'Giant Killers' comes to Ashland
Alex Crawford figured the Giant Killers themselves — surviving members of the 1967 Oregon State football team — would probably enjoy his documentary, “The Legend of the Giant Killers.”
But the 25-year-old producer of the film was still blown away when the former Beavers, known for branding each other with colorful nicknames, bestowed upon Crawford and director Riley Hayes their own Giant Killer-esque monikers.
“I’d always wear kind of snazzy blazers to the interviews or to the showings,” Crawford said, “and one of the guys was like, ‘You always look slick so we’re going to call you Slick.’ I was like, ‘OK, I like it.’
“I thought, OK, it’s all been worth it. It was one of those things where I thought no matter what happens, I have a 'Giant Killer' nickname. I never thought I’d have that.”
A labor of love that took two years to make, “The Legend of the Giant Killers” will be screened at Ashland Street Cinemas at 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, the second stop of the film’s five-town tour down I-5. Other showings will be in San Francisco, Corvallis and Seattle. Crawford will be in the audience and will be available to answer questions about the making of the film afterward. Then, for those who want to continue the conversation, it’s off to RedZone Sports Bar & Grill.
Crawford, whose film has already aired on the Pac-12 Network, said Ashland proved to be a good fit and he’s hoping for a full house.
“Ashland came up because I really wanted to screen it somewhere in southern Oregon,” he said. “I feel like the Giant Killers story is an Oregonian story — a team that was reflective of the mindset of the state. It’s a great legend in this state, so I want to take it to as many different places in the state as possible.
“There are connections throughout the state to different players in different parts of this story. Maybe it wasn’t Ashland specifically, but I really wanted to take it to southern Oregon and Ashland is what worked out. I know Ashland likes the arts, Ashland’s got a thing for theater, and even though this is a football film, to me it’s really more of a film about people and so I hope people come out and see the story.”
The Giant Killers did have a few southern Oregon connections. The team’s star fullback, Bill Enyart, grew up in Medford; North Medford High football coach Mike Mitchell was a backup; and Don Summers is a Grants Pass native. Enyart, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, died last year.
Crawford was hoping a few players would attend the screening, but isn’t sure if any can make it.
The 67-minute documentary chronicles one of the most remarkable seasons in Beavers history. It included wins over top-ranked, O.J. Simpson-led Southern Cal and No. 2 Purdue and a tie with No. 2 UCLA. Crawford’s father, Kent, was in Corvallis on Nov. 11, 1967, to watch the Beavers stun USC — it was the first game he attended — and assembled a scrapbook that included the original program from that now legendary 3-0 mud-slogged battle.
Crawford, a sports radio producer in Portland, thought it would make a great documentary and enlisted the help of former high school classmate Hayes, who at the time was shooting music videos. When they decided to go ahead with the project in the fall of 2013, they only had enough funding to cover a handful of local interviews, so they improvised. They turned those few interviews into a concept video, which in turn was used to convince others, including many of the Giant Killers themselves, to support the project financially.
“When we first came to the Giant Killers, they were just like, ‘You seem really gung-ho, but you’re 22 years old and we don’t know who you are and you’re asking us for money,’” Crawford said. “So then when we started the movie … and they were like, ‘OK, these guys are legit,’ and the concept video we made looked really good, let’s do it.”
“Giant Killers” took off from there, although Crawford and Hayes had to continue their fundraising efforts throughout the project, not to mention continue to show up at their day jobs. Slowly but surely, however, they collected interviews, spliced together game footage and audio, and even worked in an original soundtrack from a Portland musician.
By the time they were ready to edit, Crawford and Hayes had interviewed 46 people, with each interview running about an hour and a half — leaving them more than a hundred hours of question-and-answer sessions to hack through.
Matching grainy black and white video with audio clips and trying to turn it all into a cohesive, digestible story was not easy.
“Editing the interviews, looking for a certain answer … it’s just brutal because you’re hearing the same story repeatedly,” Crawford said. “And then the game film is interesting but there’s no audio, so you can get bored quickly if you don’t know what you’re looking for.”
Crawford was nervous heading into the first public showing last fall. Most of the Giant Killers and their families were scheduled to attend and, until then, the closest thing to a viewing party for the film was Crawford and a few friends huddling around his computer. What if he misspelled somebody’s name? What if the projector failed?
His fears proved unfounded, however. After the lights went down, “Giant Killers” was a smash hit.
“It didn’t really hit me until that night we all watched it at the Academy Theater here in Portland,” he said. “I watched it with the Giant Killers players and families and I saw people enthralled with what was on screen, I saw players crying, I saw people cheering, I saw the players laughing at things I hoped they would laugh at.
“I knew it was good, but I didn’t feel proud of it until that moment. I was happy with it but I had to see how it was received.”
Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.