When Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery heard the news, she couldn't have been more proud.
Fellow UConn alum and current New York Liberty forward Tina Charles had a documentary debuting at Tribeca Film Festival. It was her directorial debut, a documentary about her father called "Charlie's Records," and after two years of hard work, it was finally ready to share with the world.
Montgomery reached out to Charles to congratulate her, understanding more than most how hard it is to break into the film industry. Montgomery, who recently launched her acting career, and Charles are just two of many WNBA players who are pursuing passions outside of basketball. Montgomery and Charles have been in the league since 2009 and 2010 respectively, and with the years adding up, they're starting to look toward the future.
"It's nice that we get to do that," Montgomery said of testing out other careers. "We all made the sacrifice — it's a sacrifice financially to not go overseas for us. For me, I'm happy because I'm doing something I've always thought about doing. And for (Tina) I'm happy because her dad is one of the coolest guys in the world, I think, so I even hit her up and said 'I'm so proud of you,' because just to do something like that for your parents, there's probably no better feeling."
Montgomery and Charles played together at UConn for three years, winning a national title in 2009. Charles led the Huskies to another national title her senior year, as well. Both are in the top 10 or top five of multiple program statistical categories.
For Charles, whose film debuted May 3 after she walked the red carpet alongside her father, the film industry was never something she saw herself getting into. Her father's efforts to share soca and calypso music in New York inspired her, though, and she said she owed it to him and the culture of Trinidad and Tobago to tell his story.
"The whole point was for everyone to know what my father did," Charles said, "how important he was to the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, how important he was to the genre of soca and calypso music, so (the premiere) was good."
While the film is getting interest from other festivals, Charles hasn't made arrangements for it to be viewed anywhere else yet, including online. Now that she has one film under her belt, Charles said she's interested in continuing her filmmaking career but isn't sure what topic or person she'd like to focus on next. According to Liberty teammate and fellow UConn alum Kia Nurse, Charles is making the right decision by sticking with it.
Nurse, who also ventured outside basketball this offseason and spent time as an analyst for Canada's The Sports Network, said watching her teammate's film was inspiring. Nurse was used to seeing the leader Charles is on the court and in the locker room, and the film gave her added perspective into who Charles is as a person. Despite arriving at UConn years after Charles had departed for the WNBA, the school and their current team has connected the pair.
"Her film was absolutely incredible," Nurse, who's in her second year in the league, said. "It's a testament to who she is off the court. We get caught up a lot on who players are on the court and what they can do with their abilities, but this was something where we could gain a little more insight on her life in terms of her family and the background and where she came from."
Watching as WNBA players like Charles, Montgomery and Nurse explore interests off the court and find ways to make others see them as more than just basketball players is something Atlanta Dream guard Tiffany Hayes relishes. Hayes played with Montgomery and Charles at UConn, which makes watching them thrive outside of basketball even more special. In a competitive league with few roster spots, players know that they won't always have basketball, and when it's over, they want to be prepared to go into another career they love.
"It's definitely really nice to see — really anybody in this league — branch out" Hayes said. "It's great to see a fellow WNBA player doing things outside of this because we know this doesn't last forever, so when you start doing that early, it really shines a light on us and what we have to do on and off the court as women's basketball players."
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