Source: Daily Bulletins
Film producer John McAllister (second from left) poses with some of the stars from “Double Dummy” which has two screenings at the Toronto NABC: Zach Grossack, Adam Grossack and Adam Kaplan.
As he was in the final stages of post-production work on the 86-minute documentary film Double Dummy, John McAllister, the film’s creator, took time out to answer a few questions about himself and his project. The film follows the USA1 Under-21 team at the 2012 World Youth Teams Championship in Taicang, China. A screening of the film is scheduled at the Convention Centre.

Provide some biographical information about yourself

I am a bicentennial baby born in Philadelphia PA. My mother’s family is from Charlottesville VA, where I grew up and live currently. I went to college at the University of Virginia. Before becoming a filmmaker, I worked for an investment management firm in Charlottesville. How did you become interested in bridge? I come from a card-playing family. My favorite game was hearts up until my grandfather died in my freshman year of college. My aunt Kathleen stayed at our family’s house for the funeral and one evening we sat down to play hearts with Kathleen, and my parents as our third and fourth. As we were going over the house rules, Kathleen said something to the effect of, “This is stupid. We should be playing bridge.” I did not play hearts again for 20 years because I wanted to play only bridge from that point forward. Do you play bridge? If so, how often? Initially, my bridge playing was limited to home games with my parents and one of my three sisters as our fourth. I had no idea there was this whole world of duplicate and rubber bridge out there. It was not until my sister had some friends looking for a fourth for their weekly bridge class that I learned duplicate, some eight years after first taking up the game. Now I play 10 to 12 to major tournaments a year, including all of the NABCs. Additionally, I played in the Open European Championships in June and will compete in the World Open Transnational Teams this year in Lyon, France. The Jefferson Bridge Association is our local bridge club and I like to play in those games with friends and players who love the game. Also, I enjoy playing rubber bridge at the Regency Whist Club in New York City. What inspired you to start the project that resulted in the documentary?
double dummy a film about bridge
After seven successful years in the investment management business, I had a yearning to do something bridge related. On my last day of work, I went straight to the NABC in Memphis in 2012. At that tournament, my partner for the IMP Pairs, Greg Humphreys, invited me to attend a brainstorming session for getting more young people interested in learning bridge. At that session it occurred to me that I could play a major role in helping to generate more interest in the game. When I returned home, post-tournament, I had dinner with two friends, Derek Sieg and Jeremy Goldstein, both filmmakers. One of them commented that they thought I was the only person they knew who played bridge. One of the statistics mentioned at the brainstorming session was that the average age of the ACBL members was 67 and that it was going up by two years each year. I shared this information with them both, and Jeremy said, “That sounds like a documentary movie.” Thus was Double Dummy born. How long did it take you to complete the project? Was there a lot of travel involved? It has been more than five years since the idea for the film was first conceived. As noted in the intro, we followed the USA1 under-21 team as they competed in the 2012 World Youth Team Championships. That tournament took place in Taicang, China, which is about two hours from Shanghai by car. We had a crew at the summer NABC in Philadelphia that year and traveled directly from there to Shanghai. Additionally, we went to the hometowns of all but one of the USA1 under-21 team members and to Omaha NE to interview Warren Buffett. What challenges did you face along the way? This is by far the most difficult question to answer. First of all, we expected to submit for the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 and ended up submitting this past year. For a long time, it seemed like the film would never be finished. NABCs would come and go and friends would ask cheerfully, “How’s the film coming?” It was a question I grew to hate. I felt like a complete farce. Documentary filmmaking is incredibly challenging. It requires tremendous patience and attention to detail. Making this film and playing bridge have taught me a lot about respecting other people’s time and ideas. I have strained relationships and alienated friends along the way. I am learning about the power of true forgiveness and in the process I am able to enjoy life much more. What did you hope to accomplish with the documentary? Do you feel that you achieved that goal? I want potential bridge players to be aware of the entire scope of the game. It has been miscast as simply a game for “old people.” There is some truth in that narrative, but I want younger people to have a full picture of its virtues. Also, through bridge, I have been blessed to meet people of all ages and backgrounds, each of whom is helping me to see the world through a wider lens. I think we are in the process of accomplishing our goals. The feedback to date has been overwhelmingly positive from the friends and industry contacts that have seen the final draft. I cannot overstate the place bridge has played in my own life’s journey in terms of feeling at home and connected to other people. Any final thoughts for the readers? Do you want to acknowledge those who helped you? First of all, thanks to all of those who play and teach the game every day. They keep the torch burning. Thanks to Harold S. Vanderbilt for coming up with the incredible scoring system we use today and the auction rules beforehand. Seriously, I probably played bridge for 20 years before I started to really understand the scoring. It’s such a multi-layered game. Sometimes, during production, I have been so envious of soccer, whose scoring could not be more simple, and it’s very viewer friendly. Meanwhile, try explaining bridge scoring to a bridge neophyte. There are literally so many people to thank. I have been incredibly supported by the bridge and film making communities and my friends and family. Just today I got some great feedback from one of the men who is helping us do the color correction. Thanks to each and every one of you for helping make this project something we can all be proud of. Post script: At the Summer NABC in Toronto, McAllister talked about his goal for Double Dummy: “I want it to be a film for bridge players, first and foremost, something they can share with their friends who are interested in learning the game. I want to whet people’s appetites for the game.” This interview first appeared in the American Bridge Teachers’ Association Quarterly.