On Thursday, April 17, Director Michael Rapaport (a life long New York Knicks fan), Producer Jason Bergh, Executive Producer Doug Ellin, all gathered to celebrate their new ESPN Sports documentary "When The Garden Was Eden" at BMCC. Based on Harvey Araton's book with the same title, the film takes viewers on a journey through the Knicks' rise to greatness. Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Phil Jackson, Red Holzman, Dave DeBusschere, Jerry Lucas, and many more stars from the Knicks’ championship years are featured on the film.
We spoke with Producer Jason Bergh.
How did the film come about?
It came about from Harvey Araton, who is a journalist from the New York Times, and he wrote a book called "When the Garden was Eden," and it was loosely based on that book.
How did the book come to you?
Doug Ellin, creator of "Entourage," and Jim Lefkowitz brought it Mike. Mike then went to ESPN and ESPN funded it as a part of their 30 for 30 series, it’s pretty much a dream come true to get paid to make a movie, sponsored by the greatest sports network on the planet.
Tell me about collaborating with Michael Rapaport?
He's like my best friend, so it was easy, just friends, having a good time, got paid travel and interview our heroes.
As a producer what was the process like?
Its long, it’s a year and a half, you interview a ton of people and not everyone makes it into the movie, and it’s good but the real craziness comes the last three weeks before Tribeca deadline, we're in the studio for 20 hours a day, it’s getting heated and it’s fun, but it definitely gets a little crazy.
What was the coolest interview you got to be a part of?
I think going down to see Willis Reed at his house was pretty powerful, he's the captain, he was the leader of the team. He had that incredible moment when he came out injured, so to hear about it your whole life, and read about it and then to meet this guy, who was this powerful force of nature was just incredible. It felt really good.
Production-wise what do you have coming up next?
I think Mike and I are really liking these 30 for 30s so I think I might have another hopefully.
We also spoke with Doug Ellin.
How did you get involved to be a producer?
This guy over here gave me the book and said it’s something I should direct and I thought Michael Rapaport would just be the greatest guy to do it - city kid who grew up a Knicks fan that had that kind of personality and presence in front of the camera that I don't have, so I thought it was a great match.
Tell me what do you admire about Michael?
Everything about him. Michael's just got a passion and a zest for life in sports in particular, and it’s fantastic.
Who are your favorite Knicks players of all time?
Well Bernard King is my favorite of all time, who I put in "Entourage," I put him in the pilot, I put Turtle in the Bernard King jersey to start with, but Bernard is my favorite but I love so many of these guys, from obscure Ray Williams and Glen Gondrezick to these guys who I didn't really get to see play, but the legend of what they were has been in my childhood for so long. So I'm excited to be here with them.
What can fans expect from "Entourage" the movie?
Just a good time at the movie theaters, it's going to be fun. A fun ride.
Director Michael Rapaport spoke about being in the festival.
What were some of your favorite De Niro films?
There are so many, "The Godfather," "Taxi Driver," "Mean Streets," "Raging Bull," "King of Comedy."
What do you love about Tribeca Film Festival?
It's such a great film festival, such a great idea … It started for such a pure good reason and now it has manifested into one of the premiere film festivals, and it’s here in New York, and he’s kept it New York, and I just think it's great. I'm just honored to be here with a film, to just be a part of it, it means so much to me ... Being here in New York at the Tribeca Film Festival, doing a movie about the New York Knicks and the golden era of the New York Knicks, it just is a privilege ... It doesn't get anymore New York, just get some hot dogs and some hero sandwiches and it'll be really good.
Tell us about the inspiration for the film?
It's an iconic team, with iconic personalities, in a great time in New York, in a very interesting, challenging, tumultuous time in the country.
What was your favorite moment in the shoot?
To be honest, my favorite moment in the shoot was finishing it, but just meeting all the players and getting to talk to them, and spending time with them was very exciting ... Sports is so important in New York, our fans are passionate and loyal and we love our teams.
The after party, sponsored by Mohegan Sun, was a scene taken straight from the documentary with legendary former Knicks players Earl Monroe and former Knick coach Phil Jackson. Guests in attendance included Michael Rapaport, Jemel Harris, Earle Monroe, Phil Jackson, Doug Ellin and Cari Champion. The event was held at Hudson Terrace.