George Hamilton – The Drama of Platform Tennis

When documentary filmmaker George Hamilton brought his camera to a singles platform tennis tournament in his hometown of Greenwich, CT three years ago, he didn’t know how the footage he captured would impact his business or the sport. Knocked out of the tournament early, Hamilton hung around and – with the permission of the tournament chairman – shot some footage of tournament play. “The club had a great place to shoot from. Paddle tennis is a challenge to film because of the screen, but we got great footage and it turned out people liked it a lot.”

A strong club player, Hamilton counts a win of the Division 2 main draw at the Fairfield County Paddle Tennis League Tournament, as well as a back draw win at the Connecticut State Mixed Tournament, among his career achievements. Though Hamilton played hockey, lacrosse, and a little bit of tennis growing up and in college, he discovered paddle after graduating while working in the corporate world. Twenty years later, the sport continues to be a source of enjoyment for Hamilton, both on and off the court.

“The footage I shot that day really started something for me.” Taking on projects in between filming documentaries proved a creative outlet and opened new opportunities for his business. “Since getting into this, my company has moved into web production. In the process of learning the encoding and compression that comes with these kinds of pieces, we were able to offer a new service to our clients.”

Hamilton has seen improvement on the court, too. “By filming some of the best players, like Mike Cochrane, Mark Parsons, and Mike Stulac, and editing the footage together, all of this great play has gotten into my head. It’s a great way to learn. It’s made me a better player.”

Recent projects have included coverage of tournaments like the President’s Cup and the Junior Nationals. Hamilton created DVDs that were very well received. Yet, the challenge of finding the best angle to film play continues for him. “We’ve tried shooting with cranes above the court – just about everything.” Because the points can be very long in paddle, sometimes going for forty or fifty shots, Hamilton believes filming play isn’t always the best way to capture the essence of the game. “I go for the camaraderie. The paddle world is full of fun, friendly folks. I’m very careful about not getting into people’s faces, staying out of the way and getting good stuff. What I always say to players is, if I do come up to you with the camera, give me a smile and a good quote. So in the end we get great action and great commentary.”

While Hamilton makes some money from these projects, it tends to be just enough to cover costs. “It’s not about the money. It’s a labor of love, a way to give back to a sport that’s given a lot to me. I know that people are watching these pieces from the numbers of views and the increased traffic to the websites that host them.”

This increased awareness, Hamilton believes, is especially cool at a time when he sees a lot of interesting things happening with the sport. “Since I’ve started covering paddle tennis, I’ve seen a lot of young, athletic players picking up the game – a big increase in juniors. And the pace of the game is changing. Tennis players are crossing over and bringing two-handed backhands, charging the net, that kind of thing. It’s revolutionizing the game.”

The best thing about the sport for Hamilton? “The drama that can build in this sport is incredible, like a good film. During the course of this year, I’ve had two extremely memorable matches, both over two hours, both with these really long points. Every lob had to be precise, every overhead had to be precise. It was just this long, intense drama, and there are not a lot of other sports that can do that. And that’s what attracts me to it, not only as a player, but as a filmmaker, too.”

Off the court, Hamilton’s company, YYR Productions, has produced two award-winning documentaries, numerous ads and web pieces, and recently signed a deal to provide content for car dealerships nationwide. I plan to play this game until I drop and keep filming the action, some of which can be found here on PaddlePlayer.com.

By Brooke Sussman