I left the Las Vegas Sun after completing two large projects I felt very passionate about. This is one of them. Reckless Willie is a short documentary on a boxer who is arguably at the end of his career.
Willie Chapman has 10 children in 3 states and he’s 40 years old. Professional boxing matches are still his main source of income and also the only way he can pay child support to see his kids. Because of his age and losing record, Nevada may not license him to fight anymore. Willie also shows signs of dementia, most likely caused from continued brain trauma caused by boxing.
The video is broken up into two chapters, each with a run time of about 7 minutes. Many will probably say that this is too long for the web. I disagree. I’ve been following Willie for about 6 months, and reporter J. Patrick Coolican has been following him for almost an entire year. We committed to this story, and some stories can’t be told in 3 minutes. Period.
I can’t say enough about how great it was to work with reporter Coolican on this project. He told me about the story soon after we both got back from Burning Man last year. He had been following Willie for months and I’m sure he felt a great deal of ownership of the story. Most reporters would. I would. But Patrick shared. He thought the story would really benefit from video, maybe even told best using video. From then on, I was with him every step of the way.
When it came time to add narration, we sat down in the recording booth and worked over what he had written several times. I was nervous about how he would deliver the narration since he has had no voice coaching or training on delivery. It takes a lot of skill to paint pictures with your voice. I was totally surprised! Once Coolican read through the script a couple of times, he broke all the rules highlighting with inflection and tonal variation. It sounded great! It sounded like Ira Glass. He’s a natural and I expect to hear his voice on more and more videos at the Sun.