ESPN has an Oscar winner in the family.
College football analyst and documentary producer Ed Cunningham added that prestigious honor to his bio Sunday night, winning the Academy Award in the Best Documentary category for Undefeated.
The documentary, released in theaters on Friday, Feb. 17, follows the Memphis Manassas high school football team in its quest for a winning season after years of losing.
While many in the industry considered it to have a solid chance of winning, Cunningham convinced himself otherwise.
“I knew this film was awesome and worthy of winning, but in my mind there was no way we were going to win. The victory was that we were even nominated for an Academy Award. I had already written off in my head that we weren’t going to win,” he said.
Cunningham took a few minutes post-Oscar celebration to answer a few questions for Front Row.
FR: What was it like to be at the Academy Awards in person?
Cunningham: It’s one of those things where you constantly have to remind yourself you are not watching it on TV. It’s one of those events you’ve watched so many times on television that it is surreal to be there in person. I had to stop several times and say, ‘I am actually in the theater watching this in person!’ It’s almost mythical for people in the industry to be at this show. The lighting, set design, all of it is just so amazing.
FR: What went through your mind when they announced it was the winner?
Cunningham: Keep up with the team because I was the last in a row of six. At one point, I looked ahead and saw director Dan Lindsay was bounding up on the stage and I felt like I was just getting out of the row and thought to myself, ‘I better get up there or I’m going to miss this.’ When I reached the stage, I felt like I just woke up. There was such a haze of surprise in my head. It was almost like an out of body experience.
FR: The movie is starting to get a lot of interest from people, you even have Sean Diddy Combs as an executive producer now. How did he get involved?
Cunningham: He saw the film, loved it and wanted to do whatever he could to make sure as many people saw the film as possible.
FR: Besides winning, what was the most memorable moment?
Cunningham: When you make a film like this, there are so many people involved in so many ways that have such an important part in the finished project that are not able to be involved in this part of the process. One of our partners, Zipper Bros Films, was generous enough to throw an after party for the crew and that is where my most memorable moment happened. I was near the back of the pack as we walked in through a back door to the location for our gathering. Dan Lindsay was near the front and I just saw him thrust the Oscar into the air as he made his way into the crowd and the entire room just erupted. That was most memorable moment for me. It was the first moment we were able to share the victory with the entire team.
FR: Did you walk the red carpet?
Cunningham: Yes. But I stayed on the outside fringes. I realized it was not a place for me to be in the middle.
FR: Did you cross paths with any big stars?
Cunningham: It is really the highest honor to be involved with the Oscars in this way, so any event is going to be populated by amazingly high profile actors and directors. From Friday night’s party through last night, it almost got really old standing by famous people. I say that with some tongue in cheek,of course.