ESPN Films Launches With ‘Black Magic’
March 14, 2008 10:52 AM
The debut of ESPN’s two-part, four-hour film “Black Magic” this week is the first production of new division ESPN Films, the latest initiative from the company to bolster its array of programming features into the next decade.
Fancy talk from the sports channel or a creative outlet for filmmakers?
Judging by the powerful story told in “Black Magic,” the answer lies in the strong grassroots connection that lies between sports and society.
“The division was part of [Executive VP of Content] John Skipper’s vision for the whole group,” said Keith Clinkscales, senior VP of content and enterprises for ESPN, who noted the new division has two mandates: develop for theatrical releases and develop for the channel. “He felt that there were stories to be told that weren’t just great sports stories but also awesome American stories. ‘Black Magic’ is an example of that.”
The film examines the experiences of players and coaches at historically black colleges and universities from the civil rights era to the present day. The film’s creators sifted through more than 200 hours of footage of classic moments.
“It begins with a great story and examines how sports transposes the entire world of civil rights and what the entire country was going through at the time,” said Mr. Clinkscales. “The discussions of integration and segregation made for a really rich and deep story.”
“Black Magic” marks the first of 10 ESPN Films-branded projects set to air in 2008. Other previously announced titles include “The Zen of Bobby V,” about Major League Baseball player and manager Bobby Valentine; “Hellfighters,” about an against-all-odds Harlem high school football team; “Bud Greenspan: At the Heart of the Games,” about the documentary filmmaker; and “The Streak,” which chronicles the 2007-08 season of the Brandon High School wrestlers and their 34-year win streak. Each of the titles will be televised this spring.
In addition, ESPN Films announced a celebration of the last three decades of sports timed to coincide with ESPN’s 30th anniversary in September 2009. In a project dubbed “30/30,” the company invited 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.
“Every sports event is storytelling in real time,” Dick Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Studios, said when the project was announced. “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.”