Director Sean McNamara watched the HBO special on Caroline “Line” Found, and discovered that the story connected with him emotionally and intellectually. The story of the Iowa City West High School volleyball team, who won the state championship and then suffered as their star player, Line, and Line’s mother died within two weeks of each other. But thanks to the players, Coach Kathy Bresnahan, and Line’s father, Dr. Ernie Found, the team found itself fighting to win fifteen straight games and battling for a spot in the playoffs. With this story in mind, LD Entertainment hired McNamara to direct, and tabbed stars Helen Hunt (“Bres”), William Hurt (“Dr. Found”), Danika Yarosh (“Line”), and Erin Moriarty (“Kelly”), to tell this story cinematically in The Miracle Season.
“How many times does the star player and the players mother die, and then the team go on to win the state championship?” McNamara said, recently. “Then I got to know Ernie Found and his family, and met Kathy Bresnahan, and saw how personally they were protecting their story. They were afraid Hollywood could make them look bad, I was able to show them that I wanted to tell a story to honor Line.”
McNamara cast Yarosh as Line, who dies tragically in a traffic accident early in the film. When Yarosh realized that she’d earned the role, she turned to Line’s friends and Bres for stories. She wanted to portray her as accurately as possible. While Yarosh was a competitive dancer and ice skater, she’d never played volleyball and needed to train for three weeks to portray this young woman who was charismatic and an intense volleyball leader.
“I wanted to portray her as accurately as I could and to do it realistically, and do it right,” Yarosh said. “They were able to talk to me about her, with memories, and tell me any stories that showed me who she was. It showed how much she impacted people and what she was really like. It was important for me in the small time I had on screen to get across what she was like. It’s hard to capture in the film just what all of these girls were like.”
Part of Yarosh’s support systems was Line’s actual father, Ernie. Described by those around him as welcoming, and giant (at 6’6”), he was the “big teddy bear” who Yarosh turned to for support. “The pressure was so intense that I wasn’t sure I could do it and Ernie made me feel so good,” Yarosh said. “It was more pressure than working with Tom Cruise, because then you have the space to run with who you want to create them to be. But this girl was such a force of nature, such a spark of light, that you don’t want to disrespect who she was.”
Line was the mixture of her personality, with the nurture she received from Found and his wife, Ellen. They were influenced by their families, which had large family gatherings for fellowship and support. “It was all about sharing, and sharing can bring joy,” Found said. “In today’s world, we need to think more about each other and taking care of each other.”
Through the storm of losing Ellen and Line, Found found comfort in the team and its efforts. In the film he’s shown as losing his faith, temporarily, but he has said that is a Hollywood element to bring conflict that is later resolved. Instead, he found that he was left more with questions than anger. “The more you seek answers to the questions, the harder it becomes,” he said. “You feel support from all angles, and experience love from above, and try to embrace it.”
“When life’s uggliest things hit you between the eyes, it forces you to make some choices. You can run away, isolate yourself, and not believe it, but it won’t be beneficial to anyone. I think there are many things people do during the bad times that are the proof in the pudding.”
For Found and the team at Iowa City West High School, The Miracle Season is one more piece of evidence that their love and faith have been proved through the trials and tragedies of life.
The Miracle Season is in theaters on April 13.