Dust, Sweat & Dedication: Behind the Scenes of “Tough Enough”

When my daughter Lee has officially accepted the role in ‘Tough Enough’, both’ our excitement was mixed with reservations. She was asking herself if she is, in fact, tough enough to portray Frankie Groves, a small-town Texas girl who defied all odds (and the entire town) to become the first female kicker on her high school football team back in 1947. Talk about guts! And I, the responsible adult, was half-wondering and half- concerned about the fact that in real life Lee is not a football player, and has never played before. Yet, in the film, she will have to play it ‘for real’ and give it her all. 

So naturally, the scary vision of possible injuries filled my mind and settled in alongside excitement… Other than that, – tough enough was Lee’s middle name, and I hadn’t doubted it for a second that she could pull off this role of a beautiful, norm-bending, can’t-sit-still teenage girl who made history (and national news) alongside her football team coach, Truman “Chief” Johnson, – played by the incredible Gary “Litefoot” Davis. At this point, Lee has already proved that she was determined to get this role by sending in the submission for it the second time when the role ended up being re-released after the first round of auditions. Maybe it was the sheer audacity of this small-town girl chasing a dream bigger than the wide-open sky that Lee had shared, too?..

Whatever it was, I knew I had to be a part of it. And so, I offered my services as the behind-the-scenes photographer, a way to be a part of the action, to witness Lee’s journey not just as a proud mom, but as a silent observer. Little did I know that it would become not only the best decision, but also the best experience I’ve had after all these years of being a part of Lee’s career taking her to auditions, rehearsals, film and commercial sets, and theater performances. That is, because I was always there, of course, but never on the inside, where the real magic of production takes place!  I felt nervous because it would have been my first time working as a film set photographer, but so was Lee who had never before picked up a football, not to mention passed it!!!

Forget the bleachers; I was diving headfirst into the messy, beautiful chaos of the set. Sealy, Texas, transformed into a movie magic wonderland. Trucks overflowed with equipment, cables snaked across like steel vines, and a crew hustled about with the precision of a well-oiled machine. But the magic wasn’t just in the controlled chaos. It was in the director’s tent, a makeshift war room where raw takes were transformed into cinematic gold. Huddled around the monitor, the director, the cinematographer, and a whole army of other crew members dissected each scene with the focus of a brain surgeon. Blades of grass became characters, beads of sweat turned into emotional punctuation. It felt like peering into another dimension, a world where every detail mattered, a story woven with light, shadow, and the quiet hum of a hundred creative minds. The director, Laura Somers, was a whirlwind of energy and passion. It was clear that this project was her heart and soul. As she meticulously orchestrated each scene, I watched in admiration, marveling at her artistry and commitment to authenticity.

The long days were a test of endurance – the Texas heat relentless, the hours long, the demands high. But the dedication from everyone on and around the set was awe-inspiring. The cast members, a talented group of young actors, embodied their characters with incredible dedication and precision despite the long hours and sizzling heat. The crew, their faces etched with concentration as they perfected every shot. And Lee and her scene partners pour their heart and soul into every scene. Practicing stunts, practicing the team shots, the game shots. It was a masterclass in passion for the art, a testament to the relentless pursuit of a dream. It was in the atmosphere, a vibrant tapestry woven from dedication, passion, and a whole lot of Texas pride. I did not know how much I needed to witness all that until I did. This film, these people, and this experience will forever change how I think of a movie production from now on. For me, being on the set of “Tough Enough” was more than just a behind-the-scenes experience. It was a profound reminder of the transformative power of art and the enduring bonds that are forged through shared creativity.


P.S Images from the set will be posted once they are cleared for social media!

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