Digital content studio Banner helped the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate hockey and empowerment in an 18-minute film about Kendall Coyne titled, As Fast as Her, which premieres today on the Blackhawks webste.
Kendall Coyne became something of international celebrity by placing seventh in the Bridgestone Fastest Skater event during the NHL Skills Competition last year. The first woman to compete in the race, she beat Arizona Coyotes left wing Clayton Keller along the way. An impressive feat, no doubt; but it wasn’t like she won the Olympics or anything.
That was a victory she scored in 2018 as captain of the US women’s hockey team during the Winter Games in South Korea.
Coyne has been shattering the notion that women aren’t supposed to play hockey since she began attending the Blackhawks Youth Hockey Program when she was six years old. Now she inspires young athletes to follow in her footsteps as a coach for the organization.
Besides the Blackhawks, her effort to become one of the greatest athletes in American history was supported by her parents and 1998 Women’s ice hockey gold medalist Cammi Granato.
Two of the people who helped make As Fast as Her are also big time fans. Video Manager Blackhawks Eric Lear, who produced the film, says that the idea was “something we had in the works for a long time.” Banner Senior Production Specialist Spencer Wehde, who directed and edited, describes Kendall Coyne as “the most down-to-earth person that I have ever met.”
Here, in a Reel Chicago exclusive, Lear and Wehde offer several more behind-the-scenes insights into the making of As Fast as Her.
AS FAST AS HER | CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
How excited were you guys to work on this film?
EL: Very excited. It was something we had in the works for a long time, at least ruminating in our brains. We’re incredibly excited now to share it with the world.
SW: Super excited. It was a really, really awesome opportunity and something a little bit different than what we do for the Blackhawks and something that I was interested in.
Where did the title come from and what does it mean?
EL: We were bouncing around some different ideas over the course of a couple weeks. We had the intro cut and we were reviewing it to get the ball rolling. I watched it like ten times because I was so excited, and then it just hit me. She was getting all this feedback from boys and girls around the world, and one of them said, ‘I want to be as fast as her.’ It’s all about her being a role model and someone who kids could look up to from around the world.
SW: That’s kind of what started this whole project. So many young kids, boys and girls, reached out to her and they said they wanted to be as fast as her.
What was the initial concept, how did it evolve?
EL: It definitely changed over the course of a couple years. This is under the umbrella of our Blackhawks Originals features, which are long-form content, short documentary kind of storytelling. I’m always looking for stories and people to profile. Kendall — being a native Chicagoan and an all-star gold medalist and being involved in our youth hockey camps at Fifth Third Arena — I thought would be a great person to profile.
SW: Eric came up with the idea of doing this as a Blackhawks Original over a year ago. We didn’t know what direction it would go in. We had done a few of these pieces on other Blackhawks, but this one was kind of different. In January, when she was the first woman to compete in the All Star Skills competition, we got the ball rolling and started production in April.
What makes Kendall’s story so compelling?
EL: All that she’s accomplished and also the fact that she really wants to give back to the community. And this all happened before she competed in the All Star Skills Competition last year. The story in mine and Spencer’s heads kind of completely changed last year with that. She was the first woman to compete in the Skills Competition and that catapulted her to an international level. She started to do a lot of television appearances and speaking engagements. We still had the role model component — being an Olympian, that’s something not a lot of people can say. She’s one of the best hockey players in the world. Period.
SW: She’s from Chicago originally. I think she started in 2013 doing events with the Blackhawks hockey program. It was a way for the program to get a female involved, which is really cool. Besides focusing on the team, one of her missions in life is to be a role model and change the game for young girls, giving them an opportunity. She went through a lot and met Cammie, who is also from Chicago, when she was five or six years old. Cammie won a gold in 1998. She hosted a youth camp that Kendall attended when she was six. That’s when she realized that boys win Stanley cups and girls win gold medals. That sparked a lot of interest for her and helped her achieve what she wanted to achieve over the past 27 years.
What else makes Kendall worth watching?
EL: She’s great. She’s an absolute pleasure to work with, a world-class hockey player, but also a great person. When you’re following someone around with a camera for a year, that’s a great quality to have. The family was incredible, mom and dad and we got to know her sister as well, great people who were helpful throughout the process. Their interviews were great and they helped us track down a lot of footage, from being a kid skating in the Blackhawks program all the way through college. A big reason for us doing this piece is how involved she is with the Blackhawks organization and being a coach at the Blackhawks Youth Hockey Programs at Fifth Third Arena. It’s a huge boost for us to have someone of her stature involved with the programs.
