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LOVE AND BASKETBALL

About The Game
Director and screenwriter Gina Prince-Bythewood wrote the original screenplay for Love and Basketball while taking a sabbatical from her six years of writing various television series, including "A Different World," "South Central," and "Felicity."

"I had been saying for some time 'I really want to direct' and 'I'll write a feature screenplay in my off-hours,"' says Prince-Bythewood, who won an Emmy nomination for writing and directing the CBS School Break Special "What About Your Friends." 'The problem was, there aren't any off hours in television. It was scary to take time off to write a screenplay, but I realized that no one was going to just hand me a movie to direct."

When she sat down to begin the screenplay in 1996, she knew she wanted to write a love story about young African Americans. She also knew that she wanted to do a film about women and basketball.

Prince-Bythewood has always been an all-around athlete, lettering in six sports in high school. She would have played basketball in college had she been recruited by UCLA, but she studied film instead. While at UCLA she received the Ray Stark Memorial Scholarship and the Gene Reynolds Scholarship for Directing for her 16mm thesis film, Stitches. She also found time to run track, making it to the PAC 10 championships in triple jump during her sophomore year.

'There's been such a stigma attached to women's sports. It really wasn't until the WNBA, and this year with the Women's World Cup Soccer Team, that women were taken seriously," says Prince-Bythewood, who still plays in LA municipal basketball leagues.

"Some people just don't think women can play ball. I wanted to put it out there that we can, and I used that as a backdrop for a love story about two people trying to achieve their dreams without losing each other."

Prince-Bythewood actually turned down offers for development deals sparked by an early draft of Love and Basketball because they came with suggestions that she preferred not to adapt. Energized by a week of mentoring from seasoned pros at the Sundance Institute's prestigious Writers Lab, she reworked the script but continued to say no to producers until she had done a reading at the Institute's Directors Lab.

"I didn't want people telling me what to do," she explains, "because it was so clear in my mind what I wanted this film to be. After the reading more producers got interested, so there was this great bidding thing."

Among those in attendance at the Sundance reading was Sam Kitt, president of production at Spike Lee's 40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks. At the time, Lee and Kitt were preparing to expand the scope of film projects produced by the company and were actively looking for new material.

"I had read an early version of Gina's script and told her my ideas," recalls Kitt. 'Then when I attended the reading at Sundance, I loved it — it's a very modem story about romance at a time when women are able to pursue their careers and their passions the same way men do."

'When she was really ready to go out to producers, we were already in the loop and we were fortunate enough to find Mike De Luca (President of Production) at New Line, who felt strongly about it, too."

Recalls the director: "When I walked in the room with New Line, one of the first things they said was, 'When do you want to shoot it?' There was no question who I was going to go with after a meeting like that!"

Lee and Kitt brought in Andrew Z. Davis, who previously produced the blockbusters Enemy of the State and Volcano, to executive produce Love and Basketball. "Gina is incredibly confident," observes Davis. "I think that's because she really understands this ma

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