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Director Peter Nicks Uncovers What Makes Stephen Curry Underrated

After tackling illegal labor human trafficking during the Iraq War and reform measures at the Oakland Police Department, Peter Nicks’ latest subject is NBA star Stephen Curry.

Peter Nicks
Peter Nicks

Nicks directed the new documentary Stephen Curry: Underrated, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The documentary was released on Apple TV+ on July 21st, and follows Curry’s rise from an undersized college player at a small-town Division I college to a four-time NBA champion, while also following Curry’s journey to getting his college degree after leaving college early to go professional.

Nicks chatted with The Quintessential Gentleman about what makes Curry “underrated” and his unique take on the cinema verite style of filmmaking, which incorporates natural actions and dialogue in a film.

Describe your first-time meeting Steph Curry.

I met Steph at the Chase Center a few months before we started filming. He was very present and approachable. People talk about his eye contact and comfort looking you directly in the eye. This is what I experienced as well, which had a disarming effect. He seemed just extremely relatable. I was particularly struck by his sense of nostalgia when he began talking about his time at Davidson College.

You follow Stephen Curry’s journey to getting his degree while playing in the NBA. What moment in depicting that process stood out the most to you?

We were quite struck by how much Steph is doing beyond just his on-the-court job. He's a dad, a husband, runs a non-profit, manages his brand company, and stays very busy filming commercials for endorsements, not to mention his production company, which produces films and television. On top of all that, here he is trying to fulfill this promise he made to his mom and coach in 2009: that he'd get his degree one day. We wanted to try to capture as best we could the level of difficulty of the goals he has set for himself.

Why was using the cinema verité technique important to use in this project?

I wanted to use as much vérité as possible because it enhances the sense of intimacy with the subject and allows things to be revealed that do not come across in the same way in interviews. It's one thing for people to be talking about and describing something, it's another when you allow the audience to experience someone's point of view through observational filming. But telling stories that occurred in the past is a bit harder to do with vérité so we also utilized archival footage as well as interviews.

Talk about working with Apple TV+. Why was Apple TV+ the best platform for this project?

The Apple team was great to work with because they value authentic and engaging storytelling. They've got a great track record for completing profiles of subjects that might be more in the celebrity category. And while there are certainly other platforms out there that also share these values, Apple really does a tremendous job supporting their projects not only through production but also in release, which is as important if not more important in terms of audiences being able to understand and find the film.

How is Stephen Curry "Underrated" in your opinion?

He was not recruited by any blue-chip division one programs including Virginia Tech, his parents' alma mater. His father was a very well-regarded NBA star, which makes it quite surprising that Davidson was the only college to recruit Steph. The NBA draft report that we have Reggie Miller read at the beginning of the film also shows how NBA scouts saw little potential for Steph to become an NBA star. And all you need to do is go back and listen to sports talk radio in 2009-2013 to get a sense of the suspicion that many had that Stephen Curry would ever be a great player.

Were there parts you wanted to include in the finished project but didn't?

We had hoped to explore Steph's connection to the Oakland story a bit more as well as unpack the Davidson story a bit more from the perspective of the numerous fans who experienced the 2008 NCAA run. We had filmed several interviews that we were unable to include because the Warriors went on a surprising run in the NBA playoffs culminating in the Warriors' 4th championship under Steph Curry, so we decided to make room in the film for that.

What can we expect from you next?

I'm mainly focused on building the nonfiction department at Proximity Media, the company I co-founded with Ryan Coogler. So, I have no immediate plans to jump into directing another film, but I've been slowly developing an adaptation of my first documentary into a narrative fiction film. Not many people have seen it but that documentary, THE WOLF, was released on ABC Nightline (under a different name back in 2000) and explored my addiction and incarceration in the late 80s. It isn't streaming anywhere, but it is the film that began my career.

Photo Credit: Apple TV+


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