Directed by Sean McNamara, The Miracle Season tells the story of young Caroline Found—or ‘Line’ as she nicknamed herself. The captain of the Iowa City West High School, ‘Line’ (Danika Yarosh) is vivacious and life-loving. However, when she is in a tragic accident leaves her team, school and her father, Ernie (Oscar winner William Hurt) heartbroken, the team must pull together to support one another through the most difficult of times.
Having captivated the nation, the story of Caroline Found is filled with both heartbreak and triumph and, as a result, seems like a story that is well worth telling on the big screen. However, according to Caroline’s father, Ernie Found, the decision to move forward with the film was not an easy one.
“It all started out when Cathy Bresnahan (the coach) wrote a letter to Frank Deford at the end of the season. He was the chief editor for Sports illustrated for many, many years and works with Real Sports with Brian Gumbel at HBO. Cathy wrote him a letter and it caught his eye, my guess is because he lost his daughter to cystic fibrosis when she was 8 or 9 years old. He came up with a crew—and it was an absolute joy to be with Frank—and he put together a little 13-15 minute clip for HBO called ‘Live Like Line’. (laughs) The problem is that he did too darn good a job with it because it then attracted feature movie people to say maybe they can turn it into a full feature.”
“Over the next 3-4 weeks, we had several movie people fly out to us and would talk to us about it. It was just not… well, part of it was the timing, part of it was the potential grandeur of Hollywood was more than what we were ready for and what our hearts and souls could tolerate. So, we kindly said no. Then, some time went by and Albi entertainment had kept in touch a little bit. Then, they got a hold of David Aaron Cohen and asked if we could meet with him. He had done Friday Night Lights. As we expressed our concerns, David really understood them. We could tell that his heart was in the right place. He said ‘I promise you that I will do all I can to keep this true and not let Hollywood invade.’ We started to develop a little bit of trust with him and director Sean McNamara. Then, the more we pondered things, we realized there really is no female sports team-type movie available, recently anyways. This was an opportunity for that. So, we decided to get the ball rolling. Then, when they started hiring Helen Hunt (who plays Coach Bresnahan), it was like ‘Woah, I guess this really is happening.’”
With this in mind, Found further explains that bringing their story to life required a great deal of trust between himself and those involved in the film. Thankfully, Found believes that everyone involved gained his respect through their honesty and earnestness.
“Trust was a huge part of it, not only for empowering Caroline and my wife but for my son, my daughter, Catherine, and all of the teammates and community,” he says. “We were allowing another unknown entity to kind of dig into all of that. But, you know, it all boiled down to those who were in charge looking us in the eye. We could sense true honesty [in them] and felt that they would go ahead and do the right thing for us. Still, until you see the movie for the first time, there’s still that question of whether or not we did the right thing, not only how are we going to be looked at but also will we regret this in the long run. Still, it was just spending time with people and beginning to feel comfortable and trusting each other.”
Encouraged by the sincerity of those involved in the development of the film, Found was also pleased that they opted to focus the story on the team’s emotional journey, as opposed to their victory on the court.
“The theme [of the film] was not whether or not they won the championship because that was never an important part of it, he explains. “When they said that they wanted to go ahead that year and band together, the theme was ‘Let’s do this thing for Caroline’. One of the things we tried to convince them otherwise was that we didn’t need to do this ‘for Caroline’. We need to do it with her in mind but for ourselves and our own well-being, as we continue on together. That’s going to be the most important thing. Whether we won 0 games or 150, it really didn’t matter. It was about making positive steps together and realizing that goodness can come from sharing and loving each other.”
In light of this, one area where Found struggled with this adaptation of his family’s journey came through the film’s representation of his battle with faith. Though Miracle depicts him as wrestling with God over the death of his daughter, Found contends that what actually happened was quite different.
“I would have to say that that the wrestling [with my faith] in the movie was a little bit Hollywood-ized,” he argues. “When I
first read that portion of the script, I felt very unsettled because I never really felt strongly that way. The only reason I kinda went along with it is because they do resolve it later on in the movie and I realized that part of movie-making is point/counter-point. As long as it was resolved, it was okay but, frankly, I never felt anger towards a Heavenly Being. I never said ‘Why? Why? Why?’ Or, if I did, I never did so expecting an answer because there is no real answer. The harder you try to look for an answer or a justification, you become more confused. So, I was never really angry because who are we to question many things? There are no direct answers many times. It’s only through knowing that others are there and spirits are there and trusting, sharing and weeping with others that things can move forward. It’s never a completed process. We’re here for a short period of time and we never know what’s going to happen. You just need to put your heart in the right place and it’ll be okay.”
Of course, one of the key moments in the film is the success of the now-famous ‘Live Like Line’ campaign. Reminding people of the heart of young Caroline Found, the phrase quickly caught on amongst the population, the success of which actually surprised Found.
“Every time I’d see someone with a ‘Live Like Line’ shirt downtown or wherever, it was kind of a shock to me a little bit. It just sort of evolved. It’s not something that anybody really propagated or promoted. I mean, sure, there were some shirts and bumper stickers that were made but it just kind of caught like wildfire. It was a battle cry where people felt comforted but it also [helped to] continue her a little bit. You know, keep her spirit alive in some way shape of form. It was started by a couple of her classmates after her accident. It just kind of got going.”
When asked what he hopes people experience from the film, Found expresses his desire for the audience to feel empowered and encouraged in the midst of adversity.
“I hope that they—particularly young women—can feel strength, fortitude and be empowered to move forward,” he states. “Life isn’t fair. [It] kicks you in the teeth real hard but you have choices to make. Choosing to run away or be isolated or denying is just not going to be best in the long run. It’s only through coming together and putting your trust and faith in others and sharing hearts that something good can come of it. Again, it’s not necessarily winning a tournament or anything. It’s being able to allow your heart to feel and help others along the way. In helping others, you’re helped in the long run.”
The Miracle Season is in theatres now.