LOS ANGELES — If you haven’t heard of documentary filmmaker Charlie Minn before, you’re not alone. After all, he’s not one of the legends among Hollywood filmmakers.
Minn, who lives in New York and El Paso, Texas, isn’t well known in hockey circles, either. But he is currently in the Los Angeles area promoting his new film, Voice of the King: The Bob Miller Story. a documentary about the career of legendary Los Angeles Kings play-by-play announcer Bob Miller, which opens at the Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on December 5.
Despite the fact that he is not a big name Hollywood filmmaker, he is a prolific documentary filmmaker, focusing on the “true crime” genre, most notably on crimes that have not gotten a lot of media exposure.
Given Minn’s focus, a film about Miller is quite the departure. But his connection with Miller—meeting him when he provided statistics during a television broadcast while the Kings were visiting the New York Islanders—made him a natural fit.
“I was working on the crew of an Islanders/Kings game,” Minn recalled. “I want to say that it was in 2007, and I was wearing a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt. Bob, being from the Midwest asked, ‘are you a Packers fan,’ and we’ve been great friends since.”
Minn immediately realized that Miller was very different from other play-by-play announcers he had worked with.
“I love hockey,” he said. “Way back when, when I was still acting, and trying to find myself, I would pick up odd jobs here and there. I did stats for different teams, and I would always notice that the play-by-play guy wouldn’t even say ‘hi.’ I would, literally, sit next to someone and not even talk to them the whole night.”
“I wasn’t bothered by it, but I was a little taken aback,” he added. “But Bob? He just made you feel comfortable. He treated you with respect. He really gives hope for humanity. He might be the nicest guy I’ve ever met. Especially today, [sports] is such a cutthroat business. The egos are large. But every now and then, you find someone like Bob.”
As reported earlier in this space, Minn approached Miller with the idea for the film.
“I went to him two years ago, right after the Kings won their first Stanley Cup, and said, ‘Bob, how about a documentary?’ He wasn’t that into it then, and I think, back then, I don’t think I pushed it as hard as I did this time, because I was so busy with other projects,” Minn explained. “Luckily, a couple things happened that made it feel like [this film] was meant to be. Had the Kings not played the New York Rangers in the  Stanley Cup Final, I wouldn’t have met with him between Games 3 and 4—I live in New York and in El Paso, Texas.”
“It was between Games 3 and 4, and the Kings had an off day,” Minn elaborated. “Bob and I got together, and I said ‘Bob, this is really it. There’s a great chance you guys are going to win the Cup. I know, two years ago, we kind of talked about it, and it didn’t happen. If we don’t do it now, it may never happen,’ so he was more into it.”
Minn had Miller on board, but one rather large obstacle remained.
“I said, ‘OK Bob, we have one problem,’” Minn said. “‘Where are we going to raise the money?’ He mentioned Ed Roski, Jr. (one of the owners of the Kings), and I don’t know what it was, but I had the feeling that this was going to hit. I don’t know why, but it was like a sixth sense in me. I literally contacted Ed the moment Bob left my place.”
Roski quickly jumped on board, given that the film was about Miller and that proceeds would benefit the Kings Care Foundation.
“That was in the summer, June, and now, here we are,” Minn noted. “It’s not even the end of the year, and we’re ready to open up with the movie.”
The day between Games 3 and 4 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final was June 10, 2014. With the movie premiering on December 5, if you do the math, it took less than six months from when Minn was just talking with Miller about making the film and its release.
Talk about putting the production on a fast track…
“Normally, I wouldn’t suggest that a filmmaker do it that way, but I’m so comfortable with this formula and my style—I’ve knocked off 16 documentaries in five years,” Minn noted. “Same formula, same editor, same composer, same style. A lot of interviews, a lot of file video, interesting twists.”
“I looked at the latest cut, literally, last night,” Minn added. “I’m happy with it. It all came together. I can’t wait for it to open.”
But Voice of the King was almost called something else.
“The original movie title was, The Ultimate King,” Minn said. “Coaches come and go, players come and go, owners come and go, but Bob doesn’t. Bob is always here.”
