Columbus filmmakers showcase Devin Royal, Dailyn Swain's senior seasons in movie
The initial idea, as most genuine ones do, started off with a broad focus.
In the summer of 2022, videographer Jake Spegal and storyteller Nosa Oriakhi got together to discuss the premise for a movie. With two top-100 basketball players from central Ohio about to enter their senior seasons of high school, the hope was to document Devin Royal and Dailyn Swain’s final year before heading off to Ohio State and Xavier, respectively.
The final product is “Talk of the Town,” a feature-length movie that not only showcases plenty of highlights from the duo but attempts to serve a broader purpose by showcasing a primary message: Even the best deal with pressure and failure along the way.
It’s how they respond that makes the difference.
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“Our immediate idea was to create a movie that kids could learn from,” Oriakhi said. “Instead of it being your typical sports documentary, everyone gets to learn from it and learn how to be successful.”
‘Hundreds’ of hours leads to eventual vision for film
Although the movie is heavy on game highlights, the goal for Spegal and Oriahki was to demonstrate the pressures that even the region’s top players deal with. That vision took some time to present itself as the co-producers and executive directors worked together throughout the season.
Spegal is a student at Otterbein and content producer for 270 Hoops. Oriahki is a former Ohio State men’s basketball student manager who studied civil engineering before creating his own advertising/marketing firm, “UNDRPTD.”
Between driving to games, filming them, securing interviews with Royal, Swain, their mothers and others around them and then editing it all together, Spegal estimated it took “hundreds” of hours to complete the 83-minute movie. First, though, they had to get the two players on board.
“I think it was probably after a month or two (of reaching out) that we really started to get them to reply and we started to shoot some of the stuff we did,” Spegal said. “I think they thought it was a cool idea, but either they didn’t believe us or they didn’t think it was gonna happen.”
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“Talk of the Town” showcases both players in practice, games and off-the-court settings. In one scene, the filmmakers follow Royal to Pickerington Elementary, where he spends time with a classroom each week. In others, Swain and his Africentric teammates eat together, laughing and enjoying the moment. Sprinkled throughout are seven principles from the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, an idea Oriahki came up with.
“We all got around a table and decided the most important thing we wanted to show is the amount of pressure and expectations these two kids were under and how to deal with that when experiencing success,” he said.
The film wasn’t finished until the week before it aired April 8 at the Ohio Union for a crowd of around 250 people. Oriahki’s mother, Janice, helped decorate the theater and organized a balloon launch to celebrate the premier.
The project wasn’t just about the movie. As part of their process, Spegal and Oriakhi wanted to give something back to the communities where Royal and Swain hail from.
The final result was five scholarships, three to Columbus City students and two to Pickerington students, totaling more than $10,000. The proceeds from ticket sales, in addition to any donations that went toward the film, funded the scholarships. They were awarded through a scholarship foundation established in the memory of Oriakhi’s late sister, Jerusha Clark, who passed away in 2019.
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“We were just looking for students who do well in the classroom, because we don’t want to give it to somebody who’s just going to take it and not make use of it at school,” Spegal said. “Somebody who seems dedicated to the college education.”
Spegal and Oriakhi said they plan to enter the movie in festivals and eventually make it readily accessible.
“We don’t really have the craziest of cameras and we made a whole documentary and put it in theaters,” Oriakhi said. “We wanted to show people and get some credibility outside of Columbus, Ohio, and our local people to show that we made something great and honor these two kids from a very low budget.”
An emotional experience for Devin Royal and Dailyn Swain
The finished film was occasionally emotional for Swain and Royal to watch after both players came up short in their bids for state titles. For Africentric, it was a one-point double-overtime loss in the Division III state semifinals that was finalized just before Swain was able to get off a game-winning shot. The shot went in but the buzzer had already sounded, and the senior held his emotions in check until he was out of the public view.
With the camera following him into the tunnel leading to the locker rooms, Swain doubled over in grief as the impact of the loss fully took hold.
“I felt like that really captured the emotion,” Swain said. “That was my last high school game ever in my career and seeing that, it was like reliving the moment and I kind of got emotional too.”
After winning the 2022 Division I title, Pickerington Central beat Centerville in a rematch in the semifinal round but lost to Akron Hoban by six points in the title game despite 15 points and eight rebounds from Royal.
“I had to close my eyes for a second,” Royal said. “I didn’t want to watch. It was very emotional that day losing and definitely rewatching the whole thing.”
Royal was named Ohio Mr. Basketball and Swain finished fourth in the voting. In the 247Sports.com composite, they are the Nos. 51 and 89 national prospects, respectively.
Both players said they were excited about the idea but initially skeptical that it would see the light of day. Royal said he’d always wanted to be in a movie and Swain described the final product as “surreal.”
What would they like viewers to take from it?
“Just showing everything that goes into being a basketball player, whether that’s being a high-profile player or just any basketball player,” Swain said. “The time, the effort, the emotion, everything that goes into it and showing it’s not as easy as it may seem.”
“Main thing is to keep working,” Royal said. “In the movie it shows me and Dailyn wasn’t the best. Me, I was cut when I was a kid, so never give up. That’s a main goal: just keep working, because nothing comes easy.”