Portland man's football film buoyed by NFL's Christian McCaffrey
Talk about an accomplished family. Portland has quite a few. Check out the athletic Aflieris.
Mom Kelly ran track and field at Oregon State, where father Phil also played football in the 1980s.
The oldest of six siblings, Jamie Alfieri Tuss, worked her way up and now serves as one of the few women working as an NFL replay official.
Anthony Alfieri has been involved in football recruiting, while brothers Nick (Georgetown), Joey (Stanford) and Mikey (Oregon State) played college football and Andy currently plays for the Cal Bears. Anthony attended Valley Catholic High School, the others Jesuit High.
Yes, it was a competitive family, but a positively competitive family that has called the Bethany area home for more than three decades.
Along the way, there was Nick Alfieri, the second oldest sibling, filming things with his VHS camcorder. His fascination with filmmaking grew from an early age.
"I come from a big family, and aside from sports, movies and film were my other love from as early as I can remember," he said. "I would make 'movies' with my brothers and neighbors growing up in the neighborhood, and my filmmaking skills slowly developed while my passion for the art continued to grow."
One thing led to another after his days playing linebacker at Georgetown — a short stint at USC film school, and then an extended tenure as an American football player in Germany — and today Alfieri finds himself the filmmaker of his first full-length documentary film. And, it has a big backer, NFL player Christian McCaffrey as executive producer, as the two have known each other since Joey Alfieri's days as McCaffrey's roommate and good friend at Stanford.
The documentary "Unicorn Town," detailing the journey of an American football team in the small southern German town of Schwabisch Hall, named the Unicorns, comes out Friday, Aug. 19 on streaming services such as iTunes, AppleTV, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play and Video On Demand. It'll also be shown in select U.S. theaters, but it's unknown whether it'll be shown in Portland.
Alfieri, 30, has played for the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns for several years, at the same time he undertook doing the film. It's a combination of sports — a distinctively Alfieri family tradition — and his own quest to make a movie as a fledgling filmmaker.
Needless to say, mom is very proud. Nick Alfieri wrote, researched, filmed several parts of the movie including interviews, directed and edited "Unicorn Town." And he received a distribution deal.
"Nick has been an inspiration to us all — with his dedication, patience, conviction and belief in himself," said Kelly Alfieri, who's Valley Catholic High assistant athletic director and CYO athletic director. "He has proven that no matter the adversity, you keep fighting and never give up on your dreams."
McCaffrey, who studied film at Stanford, was happy to be part of the film project after Alfieri asked him to be involved. He was quoted in a story on the Carolina Panthers' website saying:
"I could give some exposure to it. (Being a film minor) I was super excited about it. None of us knew where this was going to go. … This has been six or seven years now of him not just filming and editing it but leaving his entire American life and going into a small town in Germany to play football and making a documentary about it. I was so happy for him."
Alfieri said he had the help of a German cinematographer during the years making the film.
"But, this was really a test of all of my filmmaking skills that I had learned over the years, because the production crew was often a one-man show," he said.
After playing at Jesuit High (graduating in 2010) and then Georgetown, he was accepted to the USC School of Cinematic Arts. But, after a semester, he decided to leave to play football in Germany and make the documentary.
"I was lucky enough to end up on a German football team that had an incredible story and was filled with incredible people," he said. "In the film I was able to cover the fascinating history of this team as well as the stories of the people involved, and then document my own experience of becoming a member of the team as we try to battle its toughest opponent.
"The story in the film covers a bit of the history of the team, the personal stories of some players and coaches, and the primary conflict of the Unicorns trying to keep up in a league that appears to leave them behind."
Alfieri, a linebacker, has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Germany, as many players do, and it's reflected in the film. Brother Mikey has also played for the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns.
"The thing about football in Germany is that the German players are playing for 'fun,'" he said. "This is their hobby outside of work or school. Now with that being said, this doesn't mean these guys aren't talented.
"There's also a purity to the game (in Germany). I cover this in the film, but in the U.S. football always feels like such a job, but in Germany these guys are playing for their passion and love for the sport. It's something that really blew me away and inspired me."
Alfieri had a great opportunity in USC film school, but he has learned about filmmaking on the job in Germany.
"Leaving USC film school to come play football in Germany has been the best decision I ever made," he said. "I love the lifestyle there, the Germans have mastered the art of work/life balance — juggling hard productive work with stopping and slowing down to 'smell the roses' as the famous Ferris Bueller once said. It's been an opportunity to continue playing the sport I love so much, as well as travel to places I never would have otherwise gone. I think when you watch the movie the spirit of my love for this experience will shine through."
Said his mother, Kelly:
"Our entire family has really been behind Nick through this whole process. With his history of filmmaking with his brothers and sister, it was no surprise he was finally taking on a project as a commercial endeavor. We as his parents were 100% supportive of him pursuing his passion and he never felt pressure from us that he should be pursuing a traditional career path after college. We have always felt that no matter what he chose to do, he would be successful. I think with our family standard of giving your all at whatever you do and never be afraid to fail may have helped lay a foundation of confidence for him."
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