Below writer/director Doug Tirola shares a scene from his poker documentary “All In – The Poker Movie,” which features interviews with Matt Damon, Kenny Rogers and Ira Glass. It’s currently available on DVD and iTunes, and hits VOD May 1.
“All In – The Poker Movie” is the story of the worldwide poker boom that started in the underground clubs of New York City and went on to be played at homes and casinos all around the globe. How did poker become the battleground for personal freedom and the fight for adults to choose how they spend their time and money? The film explains how poker has become the target of politicians who have cut off the ability for millions to play and for many to make a living.
However, the way I explain the movie to my friends is as follows: Have you ever run into poker on TV – maybe on ESPN, or after the Jimmy Fallon show, or on E!, the Travel Channel, Game Show Network, CBS, Fox, NBC Sports? Or to my movie-loving friends I might ask them to remember how in the eighties the only time you would see poker played in a movie was by a bunch of loser high school guys sitting in a basement on a Friday night because none of them were cool enough to have a girlfriend, or get invited to a party where girls would be. Such as a pre- “McDreamy” Patrick Dempsey in “Can’t Buy Me Love” or Tom Cruise as the out-of-shape “get off the babysitter” Joel in “Risky Business” (obviously the one exception is the poker scene in David Mamet’s incredible “House of Games”).
Cut to today, where now poker in a movie is George Clooney in “Michael Clayton” at some dangerous underground club and poker is being used to show that his character is willing to take risks and is clever and complex and cool. How did that happen? Why did that happen? How did something like poker that was basically dead come back to life?
Our movie answers that question, almost as if Malcolm Gladwell had a chapter in his book “The Tipping Point” about poker instead of Timberlands. As filmmakers, to help us tell that story we asked professional gamblers, movie stars, sports writers, musicians, filmmakers, Wall Street traders, degenerate gamblers, pro athletes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Kenny Rogers (or Kenny “fucking” Rogers as one of the other producers said after we interviewed him) happy with the fact that he was now in our movie.
In trying to create a thesis for why poker had a comeback, I decided that the film, “Rounders”, directed by John Dahl, written by Brian Koppleman and David Levien, and starring Matt Damon and Ed Norton was really the beginning of the poker boom. In our documentary we tell the story of how the film came to be and it’s effect on the game of poker by not only impressing professional poker players, but attracting millions of regular people to the game. Though not considered a hit when it came out in 1998, the influence of “Rounders” has affected our culture much more than a lot of other films that did well at the box office that year. If you haven’t seen it, watch it; if you haven’t seen it in a while, re-watch it – it’s awesome.
I love listening to people tell great stories, and our film is lucky to have a number of very gifted storytellers, who with their words, expressions and voice inflections really can bring a story or an idea or belief to life. Brian Koppleman, the co-writer of Rounders, is one of those people, and I love him in our film. We interviewed him twice, once in the beginning of the production and another time very close to the end. Brian’s enthusiasm for our project, along with how good his first interview was, really helped us during the filmmaking process. We worked on “All In – The Poker Movie” for over three years and actually produced four other films that have since been released over that same period of time. On any film – but especially as long as this one does to make – there comes those days where you wonder why we are even doing this, is anyone going to care? At moments like these, I like to think of what we have already shot and the story we are trying to tell and what the movie has the potential to be. This is part of what keeps me going, the hope that at least someone else will care that we wanted to tell this story. When you watch this scene, you will understand why Brian’s interview was so helpful.
I think what I like most about this scene is that you see how an idea comes to life. As someone that loves movies and the process of making them, I love hearing how “Rounders” came to be a movie. In our documentary, a few minutes after this scene, you hear from a collection of people from all over the world talking about how much they loved “Rounders” and you really feel how exciting it is to have a movie touch someone. In poker, you hear players talking about chasing “the action”. As filmmakers, I think that making a movie that touches someone is “the action” we are all chasing. Hope you like this movie.