For Katie Denison, the project was personal.
Moved by the sudden death of a newly-minted college football coach at her alma mater, Denison and business partner Eric Zornes set out on a mission to capture on video how the team would overcome the loss of their leader.
Born from the emotional rubble was “Dream Season,” the story of the 2011 Northwest Missouri Bearcats football team, that in the summer of 2011, was faced with the sudden passing of newly-promoted head coach Scott Bostwick.
Bostwick had just replaced the retiring Mel Tjeerdsma, a charismatic and charming coach who led the Bearcats from bottom of the barrel in the mid-1990s to an annual powerhouse on the Division II level.
Tjeerdsma, now 66, won three NCAA Division II national championships at Northwest Missouri before announcing his retirement in December 2010.
“Northwest football is big in Maryville,” said Denison, a 2005 graduate of Lee’s Summit High School and a 2009 graduate of Northwest Missouri. Denison and Zornes, also a Northwest alum, run Kansas City-based production company Mile Marker 8 Productions. “Eric and I both went to Northwest so of course it kind of has a special place in our hearts. Especially Northwest football because we both worked for the TV station. Northwest football is Maryville, essentially.
“We were really sad when we got word the Coach Tjeerdsma had retired, but we were really excited when Scott Bostwick was promoted. After his sudden passing we just both felt the pull to tell that story because we knew how important (Bostwick) was to the community. We knew it was going to be a real emotional journey for the team that year, so we just kind of went after it.”
Shortly after Bostwick’s death, Denison and Zornes approached Bostwick’s successor, Adam Dorrel, about making the film. Dorrel, a Maryville native and also alum of the school, was all in. Soon after, the wheels were set in motion for a documentary that culminated the week of Aug. 5 with Mile Marker 8’s nomination for a Mid-America Chapter Regional Emmy award for cultural documentary.
“That was the most important part,” Denison said of Dorrel’s approval “We contacted Coach Dorrel ourselves and he agreed to meet with us. We honestly thought we were going to go in there – who would say yes during a time like? We knew that it would take a lot of trust in someone and he seemed open to it and we were really excited. He helped us get in contact with the Bostwick family so that they could give their approval as well.”
“Dream Season,” produced by Mile Marker 8 Productions in association with Niles Media Group, premiered Aug. 25th of last year at the Hangar movie theatre in Maryville. Other than DVD sales distributed nationwide through the film’s website, and an airing on a local television station in Maryville this past spring, Denison and Zornes didn’t spend too much time promoting the film. Because of that, the regional Emmy award nomination was a total shock to both, Denison said.
“We didn’t think that was actually going to happen, so that was an actual surprise for us,” she said. “We started (filming) in August of 2011 and we didn’t finish production of the movie until February of 2012. We followed them throughout the season then we had a whole bunch of interviews and everything we had to do after that...we received positive feedback from the community obviously, but we just didn’t realize, I don’t know, it was critically better than we realize.
“Other than selling the DVD online, we really haven’t done much other than the premiere. The Emmy nomination was sort of a big surprise for us. I think the nomination is kind of a nice cap to this whole journey.”