Calling the shots: Local film producer doubles as Park City High School announcer
January 24, 2018
Scott Chester is something of an institution at Park City High School. For a couple nights a week, he sits at the far right end of the little scorekeeper's table at home basketball games and announces the action, as he has done since 2007. He estimates that he has announced more than 300 games in total and can't recall missing a home football game during his tenure.
What most people don't know about Chester is, through that time, he has worked as a line producer in the film industry, making sure day-to-day operations on primarily Utah-based sets run smoothly.
People who know Chester say he doesn't talk about that side of his life much when he's at games, but with two films he's worked on in the Sundance Film Festival this year — "Hereditary" and "Damsel" — his cover is likely blown.
Chester first came to the school in 2006 after moving from southern California, and became involved in the athletic scene after one of his daughters made the softball team.
"I came back and watched them play in late May and they weren't good," he said. "They had won something like one of their last 58 games."
Having coached softball for eight years, Chester put in an application to coach the team the next season, and then-athletic director Doug Payne gave him the position. Six months later, Payne asked Chester to also fill in as announcer.
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"He goes 'Well, I need somebody. The guy can't do it tonight,'" Chester said. "And I've been doing it ever since."
Chester became instrumental in several aspects of Park City High School's sports culture. He ran the booster club for a while and created the Miners Nation segments for KPCW. However, he has since relinquished those duties to parents and students after his youngest daughter graduated in 2013. But announcing is a different animal — it's something he loves. As anyone that's attended Park City basketball or football games knows, he isn't into dry commentary. He likes to spice it up.
"The roster never has sizes on it, and I like to give the size, you know – 6-1, 6-3, 5-8, whatever," he said, sitting in Park City High School's lobby before a recent wrestling match.
The night before, he had worked the PCHS boys basketball game against Ogden.
"So I called out Nate Lowe, I'm like, 'At guard, No. 15, a 6-foot-7 sophomore," Chester said. "And I'm literally looking at him as I say it and he's like 'No I'm not!'
"No kidding you're not. But when Nate Lowe goes off for 25 (points) last night, he's going to be 6-7 the rest of the year."
Chester said he tries to walk the fine line between coming off as an unabashed proponent of the Miners (which he is at heart) and being an objective announcer of the game. But sometimes that's hard, especially during rivalries — games Chester relishes.
"There's been a couple times over the years when we've had streakers that have decided to disrupt the homecoming game and whatever, and I've said things like, 'Special thanks to the Wasatch (High School) valedictorian for providing halftime entertainment' or something like that," he said. "I definitely fuel the rivalry. … I think the rivalry is cool. (Wasatch) used to try to paint the W (on the side of PCHS), then one year they tried to paint the W and needed 100 gallons of paint and showed up with two. So just the upper left corner had a little yellow on it. I made sure to mention that."
That is just a thin sampling of a decade's worth of antics, but he said it's all supposed to be in good fun.
"We don't have big luxury scoreboards showing us tons of stuff, so I just think there's a way to bring excitement and energy into the box that, it's not super homerish but it still makes it fun for people, and I think I get that feedback from parents," he said. "They like hearing their kids' names, and I just enjoy adding something to the high school experience for kids. I was a high school athlete, and there's nothing like getting your name called when you did something good."
He's also had the pleasure of using his position to help people, like when he made an announcement to help raise money for a Wasatch wrestler who had recently broken his neck.
"It was very soon after the injury and obviously that family's whole life changed," Chester recalled. "They were going to have to remodel their house to accommodate, all the things that would come with that. This is our biggest rivalry and I said I would like to try to help raise some money."
He made an announcement at halftime of a basketball game, after the players had gone to their locker rooms.
"It was basically just saying, 'Everyone in this building is either an athlete, a parent of an athlete, a friend of an athlete. This could have happened to any single one of us, it's what happens in competition,'" Chester said. "It wasn't that long, it was just saying, 'We're there, let's see if we can help this family.' Doug and the assistant principal walked around and I think we raised like $1,700 in literally five minutes."
"To me if I can help that kind of stuff, I don't need a pat on the back or nothing. You're getting the reward of getting to see that we did something cool and getting to be part of it. In the end it was all the people that put the money in the bucket that are going to help that kid."
Despite his presence at the school, he said there aren't a lot of kids that know what he does outside of announcing. Chester has worked in the film industry since 1984 when he was an associate producer and assistant on "Pee-wee's Playhouse." Since then he has worked as a line producer on scores of films.
Because Chester doesn't talk much about his work while at PCHS, he said sometimes it's surprising for students to learn what he does, even if he's talking to students about the film industry, which he used to do for the school's film class.
"They think, 'Well you're an out-of-work guy, because you're hanging out here at the high school,'" he said.
Tim Leary — who graduated from PCHS in 2013 — knew Chester from school games and through playing baseball while Chester was the softball coach. But Leary only discovered Chester's day job while working as an extra on "Hereditary."
"I showed up on set and this guy kind of bumped into me while I was off to the side where all the equipment was, and I turned around really quickly, and he turned around to say sorry and then we turned back around," Leary said. "I was like, 'Holy crap, Chester?"
For Leary, it was totally unexpected, which Chester said was apparent in the encounter.
"He literally said, 'We just thought you were an old guy who liked high school sports,'" Chester said. "I'm like 'Well, I do.'"
One reason he doesn't talk about his job much is he doesn't feel it's relevant to day-to-day life.
"I've gotten to go a lot of places, I've gotten to work on cool things, I don't have a ton of money to show for it, but I have been able to raise a family in Park City, and because of my wife's hard work as well," he said. "The film business is cool and I enjoy it like crazy, but it can be a little surreal. What becomes important in that isn't important in the world. It just feels like it is because it's your job at the time."
Besides, most nights he's too focused on the game – getting the names right, picking the music that will pump up the team and the crowd, and trying to stay quick on his feet through each game's surprises. Unlike the films he works on, there is no script, but as long as Park City High School will have him, he's more than happy to come to the games and make it up as he goes along.
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