“There were some copyright issues, so we went with the Voice of the King, which is, maybe, even better, because he’s the voice,” Minn added. “That’s what he is.”
Miller, the Voice of the Kings for 42 seasons, has been behind the microphone and in front of the television camera during the careers of virtually all of the great players who have worn the Kings jersey, and some of them appear in the film, including Daryl Evans (current Kings radio color commentator), Jim Fox (current Kings television color commentator), Luc Robitaille (current Kings President/Business Operations) and The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
Minn also interviewed long time Kings radio play-by-play announcer Nick Nickson, who started with the Kings as their color commentator, working alongside Miller during their simulcast on television and radio.
“Bob had a lot to do with the Kings hiring Nick Nickson,” said Minn, who noted that this is touched upon in the film. “Bob strongly suggested getting Nick on board.”
“I told [Miller] to hand-pick seven or eight guys who can help the film, and that he knew well,” added Minn. “[Former Kings owner] Bruce McNall is in the movie. A lot of people have forgotten about him, but you can never deny that he took the Kings over that first major hump—getting Gretzky, and going to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.”
Minn made it a point to note that the film is not filled with pushover questions, nor is it loaded with fluff.
“I always try to ask a very challenging question,” Minn said about his interviews. “I don’t like the cream puff questions.”
“I talked about how Bruce McNall got Wayne over here, the whole thing with [former Edmonton Oilers owner] Peter Pocklington,” Minn added. “Jim Fox stole the puck from Wayne in the Miracle on Manchester, and I asked Wayne, ‘can you laugh about it now?’ I don’t think he’s laughing about it, still, or that he ever did.”
“I talked about how long Bob is going to continue his career, and he answers that. There’s a lot of angles in the movie, more than I thought. We really went behind the scenes on the [original Kings owner] Jack Kent Cooke stories—some of the things that were said in meetings, stuff that people may not know about. [Radio personality and Kings fan] Tim Conway, Jr. is a great interview. [Los Angeles Lakers radio play-by-play announcer] John Ireland is in the movie—he grew up idolizing Bob. Everyone in the movie has a good story to tell.”
But the best stories are, of course, those told by Miller.
“Making a film is telling a story, and no one tells a story better than Bob Miller,” Minn emphasized. “The best thing to do with Bob is to just stay out of his way. When someone is that talented, or that good, whether its an athlete, a broadcaster, playing the piano, just let the talent flow, so I pretty much stayed out of his way. Of course, I have to ask the questions, but he’s just amazing.”
With Miller frequently in the public eye, and with his tremendous popularity among Kings fans, his professional persona is well known. But the film provides an opportunity for moviegoers to learn about the Bob Miller they don’t get to see on television.
“Bob is an entertainer,” said Minn. “If you listen to Bob [on a broadcast], you wouldn’t necessarily think that he’s got a great sense of humor. It doesn’t come out on the telecasts. But [off the air], he’s got one joke after another.”
“The more people were telling me things about Bob, I realized that I kind of already knew them,” added Minn. “I just think it’s time that everybody else knew—his sense of humor, his storytelling abilities. Then there are the historic moments—how many broadcasters have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? It’s incredible.”
“Here’s a way for people to understand Bob’s career, and why he is the way he is. We all see Bob—he’s this elder statesman, and he’s been calling Kings games forever, but now we really get to know his family. We get to know how he got the job. We get to know stuff from the 70’s, the 80’s—every decade is respected, every decade is represented in the film—just all his accolades—the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Wisconsin Broadcasting Hall of Fame. I mean, that guy, you’d think he invented the hall of fame. His awards keep piling up.”
Minn noted that before the film, during production, after film is released, and long after it fades from recent memory, Bob Miller hasn’t changed and won’t change.
“He’s just the same, old Bob Miller, from the 70’s up until today,” said Minn. “Beyond approachable, almost to a fault. He’s arguably the most popular hockey announcer ever.”
Voice of the King opens exclusively at the Regal Cinemas L.A. Live, on December 5, and will run for at least one week. For ticket information: http://www.regmovies.com/Theatres/Theatre-Folder/Regal-LA-LIVE-Stadium-14-8900.
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Voice of the King: The Bob Miller Story – Preview
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