February 11, 2013

113 Days: Stonehill alumna follows team in new film

By Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

Stonehill grad Katie Shannon filmed her alma mater during the 2012 women’s season for a new documentary.

For many Stonehill women’s lacrosse alumnae, the sport is one of their life’s passions. Katie Shannon, a 2004 graduate, had an equal love for filmmaking.

A few years removed from winning the 2003 Division 2 championship with the Skyhawks, Shannon found a way to blend her two passions; she has spent nearly the past two years working on a documentary, “113 Days,” that’s a behind-the-scenes look at Stonehill’s 2012 women’s team and its struggles and triumphs.

“I was coaching lacrosse (two years ago) but wanted to go full-time into filmmaking,” said Shannon, also a graduate of Emerson College’s graduate filmmaking program.

She decided that capturing her alma mater’s quest for another title — over a season encompassing 113 days, start to finish — would be her first foray into full-time moviemaking. The documentary is now in the final editing stages.

While there haven’t been many lacrosse-themed movies, it was hardly a new idea. The film “Crooked Arrows” (filmed at venues around the North Shore of Massachusetts), was in pre-production as Shannon was getting started. What was unique to her film was the insight it would provide into the women’s game and into the culture behind Div. 2 lacrosse, where student-athletes seek the ultimate balance of academics, athletics and everyday student life.

“There aren’t that many pieces of lacrosse media on any level. It’s hard enough to see a women’s Division 1 final on television, never mind Division 2,” Shannon lamented. “Having this documentary is important so people can finally see what this type of lacrosse is all about.”

Shannon’s former teammate and current Skyhawks coach, Katie Lambert Conover (Milton, Mass.), agreed.

“These kids in Division 2 aren’t big-scholarship athletes, but many of them had the choice to go Division 1, to have scholarships if they wanted,” Conover said. “But they are choosing to have a balance in their lives. Division 2 is an awesome option for that balance, and a lot of people don’t realize that.”

Shannon and Conover’s familiarity with each other made Stonehill the perfect setting for the documentary.

“When she asked me about it, I said ‘Sure,’ because she was a teammate of mine,” Conover said, “but to be truthful, I didn’t think anything would initially come of it, even though I thought it was a great idea.”

Both the filmmaker and coach knew that getting buy-in for the film from the two biggest stakeholders, Stonehill’s administration and student-athletes, would be a bigger challenge.

“There were a lot of concerns,” Conover said. “Lacrosse and coaching is not always pretty.”

The student-athletes loved the idea.

“You know kids these days,” Conover said, “they don’t mind putting themselves out there like this. … I made them really think about it. I told them, ‘If you’re the one that costs us that game, if you make a mistake, if you have a bad day, that’s all going to be on film. You have to think of yourself at your absolute worst. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, and are you going to be OK with that potentially being on film?’”

Despite Conover’s warnings, all of the Skyhawks wanted in.

That was huge for Shannon, who noted that “if one of them was not for it, we wouldn’t have done it.”

Stonehill’s administration was a tougher sell; coach and filmmaker worked to convince officials how important “113 Days” could be for the sport and — with just a week to go before the Skyhawks kicked off the preseason — Shannon got the clearance to move forward.

“Once we got final clearance, we had to hurry to find a camera and equipment we could borrow until we could buy them ourselves,” Shannon admitted.

The small production crew — Shannon, co-producer Betsy Greer and intern Dennis Silversey — immersed themselves in the team right away.

“After a day or two, we literally forgot they were there and just went about our business,” Conover said. “They were members of the team.”

Shannon, Greer and Silversey were there for the long haul, including the spring break trip to play at Florida’s Rollins College.

“I think once we went on spring break with the players,” Shannon said, “they got to know us better and felt more comfortable around the camera.”

That level of comfort allowed Shannon to capture the real behind-the-scenes nature of team life: “Some of my favorite memories of filming were getting the girls singing and dancing in the locker room pregame, getting all pumped up.”

For every locker room dancefest, there was a tough situation to film.

“We had some hairy situations,” Conover said. “We had some people who had to leave the team for one reason or another, some for off-field problems.”

Stonehill went 14-5, with a 10-5 conference record in the Northeast-10 and a third seed into the conference tournament. Shannon’s preferred ending to the film didn’t happen — the Skyhawks were eliminated in the tournament semifinals with a 12-11 overtime loss to Adelphi on May 5.

Despite the shorter-than-expected season, Shannon still believes that she chronicled the best of what Div. 2 lacrosse has to offer. The rough cuts of the film — which Shannon is editing now — show as much; in early December, Shannon watched a two-and-a-half hour version of the film, and was facing some hard editing decisions as she tries to complete the project and get it distributed.

Conover is eager to see her team on the big screen. For her, the decision to let her former teammate document a year in the life of the Skyhawks was a good one.

“Now that I have a husband and my own kids, I wish I had had something like this about my time playing college lacrosse,” Conover said, “something to show them the highs and the lows of what was important to me.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of New England Lacrosse Journal.