The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
ON TV
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
TRANSCRIPTS
Return to Transcripts main page

LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Filmmaker Sean Welsh

Aired May 28, 2003 - 20:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart was pounding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't not be nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My hands are clammy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well it's more intense than any competition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: S.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: T.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: R.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: E.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: S.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one, one letter, and you're out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Man, I'm exhausted. That was the 1999 spelling bee. And as we mentioned earlier, there is high drama, even higher anxiety today as the 76th Annual National Spelling Bee unfolds in Washington. There you see some images from it. Two hundred and firty- one school kids in fierce competition trying to spell words like formicivorus. I knew I was going to mess this one up. Formicivorus and affenpinscher. Can you spell them? Have you even heard of them? I'm not going to say whether I have or not.

One 8-year-old can. Anjay Hoda (ph) of Texas became the youngest finalist in history. There he is, He spelled those two words. Also the word that propelled him to the finals -- are you ready for this? -- deipnosophist, which means someone skilled at across the table chitchat.

And I'll bet that someone who is skilled at across the table chitchat is Sean Welsh, co-producer of a documentary about spelling bee contestants called "Spellbound." He joins us from Chicago. Sean, thanks for being with us. I've heard so many good things about your movie. I've not seen it yet. But it has been getting great reviews and a lot of great feedback. I'm dying to see it. What gave you the idea to do this?

SEAN WELSH, CO-PRODUCER "SPELLBOUND": Well, in '97 Jeff Blitz, who directed "Spellbound," was channel surfing on a day that he wasn't normally obsessing about what his first project might be out of film school. And he stumbled on ESPN's live coverage of the National Spelling Bee. And immediately he was riveted. It's transfixing. And he knew at that moment that this would be his first project that he wanted to do out of film school.

COOPER: It comes to me a close second to the cheerleader tryouts that ESPn has on. I find those also pretty transfixing. But what is it about the spelling bees that is so riveting?

WELSH: Well, English is a non-phonetic language. And so there are no formulas that we can learn as we're growing up that are absolute, that can actually let us know how to figure these words out. So when there are these little kids standing in front of millions of people, if they make it out of the ESPN rounds, it is almost like watching a magician perform a trick if they're able to spell these words correctly.

COOPER: And you lived with some of these kids for like six months. What sort of a kid is drawn into this? It really becomes a whole family event.

WELSH: Yes. And there are different motivations. Some of the kids do the spelling bee because it's a personal quest. For others it represents something much bigger. We have several immigrant families that we covered. And really, for them it's about the American dream.

Although "Spellbound" uses the National Spelling Bee as a backdrop, it is truly a film about the American family, about the human spirit. It's a celebration of education and also a celebration of the American dream.

COOPER: Let's look at one of those families. We have a clip I think of a kid named Neil (ph) being tutored by his father. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Darjeeling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have the etymology please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's from a Bengali geographical name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Darjeeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say it toward us again, Neil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Darjeeling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Slow down the ending. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'm not sure that was the clip we wanted. But that young boy, there's intense family pressure often behind these kids, isn't there?

WELSH: Well, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was the kids in most cases that were the driving force behind wanting to compete, and then they would voice that to their parents, and then it would become a collaborative effort between the kids and the family to move through the regionals and then on to the finals.

COOPER: All right we have another clip of a young girl named Ashley (ph) talking about how she hopes and prays she's going to do well. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just hope, and I pray to God that I'll get a presentable place or a good place at least. The top five, top ten. It really doesn't matter to me. It's -- I mean, spelling -- it's something that I love to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How can you compete and be scared? You're trying to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Your film was nominated for an Oscar. Did you ever anticipate that would happen?

WELSH: Definitely not. When Jeff and I began this project we thought that there was a realistic possibility that it might be the two of us or maybe our families at best that would ever see this.

COOPER: Well as I said, it's gotten great reviews, and I'm very eager to see it, and we appreciate you joining us, Sean Welsh. Thanks very much. The film is "Spellbound." Thank you.

WELSH: Thank you for having me.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




CNN US
On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
SEARCH
   The Web    CNN.com     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser.
CNN.com does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.