ESPN’s acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning documentary series “30 for 30” will be returning with new films in October, the network announced today. Like the first series, “30 for 30 Vol. II” will unite a wide array of filmmakers to tell nonfiction stories from the sports world.
Originally conceived of as a one-off set of 30 feature-length docs focusing on development from the “ESPN era” — aka the three decades since the sports network was founded in 1979 — “30 for 30” was co-created by columnist and Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons. And while it had a few duds, the series also included some great films that had appeal that went beyond sports fans — Steve James’ “No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson” was a high point, as were Jeff and Michael Zimbalist’s Columbian soccer saga “The Two Escobars” and Dan Klores’ “Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks.”
In addition to a second slate of 30 feature-length docs, ESPN Films will also be creating 30 digital shorts that will debut monthly on Grantland.com beginning in September. The first of these, Eric Drath’s “Here Now,” about Pete Rose, is online now. Simmons will also be doing filmmaker podcasts with directors, and the site will feature editorial background on the stories in each film, both feature-length and short.
“We didn’t know what to expect when we created ’30 for 30,’ but the response wildly exceeded our expectations,” says Simmons in the announcement. “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.”
At Grantland, he explained that the expansion to include shorts felt like a natural way to broaden the series “[b]ecause there are stories out there that we loved for four to 12 minutes, but maybe not for a full hour. Because talented filmmakers are usually juggling multiple projects, so sometimes it’s easier for them to take on a shorter project than a bigger one. Because we wanted you to waste more time on your iPad, or possibly rear-end the car in front of you as you’re watching these on your mobile device when you shouldn’t be watching these on your mobile device.”
Check out the “30 for 30 Vol. II” trailer here:
Here’s the list of films announced so far, two of which (“Benji” and “Broke”) screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last month:
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.