BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB-TV) – Eight years in the making, a film documentary that intimately follows the lives of several Sabres fans is ready to be released.
“The Fan Connection,” produced and directed by a Western New Yorker will premiere to all of Buffalo during the Buffalo International Film Festival next month.
The movie follows several Sabres fans trying to get back on their feet – literally and figuratively – at the same time the Buffalo Sabres and the City of Buffalo are trying to rebound, too.
The idea started in 2006, the season producer Mary Wall watched the Sabres lose after their last playoff run.
“After they lost, there were people with ‘Thank You Sabres’ signs at the airport, and I was like…I’d lived in enough other places at that point to realize that doesn’t happen everywhere,” Wall said. “And I wanted to explore that sort of loyalty in the face of losing.”
Wall, the lead producer and director, of “The Fan Connection,” was an assistant to the executive producers of NBC’s “The Office” for several seasons, but her ultimate goals of producing her own movies brought her back home.
Of 170 people originally interviewed, Wall narrowed it down to 12 people, who she filmed for four years. Ultimately the documentary follows three main characters’ storylines.
All are Western New Yorkers whose love for the Sabres is constant as they overcome challenges.
The larger story is how sports can help a city working on a new identity. Wall did the filming from 2011-2015, during the height of Buffalo’s renaissance.
She hopes the documentary shows that everyone has the chance to create their own destiny, even in the face of loss.
“My hope with these stories is that you can see that a city is really made up of its people. That’s the heart of a city. And why would you ever want to judge these people once you get to meet them,” Wall explained.
One of the main characters is Mark Crehan, a diehard fan with slight cerebral palsy trying to find independence after relying on public transportation or friends and family to get around for years.
“It’s about me finding my way and learning to drive after failing like 10 years before that, being told it’s probably not going to happen,” Crehan said.
But after trying again and sorting out some other things – all while keeping a careful eye on the Sabres’ seasons – Crehan is able to drive.
“The thing I’ve always liked about hockey and the team itself, it’s all about…it’s a little gritty. Sometimes you get knocked down, but you’ve got to find your way and get back up no matter what, and I’ve definitely, with the balance, taken a few spills in my time,” Crehan said.
But he’s always gotten back up.
“When do you think the Sabres will get back up?” News 4 jokingly asked.
“I always say this is the year, we’ll see. Fingers crossed,” Crehan said.
The Fan Connection premieres October 12 at North Park Theatre.
You can get tickets on BuffaloFilm.org.