Film idea dates back to late 1970s as FHS coach-player
Ken Sparks was a mentor both on and off the football field. Head coach at both Farragut High School (1977-80) and Carson-Newman College (1980-2016) — where he won two back-to-back NAIA championships before becoming the winningest NCAA Division II coach in history— Sparks fostered a passion for God in the lives of his players, his family and many others who knew him or knew of him.
One of those players Sparks coached both at FHS and C-N, Jeff Joslin, is a movie industry filmmaker and actor who recently completed a film about the storied coach, who passed away in 2017. World premier of “Sparks: The Ken Sparks Story” is 3:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 19, in Downtown West theaters as part of Knoxville Film Festival.
The finished product was a labor of love for Joslin, who toyed with the idea of making a movie about Sparks in 2006, but committed while recovering from a stroke in 2018.
“I was back home (from working in California in the movie industry) recuperating and I attended the Hall of Fame Dinner at Farragut High School,” he said.
”After talking to some former teammates and finding out another effort had been considered three years earlier, I realized I wanted to work on a documentary about Coach.”
Even though COVID-19 initially shut down production, Joslin was able to work on the faith-based film for more than a year, finishing it July 31.
It was a Joslin family effort, with his son, Jeffrey, providing music and the title song, “It Only Takes A Spark,” and his daughter-in-law, Ciera, editing the film.
“But this is not about me, it’s about Coach’s legacy and honoring him,” Jeff Joslin said. “He cared more about people than he did about ball games.
“The ballgames took care of themselves,” he added.
After graduating from FHS in 1980, Joslin spent two years at the University of Tennessee before transferring to Carson-Newman in 1982, and was on two national championship teams under Sparks.
“I have had two heroes in my life — Coach and my own father,” Joslin added. “Coach was like my spiritual father, and how I came to know Christ was through him and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.”
However, “I never knew about his life,” Joslin said.
Among 24 interviews, from former players and friends to family members, “his children, telling their dad’s story, was really incredible,” Joslin said. “ ... His faith was just incredible.”
Tickets are $10 and may be ordered in advance at https://www.knoxfilmfest.com/tickets/film-block-16.
In addition to the Knoxville Film Festival, Joslin said he has submitted the film for further consideration at 31 other festivals, six of which have selected the film for inclusion so far. He is also hoping to work with a streaming service to allow more viewers to see the film.