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Mark Bingham comes back to Bear Territory in 'The Rugby Player'

The Rugby Player will be screening this weekend in Berkeley. Come check it out!

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Tom Pennington

The Cal Alumni Association is screening the documentary at 10 AM on Sunday, October 6 at Pacific Film Archive as part of Berkeley's Homecoming Weekend. Purchase tickets by going here!

We chatted with The Rugby Player producer Holly Million about the project and how all Cal fans can assist in spreading the word on the project and can go watch the film!

What is the distribution plan for the film? When could we expect to find it on DVD or a streaming service (Netfflix, Amazon)?

Right now, THE RUGBY PLAYER is having an exciting run in festivals all over the country. We premiered at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival on April 29, and have since screened in Boston, New York, Memphis, Kansas City, and many, many more cities. Our ultimate goal is to have a national television broadcast, but we are also developing a plan for a nationwide screening tour for 2014 that enables us to work with nonprofits, schools, membership organizations, and community groups to get THE RUGBY PLAYER screened in at least 20 cities. After that, we will make the film available through Internet and DVD. Right NOW, we are taking DVD pre-sale orders. People can order a deluxe, collector's edition of THE RUGBY PLAYER signed by director Scott Gracheff and Mark Bingham's mom Alice Hoagland for $35. This will make them first in line to get their own, personal copy of THE RUGBY PLAYER before the film is made available on DVD to the general public. Our anticipated delivery date for the DVD is December 2014, dependent upon our meeting broadcast and other distribution milestones. To order, visit

Since we're primarily a sports site, what is your pitch of this film to an average sports fan? Can you compare it to any sports movie (even though this is not just a "sports movie")?

There were four athletes who led the charge of the United 93 cockpit on September 11. They included a former football quarterback, a judo expert, a baseball player, and Mark Bingham, "the rugby player." In this case, the rugby player was also a gay man who shattered gay stereotypes as an "out" athlete. Roger Brigham, writing for The Bay Area Reporter, wrote a review comparing THE RUGBY PLAYER favorably with "42," the recent dramatic film about Jackie Robinson. He writes:

Robinson we celebrate as the man who broke the color barrier in professional baseball in 1948 when he was Rookie of the Year for the Brooklyn Dodgers, wearing the uniform number 42. Bingham we celebrate as the gay rugby player who fatally helped thwart terrorists' attempts to smash United Flight 93 into a strategic Washington, D.C. target on 9/11. Neither Robinson nor Bingham acted alone, and their success depended on the actions of others, but the drama 42 and the documentary The Rugby Player do credible jobs of showing why the public memory of them is so strong and loving. Each of us owes a debt to both men on a very personal level.

Your bio says that you are a very experienced fundraiser for movies. What is your take on the recent success of (famous and some not as famous) people raising money for their movie through Kickstarter or other website?

Kickstarter is just a tool for fundraising, not something that changes the fundraising game. Fundraising has always been about having a compelling message and about having a relationship with people. When raising money for a film or for any cause, you have to do a good job conveying why your cause is so important and what role people can play in that cause. If you have a great message, you can raise money for your film or your cause. That's what we did with THE RUGBY PLAYER. Dozens of people contributed to the film, because they came to believe as we did, that Mark's story was worthy of being shared through film. Now that the film is starting its long distribution process, people can still help by making a tax-deductible contribution to THE RUGBY PLAYER by clicking here.

We here at CGB have honored Mark Bingham by inducting him into our CGB Hall of Fame. What are other ways that we can honor his memory?

Honor Mark's memory by spreading the word about THE RUGBY PLAYER and ensuring that more people see the film and learn about Mark and his amazing mom, Alice Hoagland. You can follow us on Facebook and share updates about the film with your own network. We are on Facebook at You can also honor Mark by being yourself in a forthright and fearless manner. That's what Mark was like, and he touched every person he met and changed them by doing that. We can all learn from that.

On the film's webpage, there is a "DONATE" section. What causes are you raising money for and why is it important?

We have been working on THE RUGBY PLAYER for over a decade. We have largely done this without any pay, because we strongly believe in the story. Making an independent film is a long, hard, expensive process. Many people contributed to the production and editing of THE RUGBY PLAYER. Now we need ongoing support to pay for travel-related costs to keep the film screening around the country.

How did you and your husband (Chris Million, the co-producer and director of photography) get involved in this project?

Chris has worked with director Scott Gracheff for over 20 years, starting when they were both on staff at KTEH public television in San Jose. Scott asked Chris to join the project as director of photography. I have worked for almost two decades as a producer and have a background in fundraising and the business side of film making. Chris and I work together on many projects, so it was only natural that I also join the team. Mark's childhood friend Todd Sarner got Scott involved in the first place, and the four of us are all part of the Mark Bingham Documentary, LLC which has produced the film.

What is the most surprisingly thing you learned from working on this film?

Although someone has passed away, they can gain a kind of immortality through film. Mark has a life through this film. Although I never met him, I feel as though I have. Mark's mom, Alice Hoagland, has said that seeing THE RUGBY PLAYER again and again at festivals gives her a lot of comfort and makes her feel that Mark is still alive. In a way, he is, and he continues to touch people through his story.

What is the most important message you'd like the audience to take away from The Rugby Player?

THE RUGBY PLAYER is a positive, uplifting, at time funny and transcendent film about a mother and a son and what it takes to be a hero. Gay people are the people in our community, our neighbors, our friends, and sometimes they are heroes. Sometimes, too, a hero takes after his mom.

What impact do you think Mark's studies at UC Berkeley or his involvement with the Cal rugby team had on his character?

Mark loved Cal. Cal made him happy. Some of his greatest friendships happened there. Cal was integral to his identity, and his sign off was always, "Go, Bears!"

THE RUGBY PLAYER - Exclusive clip #1 from scott gracheff on Vimeo.