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By Matthew Lewis, Contributing Reporter

DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – The documentary movie about Delray Beach’s Atlantic Community High School’s football team is moving forward with the producer’s goal to have a rough assembly finished by the fall, and the film completed in December.

Atlantic High School, Football Documentary, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida
The 12-minute teaser for the film is compelling, and the producers are planning to release the completed documentary by the end of the year, image recreation.

The movie is a heartwarming and inspirational story of the football program, student athletes, coaches and community around the Atlantic Community High School. While the majority of the students live below the poverty line, 85 percent of the team are on the Honor Roll, and the team is ranked Number 1 in Palm Beach County.

Jane Swanko, producer and director of the film, explained how the project started. “John Sturdy of The Sturdy Group considered a documentary on me and my volunteer work with the football program’s transition team,” she said. Referencing her role at the school preparing students for post-graduation.

“I suggested he join me at Atlantic Community High School to see the full scope of what Coach TJ Jackson and the school’s Principal, Mrs Tara Ocampo were doing. John was there 10 minutes and said, ‘I’m in’,” Swanko recounts.

Ms. Swanko has been working with the student athletes for five years, and says there is no other public school in the United States that can boast the numbers the football program has achieved in both academics and sports.

Atlantic High School, Football Documentary, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida
Coach TJ Jackson is a central character in the story, as he encourages and demands the student athletes excel in the classroom as well as on the field, image recreation.

She said “It is our hope that this documentary will show that by using Coach TJ’s methodology of the importance of family and an education coupled with a child’s passion can put them on a trajectory of success in life and fulfill their destiny.”

Delray Beach-based John Sturdy shared from his perspective, “I was honored to be allowed to shadow Janie and the staff at the school for a couple of days and I truly was amazed at the benefits these student athletes were gaining from such a support structure,” he said.

Adding, “What made this story so compelling was, as a documentary filmmaker for thirty years, we realized this was a remarkable story that was happening right in our hometown and it needed to be captured in the formal vérité style for their complete characters to shine.”

In terms of film style, Sturdy said, “We strictly adhered to the observational role we had to play to capture the true essence of these incredible kids without being noticed. We were granted the opportunity to film the real-life emotions of the student/athletes in the academic environment and out on the gridiron.”

Atlantic High School, Football Documentary, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida
John Sturdy of The Sturdy Group filming one sideline at a home game, photo by Greg Lovett.

Swanko says the rough assembly will be completed by this fall, and the film should be finished in December. The filmmakers would like to have a private screening for Atlantic Community High School and the Delray Beach community. As any film, the ultimate goal is a distribution deal to reach a wide audience.

“The most rewarding part of this project has been the opportunity to tell their story of this remarkable football program that Coach TJ Jackson and Mrs Tara Ocampo have assembled,” Swanko says.

“Their program is the first of its kind in the nation and supports and provides for the eighty percent that live below the poverty level (they are a Title One school) with a family atmosphere that affords them an opportunity to attend college and succeed in life.”

The 12-minute teaser for the film is compelling, and despite the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a lot of interest and the filmmakers are planning to release the documentary by the end of the year.

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