Director Michael Tolajian speaks with an inmate during the filming of “Q Ball”. (Courtesy / Fox Sports Films)

On Sports Media: One-on-one with Q Ball director Michael Tolajian

Director of Kevin Durant-produces documentary details mission, message

By Jim Williams

Special to S.F. Examiner

An inside look at the “Q — Warriors, the Kevin Durant-produced documentary “Q Ball” gives an inside look at the prison league basketball team at San Quentin, where hardcore criminals are learning to be better people by playing basketball.

Durant’s production company Thirty Five Media joined forces with HEIST and Hunting Lane Films to produce the film, which airs on FS1 at 6 p.m. PT on May 28, two days before the first game of NBA Finals is set to tip off.

This week, director Michael Tolajian, a multi-award-winning filmmaker and the head of Fox Sports Films, spoke with The Examiner.

“This really was one of those once in a lifetime type stories and I wanted to bring it to life,” Tolajian said via phone from Los Angeles. “It is not often that you get such access to a place like San Quentin not to mention the inmates who were the sars of Q-Ball.”

In my review of the film I said that I was uncomfortable, because I found myself liking these hardened criminals as they told their stories. That was something that I shared with Tolajian. “Yea, I know what you mean about that part of making the film,” he said. “It really is a mixture of emotions, because you talk to the guys and you like them, but you hear them talk about their crimes, you talk to the victims families and the inmates families and it is a very complex set of feelings to say the least.

“That said, the guys we focus on in the film have admitted their mistakes. They have committed to changing their lives and they all want to be better men. I am all about telling uplifting and positive stories, so I am glad that you come away rooting for these guys, while at the same understanding that they did bad things that to this day have lingering repercussions. In the end, it was a complex story and it wasn’t an easy line to walk.”

The main focus of the film is the team led by head coach Rafael Cuevas, and his players Sam Robinson, Cornell Shields, Alex McIntosh, Harry “ATL” Smith, Dejon Joy, Anthony Ammons, Tervin Fournette and Stacy Redman.

Tolajian was clear that, normally, he does not set out to make message films but in the case of “Q-Ball,” it was worth the change in style.

“The people in this film want kids and young people to know and those who are at risk of traveling down the wrong path in life that they do have a choice. These guys lived in the same neighborhoods and faced many of the same problems that some of these kids in the Bay Area face everyday.

“They want people to know that a wrong split-second decision can cost your freedom for the rest of your life, and they want kids to know how to avoid the mistakes that they made.

“Harry ATL Smith took me with him a trip to the Juvenile Justice Center in San Francisco. We spoke to kids who are already headed down the wrong path, some one step away from San Quentin, and Harry talks to these kids about how they can change before they get to far off track.”

“Q-Ball” will premier Tuesday May 28th at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET and there will be multiple plays of the film over the coming weeks on FS1, so check your listings.

ABC 7 is all set to go into full Warriors Championship Finals mode. They will be the home of all of the games beginning with Thursday’s opener at 6 p.m. local time.

For those on their way home you can stream the NBA Finals if you have the ESPN app and it does require a pay TV sign in.

Keep an eye out for Larry Beil KGO Sports Director and his cast of thousands as he will be hosting his After the Game postgame show on ABC7. Meanwhile, NBC Sports Bay Area will offer both pregame and postgame for all the games.

95.7 FM The Game plans wall-to-wall coverage as the flagship station for the Warriors radio network. You can also follow the Warriors on their mobile app that can be downloaded at the App Store at Google Play.

If you want to listen to the Warriors’ championship run and you are outside the Bay Area, all of the Finals games can be heard nationwide on ESPN Radio, as well as the ESPN app.

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