Over his 30-year career, sports broadcaster Tim Ring has interviewed many of the biggest names in contemporary sports, and has tens of thousands of interviews under his belt.
But on a Friday afternoon, the Emmy award-winning on-air veteran known for his work on nearly every major local network in the Valley admits to feeling a bit like a rookie as he talks about his newest venture, documentary production company Gift of a Lifetime.
“I’m not used to being on the other side of these interviews. I kept telling myself beforehand, ‘Stop overthinking it. Just answer the question,’” Ring says with a hearty laugh.
For Gift of a Lifetime, Ring joins forces with Joseph Farris, his longtime, award-winning executive sports producer, in channeling their decades of news experience into producing documentaries on the life stories of everyday people.
But if you’re thinking this is just a step up from musical montage projects that can be done on a laptop loaded with user-friendly software, think again.
With nuanced musical scoring, polished interviews, impeccably timed narration of a professional voice-over artist, and all the features in award-winning network versions, these films flaunt every bell and whistle. That was by design.
“When we set out to do this, we knew the only way this works is if we totally and completely bring to the table the high production value you would normally see on an HBO-caliber documentary, but instead of HBO doing a documentary on someone famous, we’re doing a film on say, the life of your mother or father,” Ring says. “It goes back to a very, very long career in television. We've been telling stories for years on the news. Those same principles we’re applying now in doing these long-form films on so many amazing people.”
Ring and Farris do all interviews, videography, and production. Ring does pre-interviews with everyone who will be part of the film, develops a script, and comes up with the questions. Home movies, videos, photos, and other family mementos also make it in.
It’s the quintessential gift for the person who has everything. It also keeps on giving while serving as a key piece of family history that will live on for generations.
“Most of us only see famous people on TV. So when our clients see their life story unfold on the big screen and their spouse and children being interviewed—talking about the person they are—it has been an emotional experience for these families that you can’t put into words,” Ring says of his subjects. “As time and people pass, so many wonderful lives and their stories fade away—many times even within their own families. People are forgotten, but these films now become a wonderful historical record of someone’s life. Why should only famous people get that treatment?"
Ring knows this sentiment too well. Ring’s father died when he was 9. Ring had always been a fan of documentaries on war heroes, actors, and other famous individuals.
“I don’t know much about him. I barely remember what his voice sounds like,” Ring says of his father. “I’d watch those documentaries and think how cool it would be if there was a 30-minute documentary on my dad that I could watch. I could hear his stories, hear his voice, hear about him from those who knew him.”
That was the light bulb moment. But it wouldn’t shine until 20 years later, when Ring and Farris flipped the switch on Gift of a Lifetime.
“I can imagine what grandkids will see when, after their grandparents are gone, they can click on a link to see them,” says Farris, who lost three of his grandparents by the time he was 12. “All I have are my parents’ stories about them. To have my grandparents tell their own stories, I can only imagine…”
The first documentary Ring and Farris produced was on Valley resident Tom Jennings, a family man and Army veteran who was involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis and Fiesta Bowl Committee member, to name a few accomplishments.
During production, they stopped filming and were packing up. Then, Jennings’ son Mark said that he had one more story to tell. They sat back down and resumed filming. Mark proceeded to talk about a moment when he was 12, when his father’s reaction in a tough situation showed him that his dad would always have his back no matter what. Marks’ eyes welled up. Overcome being reminded of it, tears rolled down his face.
“When I talk about my family, I get emotional,” Farris says. “That story, we had no idea about and he wanted to tell it. We are giving people the opportunity to talk about their past and their loved ones. It’s tugging on emotions. Mark poured that story out of his heart.”
Tom Jennings was unaware of how that moment decades ago was so profound for his son. He found out when he saw the movie.
“That spoke volumes about what these films can be and can mean to the entire family, and I’m so excited about the opportunity to do that for many more families,” Ring says. “What’s most moving are these people hearing about the jobs they did as parents from their own children. It’s been a lightning bolt of emotion to see the impact these films have on the people on the screen.”
But the connection doesn’t end when production does. Farris feels a genuine bond with those he meets, films, and gets to know in a different intimate way.
“I always think, ‘They’re really going to like this’ or ‘I hope they smile when they see this,’” Farris says. “You don’t have to be a rock star or someone famous. You have a life story worth telling.” GiftOfAlLifetimeVideo.com