Ben Proudfoot (‘The Queen of Basketball’) describes finding a treasure trove of Lucy Harris footage at Delta State [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

When Ben Proudfoot started putting together his Oscar-nominated short documentary, “The Queen of Basketball,” about Lusia “Lucy” Harris, he had a hard time tracking down footage of Harris. He went to Delta State University to look at the one reel of footage they had of her playing. “I said to the archivist, ‘You’re sure this is all there is? I mean, it doesn’t make any sense, right? She’s like the star. And she said, ‘Oh, there’s more,’” he tells Gold Derby during our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above). The archivist took him to a vault and he found a treasure trove in the vault’s back corner. “In that back corner was 15,000 feet of 16 millimeter film, tens of thousands of pristine negatives, every single newspaper clipping imaginable. And it was just this treasure that lay in waiting for almost 50 years.”

“The Queen of Basketball” explores the endeavors of Harris who played college basketball for Delta State from 1973-1977. She helped lead the team to three consecutive AIAW championships, was the first person to score in a women’s Olympic basketball game and was the first woman to be drafted by an NBA team. This marks Proudfoot’s second consecutive Oscar nomination in this category. Last year he was nominated, along with Kris Bowers, for “A Concerto is a Conversation.”

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Proudfoot first became aware of Harris from one of his colleagues who understood the kind of things that fascinated him. “I had been eternally interested in stories where if history had gone slightly differently, we may well know this person as a household name, but we don’t.” He was astounded at her accomplishments but surprised that he wasn’t able to find much footage or information about her. Contacting her, on the other hand, proved very easy. “I started looking into it and I talked to her on the phone the next day. I couldn’t believe that she was so accessible and that there wasn’t 10 documentaries about her.”

Proudfoot found there were some striking similarities in getting nominated for this film and receiving a nomination last year for “Concerto.” “This is a beautiful experience. It’s not unlike “Concerto” in that this film is about them. You know, it’s about them getting their moment and their flowers and their appreciation.” However, the nomination had a bittersweet feel to it, as Lucy passed away three weeks before the nominations came out. “I just had pictured and hoped for Lucy to be on the red carpet. There was something really poignant and left the lump in my throat that she wouldn’t get to see it.”

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