Fort Worth has much to offer the film industry, and Rob Smat took advantage. He shot a large chunk of The Last Whistle here in town, perhaps maybe where you’re reading this right now. His film opens this Friday on digital and in Dallas at the Studio Movie Grill.
Tell us your history with Fort Worth and why you wanted to come back and shoot your debut film here.
I attended school at Holy Family for my younger years, and then All Saints’ Episcopal after that, where parts of The Last Whistle were filmed. I played football on the championship team there. After 15 years here, I went to Los Angeles for film school. There are many things about Los Angeles that make it the movie capital of the world, but a warm welcome for indie filmmakers is not one! Knowing that this production would be so challenging, I wanted to produce the project in a city that would be as excited as I was.
The film centers on Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), which we hear about in the news a fair amount.
A news story had just come out about a high schooler dying during a freak sports accident, and while that one wasn’t SCA-related, I thought back to all the times I had seen that in the news. The more research I did on the subject, the more I found that it was common and across all sports too. I had my premise.
You got a unique number of people involved in the film, one being football coaching legend Les Miles.
I was barely moving in L.A. traffic, and I answered a call from an unknown number. When the voice on the line led off with “Les Miles,” the name rang a bell, but I couldn’t figure out how. And then I was flashing back to Christmas in Amite City, Louisiana, at Mee Mee and Paw Paw’s house. Chants of “Geaux Tigers!” rang through the hallways year after year. All I could say was, “I’ll do anything to make this happen.” Les returned after his scenes were done to work with Brad [Leland, who stars in the film as a head coach] to make the coaching realistic.
Pat Green composed an original song for the film. What was the process of getting him on board to do this?
Pat and I had a mutual connection in All Saints, so that was our starting point. He was concerned — knowing that the film was about an injury — that his style might be too upbeat for it, but when he saw that the film really was about a damaged man yearning for a solution, he took it and ran.
The Last Whistle had its world premiere at Lone Star Film Festival. What’s it like watching your movie with an audience in your hometown?
Premiering at Lone Star was perfect. We chose to premiere in Fort Worth over submitting to the big film festivals like Sundance or SXSW, which would risk delaying our release until 2020. I wanted to kick off this debut with our Metroplex family, who made it possible in the first place, rather than send it off to a remote audience.