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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘It doesn’t get better than that’: Basketball, Spokane are the pillars of local filmmaker Luke Hristou’s show ‘Real Rat’

By Luke Pickett The Spokesman-Review

Growing up in awe and admiration of Hoopfest, Salt Lake City native Luke Hristou moved to Spokane and immediately fell in love with the basketball scene.

In fact, it helped inspire his upcoming independent pilot episode of “Real Rat,” the first of what he hopes will be a five-part web series about an aging athlete whose inner peace is only found on a basketball court.

With a cast and crew made up mostly of local residents, Hristou’s film debut hits the Magic Lantern Theatre on Thursday night, with 6:45 and 7:45 showings of the 20-minute premiere.

The main character, described by Hristou as “funky” and in his mid-30s, comes from the many players you might see hovering around Spokane, Hristou said.

“It’s basketball and Spokane – It doesn’t get better than that,” said Hristou, who spent the past three years producing “Real Rat.”

Hristou grew up active in sports, playing basketball and football in high school. Every summer since the age of 8, he would travel to Spokane for the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament : Spokane Hoopfest.

Following Hristou’s years of playing college football at Linfield and Utah State, he returned to basketball, playing three years at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. From there, Hristou said he traveled abroad in search of doing something he loves.

In 2019-20, Hristou attended the Colorado Film School in Denver, where the birth of his filming ideas flourished. In his time there before the pandemic, Hristou was given the assignment of writing a web series concept.

“When I knew I wanted to make something about basketball, I knew it had to be Spokane,” Hristou said.

He wound up dropping out of that course, but he still put his concept on paper for the first time. It took another four months to put his plan into action. The next step was moving to Spokane.

When the seven months of writing the script was complete, Hristou started making phone calls around the area. It was during that time that he met Rick Ibarra-Rivera, the acting, business, life and health coach at RIR (Reasons into Results) Coaching in Spokane.

Not only did “Coach Rick” help train and polish Hristou into a confident aspiring actor and screenwriter, but he also joined forces with him for the making of “Real Rat.”

The original script was intended to be a light-hearted story following a character with the likeness of a college-aged Klay Thompson, the former Washington State basketball star who has gone on to win four NBA titles with the Golden State Warriors. Hristou said he had heard stories about how Thompson was a “chill and goofy gym rat,” often losing his keys or ID as a WSU student.

“I loved the original,” Ibarra-Rivera said. “But I loved the next rendition even more.”

That rendition, Ibarra-Rivera said, came from a 3 a.m. clarity moment for Hristou. The idea of the filming became more centered around a character that is at a crossroads in his life. “Funky” Franky, played by Hristou, has played throughout his adolescent life but begins to age and battle injuries.

As a gym rat, you don’t know what comes next in your life after being done with organized basketball, Hristou said. The pilot of “Real Rat” teases that there are other things that Franky can be – and probably should be – doing, but he just can’t stay away from the gym.

“There are real hoopers in Spokane,” Hristou said of the reason for filming in Spokane. “We wanted it to be something that those guys can come watch and appreciate. They are who it’s really all about.”

The pilot episode shows off various iconic basketball landmarks around Spokane such as Chief Garry’s Hooptown, USA court and The Warehouse Athletic Facility.

Former Rogers High School and Community Colleges of Spokane basketball player DaShawn Bedford shot the pilot episode. It was produced by 81hundred productions, created by Hristou. Since Bedford and Ibarra-Rivera had already worked together along with the rest of the crew, it was “like the family was back together.”

“Nothing in filmmaking is fast, but this was fast,” Ibarra-Rivera said of “Real Rat.” “We had a plan and then it was happening. A lot of dreams converged for this filming. We have people committed to their dreams who came together in the hopes of uplifting our backyard here in Spokane.”

With a Hollywood set and more than 100 cast and crew, Hristou could have shut down a gym for the filming of the pilot. Instead, he only filmed during the slowest hours at The Warehouse.

“The team stepped up to the plate,” Bedford said. “There were times where I wouldn’t want to ask people to work harder than they already were. But everyone filled more than just their role. With only a handful of us, nobody has to work too hard when we all support each other.”

“I think this product will hopefully be an example of what can be done with a limited crew,” Hristou said.

As a Spokane-centered concept, Hristou knew he needed real gym rats to join the cast. So he called his childhood friends, Houston and David Stockton, and comprised a group of local ballers who took on the challenge of acting.

“This whole idea came from wanting to see this kind of story on the screen in Spokane,” Hristou said. “This is Hooptown USA, after all.”

The goal of the “Real Rat” pilot is to expand into a five-episode miniseries highlighting the best basketball players and stories in Spokane. Hristou hopes that with the success of the pilot, he will see his vision come to fruition with resources to continue filming.

Hristou also started “The Real Rat Podcast,” available on Spotify and Apple Music. The podcast, which he created with “Spokast!” details the making of the “Real Rat” pilot. He plans to post a weekly episode with various Spokane basketball guests and stories.

“The theme of the show is universal,” Hristou said. “Life is stressful and you’ve got to find a healthy alternative. What’s better than basketball?”