ESPN Films expands presence, opportunities
ESPN Films, a new initiative announced today by Keith Clinkscales, ESPN senior vice president, content development and enterprises, will present quality scripted and documentary film projects for television and theatrical release, including “30/30,” a celebration of the last three decades of sports timed with ESPN’s 30th anniversary in September 2009. The announcement also marks a new collaboration with The Walt Disney Studios on scripted sports films. The new unit will be part of the ESPN Content Development group.
For the “30/30” initiative, ESPN will invite 30 filmmakers to each tell a sports-themed story. The one-hour films will begin airing Tuesday nights on ESPN in September 2009 and be televised through 2010. The filmmaker roster will be announced in the coming weeks and will include industry veterans as well as celebrities who share a passion for sports.
In the area of feature films, ESPN Films will work with The Walt Disney Studios when exploring opportunities to develop, produce and distribute sports-themed theatrical films. Clinkscales said, “We’ve spent the past several years testing the waters for sports-themed films with positive results. ESPN Films is the culmination of our efforts to get great content in the hands of sports fans, and hopefully, spur the creation of additional projects. With the guidance and partnership of Disney, we can accomplish both of these goals efficiently.”
“Every sports event is storytelling in real time,” said Dick Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Studios. “There’s drama in every encounter, as millions witnessed so vividly during this year’s Super Bowl. So, it’s no surprise that sports lend themselves especially well to the stories we tell on the screen, in such hit films as The Mighty Ducks, Remember the Titans and The Rookie. I’m thrilled that sports-themed films will now have their own label at Disney and ESPN. We believe this represents a big score for sports fans and moviegoers alike.”
In 2008, ESPN and ESPN2 will televise up to 10 ESPN Films-branded projects in primetime windows beginning with the two-part, four-hour film Black Magic (March 16-17 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) about the experiences of players and coaches at Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the civil rights era to present day. Other previously announced titles to be aired include The Zen of Bobby V about Bobby Valentine, Hellfighters about an against-all-odds Harlem high school football team, Bud Greenspan: At the Heart of the Games and The Streak which chronicles the 2007-08 season of the Brandon High School wrestlers and their 34-year win streak. All will be televised in Spring 2008 and considered for other ESPN brand extensions where appropriate. Additional films will be announced in the coming months.
ESPN’s foray into theatrical film began in March 2006 with the critically acclaimed Sebastian Telfair biopic Through the Fire, followed by the award-winning Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos. In 2007, ESPN helped create a new showcase for sports-themed films and filmmakers with the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival – a designated program within the overall Tribeca Film Festival. Recently, ESPN announced the acquisition of the Sundance selection Kicking It. The network’s 2007 scripted projects – the ABC movie Ruffian (June 2007) and the eight-part miniseries, The Bronx is Burning (July 2007), garnered nominations for excellence from the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America, the NAACP, the MMPA, and the New York Festivals.