Kevin Durant’s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors last summer shocked the basketball world. In a letter published on the Players Tribune on July 4th, 2016, Durant expressed he was leaving the franchise he spent the last nine years with to head west and join the Warriors.
The move left many wondering why someone would join a team that just eliminated them in the playoffs. After the move, Durant received all sorts of backlash online, in person and on national television.
With a team of talent that is something that would’ve been ideal in NBA 2K, Durant in a Dubs jersey was reality. Inserting Durant into the Warriors’ lineup instantly made them the favorites to win the NBA Finals, allowing KD to be a step closer to what he’s been dreaming of his whole life: an NBA championship.
Last night, Nike Basketball hosted the premiere of Still KD at the London West Hotel in Los Angeles. The film, which is exactly 35 minutes and 35 seconds long, follows Durant after making his decision to play for the Warriors, giving viewers an in-depth look to understand KD off the court after leaving Oklahoma City, and the journey—both good and bad—throughout the 2016-17 season leading up to being named a champion and Finals MVP.
We caught up with Brandon Loper, director of Still KD, about the process of making the film, working with KD, the 35:35 time limit and more.
SLAM: What was the whole process like while filming Still KD?
Brandon Loper: First off, it’s a dream come true project for me. I’m a basketball fan—huge sports fan—and when this project came up, I wanted to do this and that, but they said it was going to be a bit different. He’s the best basketball player in the world, so you kind of have to have some limitations to what you want to do and how you want to treat it. We found a way to approach it where we can still get the access we needed and tell the story that I and the team wanted to keep him focused on winning the championship.
SLAM: Given the access throughout the season, what was something you realized about Kevin that’s different from watching him on TV?
BL: Seeing him be so great on TV and as a fan, you realize that he puts in a lot of work. But when you really get that access and you’re filming him every single day, you see how much work he’s putting in. That’s his goal in life—to be a great basketball player and human being, so you really get to see that whereas on the other side you see him score a lot of points, but to see him work that hard is impressive and inspiring.
SLAM: Did he have any input in it or was he too busy with the season to really pick and choose what he liked and disliked?
BL: Yeah, we were presenting things a long the way. Part of the process was we were doing some episodic content leading up to it, and we’re showing him footage, there’d be interview questions we’d send him or I’d text my camera guy about what we wanted to do. He had glimpses of what we wanted and I laid out what I wanted to do, but with documentaries, things change. I wanted more drama, but they didn’t lose a game till the Finals so we had to roll with that. Towards the end, he got to see it and we talked about music, had a one-on-one and talked about things he liked and didn’t like. Overall, from the first feedback he gave, he was really digging it. And I think it’s ‘cause we spent a lot of time on researching what he likes. I just approached it in a way that I wanted to work really hard and make it the best as possible to tell his story.
SLAM: What would you say was the hardest part about directing the film?
BL: The hardest part was finding a structure. I had to tell these two parallels of who he was as a person, where he came from, where’s he going—these deep most intimate parts—but also, structurally, we were trying to tell the story about the championship. That was the hard thing—the structure. But I think we landed at a good place and it keeps you engaged where it’s bouncing back and forth from the personal stories to the playoffs.
SLAM: How did the whole 35:35 concept happen?
BL: The whole time that we had been talking, no one really gave me a limit on the film whether it’s a commercial being a 30- or 60-second spot. With films, it needs to be 65 or 70 minutes plus to be considered a feature. For this, there wasn’t really talk about an exact length. I had the idea of it needing to be 35 minutes, but it got to a point where we needed credits, so it’s 35:35 with credits. I really wanted that to be a strong concept that came through because the story of 35 means a lot to him and I wanted to respect and pay homage to that in running time.
SLAM: Any other basketball films in the works?
BL: I don’t have any other basketball-related films in the works. I’ve always wanted to work on sports projects. My goal in life as a kid was to make the Alabama Crimson Tide highlight video for the football team. I’ve made documentaries about coffee, commercials, shorter documentaries about musicians and things like that, but as far as sports documentaries go, this is the pinnacle.
Drew Ruiz is a contributor to SLAM. Follow him @DrewRuiz90.