Arts and Culture

An underdog sports comedy filmed in Louisville makes its Kentucky premiere this week. “2nd Serve” is a new comedy about a former tennis star, Owen “Game Set” Match, who gets fired from his ritzy country club gig and is forced to teach on the public courts with a ragtag group of has-beens at the worst tennis club in town. 

Call it “Dodgeball” for the Wimbledon set.

“It’s about him bonding with the oddball group of pros he has to work with and he ends up finding meaning and love,” says Louisville-based screenwriter and co-producer James Markert. “It’s a comedy, but it has a lot of heart to it.”

“2nd Serve” screens Tuesday at the Brown Theatre (7:30 p.m.). The film made its world premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival last weekend. The Brown Theatre screening will be followed by a week-long run at Village 8 Theater (Oct. 19-25).

Directed by Tim Kirkman, “2nd Serve” was produced by Gill Holland and filmed at Louisville’s Jewish Community Center, the Louisville Boat Club and other recognizable locations around town. 

Tennis is a world Markert knows well—he’s been a club pro for twenty years. Markert not only wrote the script for “2nd Serve,” he coached the cast, including “Cougar Town” star Josh Hopkins, on their backhands and volleys.

“I looked down at the courts and saw all the actors down there hitting, and I thought ‘oh no,’ because none of them had really played much tennis before,” says Markert with a laugh. “But the more I got to thinking about it, I thought, we’re not trying to make it look like we have players hitting the pro tour here.”

Markert didn’t set his initial script in Louisville, but when Holland came aboard as producer and the team decided to shoot in Louisville, local touches were incorporated. 

“At one point, Gill said there’s the movie you write, the movie you shoot and the movie you edit, and all three are really different. The movie that was shot was a little bit different than what I thought when I wrote it, then the movie that got edited was different than it looked like when it got shot,” says Markert. 

“2nd Serve” is Markert’s first produced screenplay (he’s also the author of “The Requiem Rose,” a novel set in Wavery Hills Sanatorium during the 1920s tuberculosis epidemic), and he says he’s learned a lot about the long, collaborative process it takes to bring a script to screen.  

“I think when I first wrote the screenplay it was more of a guy’s comedy, kind of like a ‘Hangover.’ The film’s got a lot more heart than I thought it did when I wrote it, and I attribute all of that to the director. He told me you had it all in there, but he did a great job of bringing it out,” he says.  ”It’s a better movie than the one I wrote.”