You can think of Paul Haber as the Babe Ruth of handball. Andrew Hollan has created a fascinating doc, Paul Haber: Against the Wall, looking at his life, and especially his handball career, using archival images and photos. Andrew was kind enough to chat with us for an interview! You can see the film at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIsJrQ8wipI
There so much great archival footage. Where'd you get it all? What was your philosophy for using footage, ie. how much to show for how long, etc.?
Andrew Holland - 8 years of countless hours,weeks, months,long distance phone calls, advertising, creating flyers, buying Paul a tombstone when my research led to him being in a indigent, graffiti covered unmarked grave and spending over $35,000 to travel and locate rare footage, photos and interview hundreds of people that knew Paul.
As a handball player at the local, regional and national level for over 45 years it was easier for me to research and contact key people in his life located in the US, Canada, and Mexico.I met Paul for the first time in 1971 at a national 4-wall handball AAU tournament and he was my friend and handball guru. Numerous times I was with him to play handball, attend events ,parties, tournaments,nightclubs and observed firsthand his life.
People knew about me in the underground and cult sport world of 1,3 and 4-wall handball and sent me priceless stories scrapbooks,photos,footage and recordings that I returned to them after researching for use in the documentary.
I tried to hold on a single photo with a Ken Burn's effect.
I spent over $35,000 reaching out and getting articles in the San Diego Union Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Fort Bend Star, Houston Chronicle to get buzz about people with Haber footage to send in their stories, film , photos.I took out ads in the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune asking for Paul Haber stories,photos, film footage.
I did recreate with actors and film in 4-wall courts and did talking head interviews with Paul's peers, but decided to not go that route because there are so many talking head interviews in documentaries. The actors and actresses when filmed, with my historic knowledge of his life, did not work as well as true photos, film footage of him and his friends, competitors, family.
Paul Haber was certainly a larger than life figure. How did you go about figuring what portions of his life to focus on?
I learned many unfortunate life events about Paul that family members did not want in the film when interviewed. by me .I dug so deep that certain people that were in Paul's life I did not interview because of wanting to protect my family.
As a handball player and historian with a Master's degree and state of Texas teaching certificate it helped knowing when to edit to a different period in his life.
You focus quite a bit on the first Muehleisen v. Haber match-up, but there's no mention of the re-match or the specificity of the rules for their matches. Why was that?
The rematch was not mentioned because Paul told me the referee Stuffy Singer was brought in to prevent Haber from utilizing winning techniques allowed at Memphis.I interviewed handball friends of Paul who said the rematch was fixed with Paul winning money from bets and wanting to settup a possible third match.Dr. Bud when I interviewed him from San Diego said Paul was always wanting a third match.Dr. Bud told me he was upset over financial considerations given only to Paul at the rematch in Long Beach .The rules in the first match were worked out on a side court at Memphis. with a local racquetball player Schmitty Schippers as the referee.Paul dominated him throughout the match .Stuffy Singer was in control of rules at Long Beach and always went against Haber. I focused on Haber doing the impossible through the footage of him hitting a 200mph handball off a racquetball racquet. The rules were basically similar with just the handball instead of a 70's era racquetball.Haber wore no eye protection.
There's mention of Paul's family life, and his apparent disinterest in being a father. Have his kids seen your film, and if so, what'd they say?
One son was a male model and died of AIDS prior to the film being completed .Another son is a curb painter and due to his severe personal problems, I did not interview him.Paul's daughter is a Facebook friend and has seen the film and supports it. She has told me how much see appreciates and likes the film. She only met her dad at her high school graduation and a couple of other times. Another son in Wisconsin never met Paul and kept me from talking to his mother. It was Paul's first marriage. He told me he missed by 5 minutes from seeing his dad at the Milwaukee Airport. He is very troubled over Paul and me reaching out to interview him. I think he has seen the film, but I do not contact him anymore due to his deep pain over his dad, Paul.
Klaus at Gunpoint
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