A ‘Classic’ home for 30 for 30


(L-R) NBA star and filmmaker Steve Nash, director/actor Spike Lee and ESPN executive Keith Clinkscales.

When ESPN Films launched 30 for 30 in October 2009 to celebrate the company’s 30th Anniversary, they knew sports fans would be interested in some of the topics.

Few would have expected the huge response from viewers.

In response to the critical and viewer feedback from 30 for 30, ESPN Films set out to create a permanent on-air home for sports documentaries.

Monday, ESPN announced the launch of ESPN Films on Classic that will showcase the power of sports storytelling.

ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Content Development and Enterprises, Keith Clinkscales, weighs in on this new programming strategy and a few other topics in this Fast Break.

FR: It seems that our viewers really connected with ESPN Films’ 30 for 30. How do you plan to keep that momentum going?

Clinkscales: After delivering 30 great films in celebration of the network’s 30th anniversary, our programming group has done a terrific job of making sure these films are available for fans to see. They are available on iTunes and on a DVD set that is now available, just in time for Father’s Day. In addition, although 30 for 30 is over, the memories and films will live on across our platforms, especially on ESPN Classic.

FR: When will the documentaries air and what should people expect to see on ESPN Films on Classic?

Clinkscales: We’ve started to showcase films for 50 hours each weekend starting at 10 p.m. ET every Friday through midnight every Sunday. We currently produce several films annually, and we also own an extensive catalog of titles. Additionally, we’ll be acquiring sports films as well since many people in the film community are producing excellent sports docs. This weekend, one of the feature films is from 30 for 30. Since the weekend starts on June 17, the film to kick off the weekend will be June 17, 1994 from Brett Morgen.

FR: Do you have a favorite doc from the 30 for 30 series?

Clinkscales: I love the question, but unfortunately, no. I can’t name just one favorite. The series was wonderful and I learned things about sports and classic moments from every one of these productions. In the unlikely event that someone could watch only one film to capture the spirit of 30 for 30, I would have to say The Two Escobars. The mix of sports, politics, and human drama would be an excellent representation of the series.

FR: If people from inside or outside the company have a great idea for a documentary, is there a process to submit it to be considered by your team?

Clinkscales: My advice to people is that it is important to be prepared and to really think about the unique access that they could bring to the story. The hallmark of ESPN Films revolves around great storytelling and that requires detailed and intense access to bring the figures to life. Good ideas are not necessarily good documentaries. What makes them great are the sources that can be developed around them. The more preparation and access behind an idea, the greater the opportunity for it to be considered. The best way to start the process to pitch an idea is to send an email to Libby Geist, ESPN Films’ associate director of development. She can get the process rolling for a submission.

FR: Outside of your job at ESPN, what are some things that interest you in your spare time (politics, other sports, travel, etc)?

Clinkscales: Spare time? That’s funny! Like all of us who work at ESPN, I’m fortunate to have a job that intersects with my personal passion for watching and playing sports. Away from sports, I love going to the movies. I thought Bridesmaids was better than The Hangover 2. I enjoyed Thor and I’m looking forward to Cars 2 and the new Transformers movie. As for TV, I’m a Modern Family fan. Away from anything media related, I enjoy dining out and spending quiet time with my family.

For more information on ESPN Films On Classic, see this recent story in The Hollywood Reporter.

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