Today is the ESPN Upfront presentation, its unveiling of its programming to advertisers. The presentation is streaming live and I’ve been able to watch what is transpiring at New York’s Best Buy Theater. You can catch it as well and it will be archived starting at 2 p.m. ET today.
We have some press releases coming from the Upfronts and I’ll be posting those this morning. Our first announcement is the return of the ESPN Films brand “30 for 30″.
The 30 for 30 documentaries were unveiled for the 30th anniversary of ESPN and once the films were completed, the network put the brand away, but continued to churn out documentaries under the ESPN Films banner. However, people kept using “30 for 30″ and today, ESPN announced that it will bring the brand back this fall.
The new batch of documentaries will be called “30 for 30, Vol. II” and will have an additional 30 documentaries. Included will be a movie on Bo Jackson. Also, there will be “30 for 30 Shorts” which will be separate and allow filmmakers to provide stories in a reduced format.
Here is the ESPN Films press release.
Second Season Includes the Launch of 30 Additional Short Films to Debut on Grantland.com
ESPN Films has announced the return of the Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning 30 for 30 film series. As with the first series, which included collaborations with acclaimed filmmakers such as Peter Berg (Kings Ransom), Barry Levinson (The Band That Wouldn’t Die), Ice Cube (Straight Outta L.A.) and Academy Award-winner Barbara Koppel (The House of Steinbrenner), ESPN Films will once again partner with a wide array of filmmakers to tell incredible stories that capture the core of how sports inspire and entertain. 30 for 30 Vol. II is scheduled to premiere in October.
“30 for 30 was conceived as a finite collection and when the original series ended in December of 2010 with Pony Excess, we had underestimated the strength of the connection fans had made between sports documentaries and the 30 for 30 brand,” said Connor Schell, vice president of ESPN Films. “We’re proud to have created a brand that has become synonymous with quality sports storytelling and we see value in bringing back a second collection of 30 films.”
In addition to a second slate of 30 feature-length documentaries, ESPN Films will broaden its scope to support a whole new crop of stories with the creation of 30 for 30 Shorts – a 30-part digital short film series. 30 for 30 Shorts will be similar to the feature-length films in that each piece will represent a specific point of view of the filmmaker and will be a reflection of how they blend the narrative with their own visual style. Beginning in September, a new short film will debut monthly on Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com. A 30 for 30 Short entitled “Here Now” about Pete Rose is currently online as preview of the series.
Schell continued: “Launching the new 30 for 30 Shorts brand will give us the chance to widen the array of talented storytellers we can work with who are passionate about sports and have something to say. The short film genre frees the filmmaker from some of the constraints common with long-form projects.”
The new season of 30 for 30 will have a much more defined multimedia component through closer integration with Grantland.com by featuring filmmaker podcasts with Bill Simmons, topical oral histories, in-depth features and more. Each of the feature-length films and digital shorts will be complemented with a long-form written piece on Grantland.com that will deepen the experience for the viewer by providing them with additional context.
“We didn’t know what to expect when we created 30 for 30, but the response wildly exceeded our expectations,” said Grantland.com editor-in-chief Bill Simmons, who is a co-creator of the series. “We learned through social media and word of mouth, that each film seemed to provoke a broader conversation about the topic, so with these digital extensions on Grantland, we’re giving fans the opportunity to dive deeper into each film subject. It’s the logical next step for the 30 for 30 series – to make it the most ambitious multi-media storytelling project that we could imagine while continuing to innovate the genre with each new film.”
Films scheduled to air as part of 30 for 30 Vol. II include:
Benji (Coodie and Chike)
In 1984, 17-year-old Ben Wilson was a symbol of everything promising about Chicago: a sweet-natured youngster from the city’s fabled South Side, and America’s top high school basketball prospect. Nicknamed “Magic Johnson with a jump shot,” Wilson’s natural talents and drive assured his best years were yet to come. Then, in November of his senior year, the life of this exceptional youngster was abruptly and tragically cut short. Wilson’s grim fate sent ripples of horror through the city and the country.
Broke (Billy Corben)
Sucked into bad investments, stalked by freeloaders, saddled with medical problems, and naturally prone to showing off, most pro athletes get shocked by harsh economic realities after years of living the high life. Drawing surprisingly vulnerable confessions from retired stars like Keith McCants, Bernie Kosar, Leon Searcy and Andre Rison, as well as commentary from Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the MLB Players Association, Bart Scott of the New York Jets and many other informed voices, this fascinating documentary digs into the psychology of men whose competitive nature carries them to victory on the field and ruin off it.
Bo Knows (Mike Bonfiglio)
A close look at the legendary sports figure Bo Jackson and the marketing campaign that shaped his legacy and redefined the role of the athlete in the pop cultural conversation. Even without winning a Super Bowl or World Series, Bo will forever be known as one of the most famous athletes of all time. This film will look at the marketing of athletes, impossible expectations and the legend of Bo Jackson.
The Season of Their Lives (Jonathan Hock)
When the 1982-83 college basketball season began, Jim Valvano and his North Carolina State Wolfpack faced high expectations with equally high aspirations. But with ten losses for the season, the Wolfpack’s only hope of making the NCAA Tournament was to win the ACC Tournament and earn the conference’s automatic berth. Nine straight improbable tournament wins later over the likes of Sampson, Jordan, Olajuwon and Drexler, N.C. State had “survived and advanced” its way to a national championship. In The Season of Their Lives, director Jonathan Hock takes a poignant look through the eyes of senior captain Dereck Whittenburg at a dream fulfilled and explores what at times has been a tragic and heartbreaking aftermath in the 30 years since.
Previews of the 30 for 30 Vol. II trailer and the 30 for 30 Short “Here Now” can be viewed at ESPN.com/30for30.
More stuff from ESPN Upfronts coming up throughout the day. I’ll have to read through the press release to make sure I’m not giving you unadulterated spin.