Q&A: Director Kevin Connolly on ‘Big Shot’

In 1996, the once-dominant New York Islanders were in serious trouble. Then along came a Dallas businessman named John Spano, who swooped in and agreed to buy the team for $165 million. Things began to look up for the Islanders—way up. But it was all smoke and mirrors. Big Shot goes inside an extraordinary scandal that engulfed the Islanders. Featuring the only interview Spano has ever given about the Islanders deal, this film is an unforgettable tale of a dream that became a lie—and how a scam of such epic proportions initially went undetected.

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John Spano in ‘Big Shot’

Please describe BIG SHOT in your own words.

Kevin Connolly: Big Shot is the story of a regular Joe who took a shot at the ultimate American Dream.

What inspired you to tell this particular story? Are you a lifelong hockey fan?

KC: As a kid growing up on Long Island, I lived and breathed hockey. Mike Bossy was my hero. I remember getting off the parkway, driving down the ramp and boom: There was the Coliseum. You could feel the electricity. I remember when Newsday broke the story on Spano. It was devastating. My friends and I couldn’t believe it, couldn’t wrap our heads around what had happened.

Initially I was only supposed to narrate [this film], so when ESPN asked me to direct, I was thrilled. Not only is this a spectacular story that I was getting the opportunity to tell, but I have this personal connection to it.

Though audiences may know you best from your acting roles, this is not your first time out as a director. What draws you to work behind the camera?

KC: I’ve been acting for over 30 years, and I think it’s natural to develop other interests.  Working with other directors, such as Nick Cassavetes on The Notebook, inspires me to continue developing as a director and pushing the envelope.

You’ve made both documentaries and narratives. What do you like best about the different genres?

KC: Directing narratives and documentaries couldn’t be more different. With narratives, you have much more of a creative license. You can take chances and experiment with different storytelling techniques.

When you shoot a documentary, there is a certain responsibility to the people involved. I felt it was important to tell the “right” story, and everyone has their own account, so that was very difficult. I found the human side of documentary intense, which I didn’t expect.

What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

KC: I want audiences to understand that the Islanders are a franchise, rich in history and tradition. It’s going to be very sad to see them go. I would say Big Shot is an homage to my childhood.

Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?

KC: With the emergence of such high quality digital equipment at your disposal, there really are no excuses. If you want to be a filmmaker, go out there and do it.

As a Long Islander, what are you most looking forward to at the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival?

KC: This is my first time at the Hamptons Film Festival, so I’m excited about that. My nieces, who are also Islander fans, will be there with me. They’ve never seen anything I’ve done, so I hope that Big Shot gets their stamp of approval.

An ESPN Films release, Big Shot will screen as part of the Views From Long Island section at HIFF 2013. 

Kevin-Connolly

Kevin Connolly has worked extensively in front of and behind the camera for over 20 years. He recently directed the upcoming film Dear Eleanor, starring Jessica Alba and Josh Lucas. Additional directorial credits include the Tribeca Film Festival selection Gardener of Eden and a variety of music videos, commercials and television episodes. Connolly will return to television in early 2014, in the CBS comedy Friends with Better Lives.