"One time I played at Tompkins Square Park and there was a priest on the court, a woman who had played college ball, me, a Wall Street banker and two homeless dudes — we didn't have enough," Garcia says. "Where are you going to find that mix of people engaged in a physical activity? It's not going to happen in the club where it's members only. It's not going to happen indoors. It's going to happen in the park. It's going to happen outdoors."
Often, the filmmakers would (not reluctantly) be pulled into the games they were filming.
"We weren't just witnesses," says Couliau, by phone from Paris. "We were also taking part of the movement on the playgrounds. We aren't like filmmakers trying to understand a culture. We just wanted to capture it and show it to the world."
Often, Couliau would have to lure Garcia away from a game, reminding him that he "couldn't be in every shot." Sometimes, he would simply put the camera on a tripod and let it roll. The two engaged in a one-on-one battle throughout the making of the documentary.
Most groups happily received the pair, but some were protective of their territory. In Brooklyn, Garcia says, they had to get permission to shoot from the local guy who runs the park.
"Everywhere else we were received with open arms," says Garcia. "But in Brooklyn, it was like, 'Yo, what are you all doin'? You cops?'"
To release "Doin' it in the Park," Garcia and Couliau have taken a DIY approach in line with their subject. Earlier in May, they released it themselves on the film's website for $9.99 a download. They've booked theatrical runs themselves at theaters (it opens in a New York theater May 22, and follows in other cities) and they've organized community screenings. Nike is sponsoring them on a world tour through August that will bring the film to many different — but also similar — international cultures of pick-up basketball.
"President Obama, Lebron James, the 65-year-old dude right here and the scrub out of junior high school behind us — they all play pick-up," says Garcia, gesturing at the courts around him. "Everybody plays pick-up."
Leaning back on a park bench, Garcia smiles broadly, basking in the cacophony of balls bouncing around him. One court nearby is teaming with 10 kids, none older than 9.
"It's alive," he says, pointing to the kids. "I can't make this up."
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle