University of Idaho graduate Ana Overgaard met U.S. memory champion Nelson Dellis by chance the summer of her sophomore year and joked that someone should make a documentary about him.
With encouragement from her professors, Overgaard took on the project her senior year at UI and recently finished the documentary, titled “Ace of Diamonds.”
“Ace of Diamonds” will premiere at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 in the UI Administration Building Auditorium, with a discussion and question and answer session with Overgaard and Dellis to follow.
Overgaard graduated with a Broadcast and Digital Media degree in the spring of 2013, and said she really had no intentions of making a documentary, but Dellis provided an opportunity to make a film with interesting and meaningful content.
“This project just fell into my lap,” Overgaard said. “Once I started, I fell in love with the process.”
One of Overgaard’s professors and mentor, Denise Bennett, said Overgaard came in with the idea of someone making a documentary on Dellis and Bennett encouraged her to pursue the job.
“She was talking about (Dellis) and thought it would make an interesting documentary,” Bennett said. “When she said someone should make it, I told her she should make it. I’m very proud of her for coming up with the idea and being able to execute it well and put it on the screen.”
Overgaard applied for a UI student grant in order to produce “Ace of Diamonds,” and began the process of filming with Dellis.
After losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease, Dellis began mental and memory training and started competing in memory competitions. Dellis won two U.S. National Memory Competition championships and has been dedicated to raising awareness and funds for research about Alzheimer’s disease.
“Ace of Diamonds” follows Dellis on his second attempt to climb Mount Everest and his journey to competing in the World Memory Championship. Overgaard said she was intimidated to work with Dellis at first.
“He knew as much as I did about filming and production,” Overgaard said. “He’s been on big news broadcasts and television shows like ‘Dr. Oz’ and ‘National Geographic.’ But he was completely awesome and helpful and totally a normal guy who was fascinating to listen to.”
In addition to being a full-time student, Overgaard played on the UI women’s basketball team during the shooting of the documentary and was a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority. Bennett said balancing her involvement on campus with producing the film is a testament to Overgaard’s perseverance — that she undertook this project, got through the process and was able to tell a cool story.
“This was a very challenging project,” Bennett said. “Ana has always been a wonderful student and a good writer and producer and a great storyteller, and she tackled this project well.”
Overgaard said although it was crazy at times, the process was rewarding.
“It’s so weird to think of how it happened, because it wasn’t supposed to,” Overgaard said. “When I got the grant, I was scared, but just getting through each shoot and trip and dealing with all of the hurdles were each such a success for me. I didn’t imagine I’d be working on a project like this.”
Though all of the shooting and editing was done by Overgaard, she said the film truly came together because of UI.
“My professors and advisers were very helpful and always willing to give me ideas and advice, and my coaches were very understanding about games and practices throughout filming,” Overgaard said. “The grant that funded it was from UI, the musicians that scored the film are from UI and the promotion posters and advertisements were developed by UI students as well. I’m very grateful to UI for all of the help and support.”
Overgaard said she is proud of “Ace of Diamonds” and admires Dellis’ work spreading awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.
“I feel really lucky to have done a project with interesting content,” Overgaard said. “If I can tell a story that means something to people and that makes people aware and think of Alzheimer’s, that feels rewarding and meaningful.”
Cara Pantone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org