By: Producer/Director — Alfonso Pozzo. MLB Network
I’ve been producing documentaries for 17 years now. I worked for MLB Productions- the in-house production company for Major League Baseball, for quite some time. We have now moved over to MLB Network. I’ve personally directed and been lead producer on about 10 documentaries the past few years and worked on dozens more.
It’s always been a passion of mine to do sports and TV at the same time. In addition to long-form docs, I used to do a weekly magazine show, so I’ve done it all in terms of baseball production. I love the storytelling aspect of it. The narrative element sincerely appeals to me.
Assembling a Team:
As the producer, when we do these shows, we take the idea from conception all the way to delivery. Whether we pitch the idea or were given the idea; we create the concept of the show, put together a treatment and then once it gets greenlit, we see it all the way through. That ends up including a lot of the writing — whether it’s the writing based off the original premise, or the final script that will fall into the hands of a celebrity or former player. Usually, I will write it and then we have another writer polish it up.
We put together a team of five to six guys per project with one person leading the charge. I’m working on one right now on Cuban baseball. It’s taken most of this year. I have a staff of six who are helping me and have come on and off the set during the season.
The Production Process:
The first thing I draw up an outline and figure out the exact story I’d like to tell. We usually do one hour shows. It involves it being split up into six acts. You figure out if you want to tell a linear story or things out of sequence. I am a guy who likes to work in groups so we usually bounce ideas back and forth.
You then put together who your main players are. With The Curious Case of the Chicago Cubs show, we knew we needed to get the players, the coaches, the front office guys and the fans. You want to tell the story from both a fan and player perspective. The complicated part is figuring out when you can get everyone, given their busy schedules. That’s the part I really enjoy, determining the best time for everyone. We knew there were certain players we had to be ready for when they came in to play Chicago. That was our only chance. It’s playing this game where there are a lot of moving parts. It can be frustrating, but also very rewarding when you get someone. It’s usually within a very small window. We are not given a lot of time to do it. It’s complicated, but you discover new and interesting people to talk to who have a very unique perspective.
We create these films pretty quickly. From beginning to end, the whole thing gets turned around in about three months. Once all the content is in house, it takes about six weeks to two months to put it all together. That includes editing, voice-over, audio-mixing and delivery. We work in a very fast-paced environment. There are exceptions, like the Cuban baseball project I am working on now. It has taken up most of this year, though I have taken significant breaks.
As a whole, this year we’ve done 11 of these shows. Considering we are a small group of 10–15 guys, that’s a pretty large amount.
Cubs (October 2015):
With the Cubs documentary, it was my baby and I took it from start to finish.
When it comes to the Cubs, people are just very passionate about them. It’s different than any other teams. Especially with last year being the year where they really showed signs of success under the current group of stars and front office. People were very excited to talk about it. When we reached out to guys like Eddie Vedder and George Will, there was no hesitation to speak to us at all. The Cubs are a different phenomenon than any other team. Mostly based on the fact that they had gone so long without a title. People like to talk about it. Cub’s fans have a very unique perspective. It was very interesting to get the insight from every side. It’s a story that’s been told and that we all knew, but the fact that these people were willing to stick with their team is very inspiring. How the fans were able to remain so loyal and keep the faith for so long, should be an inspiration to other teams. That was one of my biggest takeaways.
I’ve worked on a ton of other shows, but nothing drew interest like our Cubs show. The Cubs were kind of lying in the woodwork there. Then good things started to happen. You may not understand it if you are not a sports fan, but it was such an incredible experience.
I ask the players what they think is going to happen when they win and it’s always the hardest question to answer. It is funny, because they just don’t know. It hasn’t happened for a long time, so they have no idea what to expect.
The Lasting Impact:
A big part of it is demonstrating the emotion that a lot of these guys have. It’s about telling the human part of the story. At the end of the day, these are all human beings that are experiencing these things. It’s about humanizing everyone. People forget that ballplayers are regular people and they have feelings just like everyone else. That’s what the Cubs show was all about- the emotion of being a Cub fan and the roller-coaster they’ve endured. It’s been a really long-term thing. Now they are at a high, but for so long, they were at a low. You have to figure out a way to expose and uncover these emotions. The goal is to get it across on personal level and strike a chord with the viewer directly.
Fox had been re-running The Curious Case of the Chicago Cubs throughout this year’s postseason. We also have another Cubs show in the works now that they have won the World Series.
Check out The Curious Case of the Chicago Cubs HERE:
Follow Alfonso Pozzo
In collaboration with Jeff Gorra — Artist Waves.
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