SW: Kendall is the most down-to-earth person that I have ever met. She was the best person I ever worked with. She made our jobs easy because she’s used to having cameras on her. She’s got a great personality and she’s always willing to do whatever needs to be done. Her family was so, so supportive. She grew up in Palos. Her parents are local. That was really easy for us to stay in contact with them. I don’t think you would meet nicer people. Her husband is Michael Scoffield, who is an offensive lineman for the Chargers. He’s in it as well and also could not have been nicer.
“My mission in this game is to leave the game better than it was. Because that’s more meaningful than winning a gold medal. It’s watching those young girls win their gold medals.”
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) January 21, 2020
What kind of hockey player is Kendall Coyne?
EL: Obviously, speed. If not the fastest, she’s one of the fastest hockey players in the world. She’s an offensive player. She’s a distributor, kind of a playmaker, for sure. SW: Speed is one of the things she is known for. There were eight men in the Bridgestone Fastest Skater skills competition and she beat a few of them.
What did you learn about Kendall during production?
EL: I think it’s just learning all that she has gone through to get where she is. I was not aware of all the struggles of playing a male-dominated support, especially playing as a kid. It really opened my eyes as to why this piece is important for them and to know that there are examples for them. Billie Jean King has a great line that Kendall quotes all the time: if you can see it, you can be it. Hopefully, this shows young kids that there is a role model for them. If you work through it and battle through the lows, you could be the next Kendall Coyne.
SW: Hearing about her past experiences and everything she’s gone through to get where she is today. It wasn’t all rainbows coming up for her, or Cammie. Yes, a lot has changed since the 90s; but we still have a long way to go. Hearing those stories from her was really impactful. It makes the piece what it is. The rewards and payoff that she has now is even more incredible knowing what she went through to get there.
What were the greatest technical challenges of the job?
EL: I think just narrowing it down. We had so much great content that it’s tough to trim it down and do a shorter piece. Combing through hours of footage and trying to tell the best story properly. We shot so much. We have terabytes of stuff.
SW: It was a lot of fly on the wall moments and, really, only two or three of the shoots were structured. Shooting in situations that we really couldn’t control gave us a lot of things that we didn’t know we would get. Our A-cam for interviews was a Canon C300 Mark II. The B-cam was a Sony a7S. For the opening and back half we shot a lot of beauty shots on the ice and recreated the lap that she did for the All-Star Competition. Our co-worker Ryan was huge in lighting the interview setup and the arena setup. For the arena we only used one large source of light. We wanted it to be relatively dramatic, but not too much. We also mounted the Sony on a mobile rig so our coworker, Ben, who is a hockey player himself, could skate around the ice with it. Another one of our coworkers was flying a drone in the arena. There is a lot of source footage from broadcast, and her family was incredible in providing archives. We have footage of her skating at the United Center when she was six years old with full audio and everything. That was a huge asset to have. I think we had 12 interviews altogether. We probably had six or seven hours worth of stuff and it all got cut down to 18 minutes.
How is this going to help young female athletes?
EL: I hope that it can serve as an inspiration. Kendall’s a young woman, just like they are. Having that attainable — someone who’s around, someone who’s done it — if they want to pursue hockey, get to the next level, and win a gold medal, they can do it.
SW: The film is coming from the Blackhawks, and we’re only used to seeing their own players. They are backing a female athlete, and they have a huge audience. Kendall‘s a kid from Chicago who made it and she worked really, really hard to get there, and young athletes can follow in her example.
“As Fast as Her” premieres today at noon. To check it out, click on this.
Client: Chicago Blackhawks
Director: Spencer Wehde
Producer: Eric Lear, Adam Kempenaar
Editor: Spencer Wehde
Ben Sabal, Paul Nero, Grace Aldrich, Justin Zipser
Lighting Design: Ryan Linich
Graphic Design: Sean Grady
Motion Graphic Design: Matea Lo
Color: Julien Biard, Carbon VFX
Send your film news to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, firstname.lastname@example.org.