA. Arriving in Toronto to play for the then three-year-old Raptors, few could have predicted the legacy he would leave behind, especially in a country not his own.
It’s this legacy that Toronto, Ont. film director and producer Sean Menard sought to bring to life in his documentary film, UNINTERRUPTED’s The Carter Effect, which debuted at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and is executive produced by LeBron James, Drake, Maverick Carter and Adel Future Nur.
Menard says the film was about more than making a “Vince Carter doc” – he wanted his latest project to go beyond the typical bio-pic or documentary.
The inspiration sparked one day as he was looking out the window of his studio space, which overlooked the Air Canada Centre, home of the Raptors.
“It was a year where the Raptors had first made the playoffs in a while. It was before they called it Jurassic Park; it was just this organic thing of fans wanting to come close to the arena even if they didn’t have a ticket,” says Menard. “Of course, you have everything that follows after that, “We the North,” and it became this cultural shift and passion for the game of basketball. And for me, I always like to know, ‘where did it all start, how did we get here?’”
Menard takes viewers to the beginning – the press conference announcing the team would be called the Raptors – and continues from there.
“It takes us all the way through to present day,” he explains. “So, obviously, Vince has a huge impact in taking the franchise from where it was to where it is now.”
“He was wearing the jersey that said Toronto. It just made such an impact, and shined a light on the city…”
At a time when few people outside of the Greater Toronto Area were paying attention to the city, a young man from Daytona Beach put everyone on notice at the turn of a new millennium. It was impossible to turn on a sports broadcast and not see a highlight from the man they called “Air Canada” or “Half man, half amazing.” Youth all over North America started wearing Raptors jerseys with the number 15 on the back and, just like that, it was cool to be from Toronto.
For Menard, it’s those moments of nostalgia that really shed a light on the impact Carter had.
“I mean he got me into the NBA, I was 12 or 13 years old when he came onto the scene and it just brings back a whole lot of nostalgia. It’s like ‘where were you during the dunk competition (2000 NBA All-Star)?’” says Menard.
“It would be different if it was him just wearing Raptors [on the jersey],” he adds, “but he was wearing the jersey that said Toronto. It just made such an impact, and shined a light on the city on a global scale.”
Carter’s impact stretches far beyond the basketball court. Over 30 people can be seen in the film talking about the role he played in their life. From Raptors’ super fan Nav Bhatia, who reportedly hasn’t missed a game in 22 years, to the team’s Global Ambassador, Drake, who credits Carter with convincing him Toronto is a city to be proud of. The film pays homage to one of Toronto’s greatest sports heroes while putting a spotlight on the city itself.
Much like Carter’s time in Toronto not everything went smoothly in making the film. Menard admits when he first pitched the idea he didn’t receive much traction from Canadian media networks. “They took a pass, and I thought it was never going to get made,” he shares.
It’s the classic story of it takes Americans to tell us something is cool before we accept it ourselves. Luckily for him, Maverick Carter, LeBron James’ business partner, and the folks at UNINTERRUPTED, liked his vision for the film. Menard had worked with UNINTERRUPTED previously on his film, Fight Mom.
“I sent them a bunch of pitches and the one they got really excited for was The Carter Effect, which shocked me because I thought this was a very Toronto-centric project. It’s a love letter to the city, to the country and to Canadian basketball, and you have Americans wanting to make this?”
From there the project blossomed. Over 30 interviews later – including candid conversations with Vince Carter himself – the film came to fruition. It’s been praised by many, like TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey, who calls the film, “a hugely entertaining homage to a stunning sports legacy, but it is also a love letter to a world-class, truly multicultural city where dreams can come true.”
The film created quite the buzz at TIFF with screening tickets selling out in no time. Nearly 20 years later, it’s clear the Carter effect still lives on.
Courtesy Photos © UNINTERRUPTED