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One Day in April: IU Alums Making Little 500 Film

The Manassass High School football program got the documentary treatment last year with Undefeated, which took home an Oscar. ESPN has its own series called 30 for 30 that revisits famous (and infamous) events in sporting history. Now Indiana University’s Little 500 bike race itself will be featured on the silver screen, by way of IU alumni and co-directors Thomas Miller and Peter Stevenson, with assistance from current IU senior Ryan Black. The title: One Day in April.

The Little 500, the nation’s largest collegiate bike race, has been the focus of a movie before—Breaking Away, of course—and while that is a treasure in every Hoosier’s heart, it was a scripted film more than 30 years old now. Miller and Stevenson decided in a Bloomington basement this past fall that it’s time for an update, and to tell the stories of real riders competing in the race.

“A big part of the drive was visually and cinematically there’s just so much stuff about Little 5, and it really hadn’t been shown other than Breaking Away,” Miller says. But it isn’t just about the presentation to this pair. The main goal of One Day in April, they say, is to tell the story of the riders who make Little 5 the biggest priority in their lives.

“Nobody has ever really done a story where they follow teams and really show what it takes to be a Little 5 rider,” Stevenson says. So this tandem chose four teams that, in their estimation, embody the spirit of the race and “have a culture of success—they truly embody what it takes to be a really good rider.”

The two returning champions—Delta Tau Delta and Delta Gamma teams—agreed without hesitation. Miller and Stevenson then asked two more teams, Teter and the Cutters, that have been the most dominant in recent history to take part in the film. All four squads agreed within 24 hours, the filmmakers say, and have been extremely accommodating.

“I’m realizing to be a championship team, you have to be like a family,” Miller says. “This film is really about what people do to be great. The family component and the teamwork component is such an enormous part of that. Basically everything else that we come at for this story, it will have to come through the lens of 'They stick together.'”

To capture the entire journey, Miller, Stevenson, and Black started filming in the dead of winter. They plan to continue shooting nearly every day all the way through the race on April 19–20. An operation like this is not inexpensive, of course. Thus, on Feb. 27 the filmmakers launched a campaign on indiegogo.com to fund their movie. They set a goal of $6,850 and listed all potential expenses, including items such as extra cameras, lenses, and batteries, as well as travel expenses and fees for extra camera operators on race day.

In two hours, they raised nearly $500 and the trailer they created was flying around Facebook and Twitter. Now almost two weeks in and more than 70 funders later, they’ve nearly reached the halfway mark to their goal.

“I think we’ve all been amazed by the number of people that have come out of the woodwork that have offered their support and their advice,” Stevenson says, adding that someone involved with Breaking Away called them with a few tips. He and Miller even sent Dallas Mavericks owner and IU alum Mark Cuban an email. No word yet from him. Same thing with IU basketball coach Tom Crean, but the pair is sure he's a bit busy—or hasn’t checked his Twitter account.

Two weeks remain in the campaign, and Miller and Stevenson welcome any and all help. The sooner they reach their goal, they say, the sooner they can focus solely on making the film. Incentives for giving to their project include DVDs of the completed film, T-shirts, donors' names appearing in the credits, and VIP tickets to a Bloomington premiere next year.

“People identify with stories about working hard toward a goal, and working hard to be the best at something,” Stevenson says. “Yes, we will get that awesome IU base and fans of Little 5, but I think part of the reason that we’re getting such a good response is that this film touches on something deeper."