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Fast Foreword: The Editor's Column, July 2004

By Tom White

Dear Readers,

Sports is a category, a section in the newspaper, a livelihood, an obsession. And it's also a genre in the rich world of documentary filmmaking. Films such as Baseball (Ken Burns, prod./dir.), Hoop Dreams (Steve James, dir./prod.; Peter Gilbert, Frederick Marx, prods.), When We Were Kings (Leon Gast, dir./prod.; David Sonenberg and Taylor Hackford, prods.) and The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (Aviva Kempner, prod./dir) have enabled us to re-imagine sports in a new way-as a prism through which we try to understand the human experience.

This summer brings Riding Giants, Stacy Peralta's follow-up to his hit doc from 2001, Dogtown and Z-Boys. You can say that Riding Giants is a surfing film, just as Dogtown and Z-Boys was a skateboard film, but both films transcend the sport to give us a sense of the respective communities that made surfing and skateboarding more than just sports. I caught up with Peralta as he was simultaneously readying the release of his film and making a fiction feature version of Dogtown.

It's tricky to market a film about something that's a religion to some, a stigma to others. Elizabeth Blozan talks to a few individuals who, either as filmmakers or as marketing and distributing mavens, know their specialized niches—in this case, surfing, boxing and extreme sports—and know how to reach them.

In cable land, three of the ruling giants in sports—HBO Sports,ESPN and Fox Sports Net—all boast documentary strands that have helped to elevate the sports doc genre. HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg has executive-produced scores of Emmy and Peabody Award-winning programs, including a couple of IDA Award-winners. Mark Shapiro, ESPN's executive vice president of programming and production, helped to shepherd through the acclaimed 50 Greatest Athletes series at the turn of the millennium, and that series, now SportsCentury, has paved the way for other doc series on ESPN Original Entertainment and elsewhere. Read Jackson, Fox Sports Net's vice president for original programming, has worked with Red Skies Entertainment's Frank Sinton to develop Beyond the Glory into the acclaimed series that it is. International Documentary talks to all four of these executives about how they got their documentary series off the ground and on the air, and how they distinguish their respective work. Finally, Ray Zone talks to Steve Schklair about the 3-D HD technology that he and his company Cobalt Technology Entertainment developed in conjunction with NFL Films. Following a successful trial run earlier this year, Cobalt and NFL Films plan to utilize this equipment throughout the fall football season, for a future feature-length, large format, 3-D documentary.

I'd like to thank Seth Magalaner for his help in suggesting ideas for this issue.


Yours in actuality,

Thomas White