Liberty cinematic arts film “Rebals,” a story about softball coach Dot Richardson, earns nomination

Stephan Schultze, executive director of Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts, was a semifinalist for the “Best Script” award at the Sedona International Film Festival for his original screenplay, “Rebals.” 

“Rebals” is a screenplay about the life and career of Dot Richardson, Liberty University’s head softball coach and former Olympian. The screenplay follows Richardson through her adolescence as she excelled in softball. 

When she was a child, she could not participate in the sport she was gifted at because baseball was exclusively male, and softball was not yet on her radar as an option. Richardson first heard about softball after she was approached by a coach and invited to practice alongside women in their early 20s. 

Richardson was hired as Liberty’s head softball coach in 2013, and while sharing her story during a faculty meeting, Schultze was captivated by her testimony. Schultze is a producer, director and writer and has worked on many well-known films such as “The Abyss,” “Tremors” and “God’s Compass.” 

Schultze worked in Los Angeles for 11 years before working as founding director at the Zaki Gordon Institute for Independent Filmmaking faculty in 2011.

Because the screenplay was about Richardson’s softball career, a significant amount of research and collaboration had to take place for the telling of the story. The story took over four years to write, and it went through more than 30 drafts of rewrites and revisions. Schultze mentioned how Richardson had looked over drafts, gave suggestions and had notes. 

“Dot (has) been very supportive telling me her story and letting me know the high points and low points as well as providing access to a lot of players, some of (whom) were on her team at UCLA and her Olympic team,” Schultze said. “I knew nothing about softball when I started, so you have to read a bunch of biographies, autobiographies (and) do a lot of research related to it just to get a good sense of what it’s like.”

Since Richardson’s story happened during a time when women began to have more access to sports due to Title IX, it was important to accurately depict what it was like for women to experience those hardships and struggles.  

“You start to get a sense of what that is like so you can write more authentically on what it’s like to be a coach or a player within a female sport,” Schultze continued.

The screenplay follows Richardson as she finds her home in softball and as the sport continuously opens doors for her. From her experience studying and playing softball at UCLA to medical school and eventually the Olympics, “Rebals” highlights both Richardson’s faith and her determination during that time. 

“I think it’s very reflective of the development of women’s access over time, and I think Dot’s story does that very well,” Schultze said.

Schultze also spoke on how to keep a story fresh and the importance of placing yourself within the characters you write. All of it is vital for authenticity.  

“Are the characters why you’re writing versus just putting words on a paper? You have to write from all those distinctive voices and be those characters and play them out in your head as you’re writing,” Schultze said. “It was fun to have discovered Dot’s story because it’s such an amazing, beautiful story to tell.”

Napier is a news reporter for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter

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