Residents from around Wisconsin and several University of Wisconsin-Madison alumni showcase true fandom in the new comedy, “The 60 Yard Line.”
The film was directed by Leif Gantvoort and written and executively produced by Ryan Churchill and Nick Greco. Inspired by a true story, main character Ben “Zagger” Zagowski practically bleeds green and yellow. Zagger is played by Churchill, who is joined by Greco playing the best friend, co-worker and Bears fan, Nick Polano.
Amanda Veith, a UW alumni, has produced several short films and a couple features in Los Angeles, but moved back to Wisconsin for family stability. Back in California, she was put into touch with Churchill and Greco through her previous agency. From there, the connection flourished into a movie both equally hilarious and relatable.
The movie is essentially based on a Packers super fan’s experience during the 2009 season, in which he trades financial stability for extreme fandom. Zagger’s new and treasured home is practically in Lambeau Field’s parking lot. While this may seem ideal for game days and the hoopla that accompanies festivities in Green Bay, the movie delivers an ultimate lesson that there is a line between having fun and losing valuable aspects of one’s life.
Zagger comes alive through the combining of several original characters. Real life friends, who all are involved with the buying of the infamous home, were consolidated into one character for script formatting purposes, and to make the story more distinct, Churchill said. Since Churchill and Greco co-wrote the script, the plot is as realistic as possible.
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Conflict arises when the Bears fan, Polano, comes into the plot. He not only becomes a conflict in football interests, but also one in stability and responsibility. Polano’s main role is to convince Zagger to leave his party life in the past, since it has been causing trouble in relationships, Greco said.
Greco describes his main role throughout the movie as “[encouraging] Zagger to leave his party life” which has been “[leading] him into some trouble with his relationships and work.”
“This creates a fun conflict because Zagger, who is a huge Packer fan, but yet his best friend and co-worker is a huge Bears fan,” Churchill said. This relationship is something very similar to relationships at University of Wisconsin. Veith would also like to emphasize this aspect of the relationship as Greco is from Naperville, Illinois, and is truly a die-hard Bears fan, thus making this role not too far from home for Greco and UW students.
While the camaraderie can be fun at times, Polano is essentially there to draw the line between fandom and obsession. Purchasing the “60 Yard Line” house seemed like an ingenious idea for any super fan. However, there does not seem to be enough financial stability for Zagger. Zagger’s girlfriend, Amy Etzman, played by Kim Crossman, is also there to help find this balance.
“Amy is forcing Zagger to find a balance and he won’t find a balance,” Churchill said.
The conflict between Amy and Zagger seems to be the central conflict of the movie as although she loves the Packers, she is able to find the healthy balance while Zagger seems too stubborn to do so.
Within and beyond the conflict, a strong female role is present throughout the entire movie. Churchill and Greco worked very diligently to create this role, as more often than not “the female characters get written as lower status, ‘damsels in distress’, and we just did not want to do that,” Churchill said.
This stems from a variety of reasons, one of which being it not being very accurate any more. Further, Churchill states that in many of the crew’s personal lives, “the female characters…are all the bread winners and the stronger roles.” Churchill and Greco state that writing multiple strong female roles was not difficult because it was a lot of what they had already known.
Churchill emphasizes that Amy is a “smart [woman] with a high paying job” and is the one who worked to get Zagger started with a stable job and begin his transition out of the 60 Yard Line home. In addition to this, Zagger’s younger sister Debbie, played by Jacquelyn Zook, is the “smarter, younger sister” and also working to help Zagger.
Most important, however, is Zagger’s mom, Linda Zagowski, played by Mindy Sterling. As the owner and fuel behind the family welding company, Linda not only provides financial stability, but is the “leading brains and emotional steering wheel behind the entire film,” Veith said. Like before, this female role is strikingly similar to Churchill’s personal life as his mother owns her own beauty salon and has supported the family for years now.
With this powerful female presence, Veith believes that “[her] female friends are going to love this film.” With the “bromance” and comedic aspects appealing to many men, the “strong female lead contingency throughout the film” will attract many beyond the stereotypical crowd.
To add more excitement to the movie, former Packers players John Kuhn, Michael Montgomery, Ahman Green and a few more will also be featured in the story.
While having guests like these is great, “at the end of the day…it’s just a good, funny film,” Churchill said. Winning Gest Comedy at the Los Angeles Film Festival and many Jurys at the Wisconsin Film Festival, this film does not need much more evidence to its humor and greatness.
To top off that greatness, the cast and crew have been organizing many different screenings and premiere parties. While many have already occurred, September 12th begins a month-long tour or premiere screenings, traveling to cities such as Madison, Milwaukee, La Crosse and others throughout the month.
While the movie is being played at select theaters everywhere, a screening is currently being organized with the university, enabling students to be able to see the film at Union South sometime this fall.