Michael Critelli calls his journey from CEO to contemporary urban film producer “highly improbable,” as he brings an inspirational story to the big screen
“I didn’t intend to get into the film business,” says Michael J. Critelli, a former CEO of Pitney Bowes and the current president and CEO of Dossia Service Corp. “I have a full-time job running a health-care business, but I was drawn to this story because it raises so many interesting questions.”
The narrative that inspired this Darien resident to try his hand at movie-making is the real-life experience of Dr. Catana Starks, who made history in the 1980s as the first female head coach of an NCAA Division 1 men’s golf team at Tennessee State University. Starks was forced to recruit white and international players because there weren’t many college-age black golfers. Critelli’s company, Gyre Entertainment, will bring her story to the big screen this year.
From the Rough will star Oscar-nominee Taraji P. Henson as Cassandra Turner, a fictional character based on Starks. Pierre Bagley, who met Critelli when the executive served as chariman of the National Urban League Board of Trustees, is producing and directing the project. The screenplay for the film was cowritten by Bagley and Critelli’s son Michael, who grew up in Darien and is a graduate of the University of Southern California.
“It’s being called a sports drama, but it’s not a golf film,” says Critelli. “From the Rough is about larger themes, including race, gender and global diversity, and it celebrates the accomplishments of a great teacher, a coach and an inspirational leader.”