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ESPN Films producer adds directing duties for SEC Storied: Abby Head On documentary

How difficult would it be to direct a full-length film in addition to performing your normal work duties? Just ask ESPN Films producer Erin Leyden, whose documentary, Abby Head On, premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPNU as part of the SEC Storied film series.

Front Row caught up with Leyden in advance of the film’s debut. Also, be on the lookout for another film she is directing this summer, The 99ers, part of the Nine for IX ESPN Films and espnW series.

ESPN Films producer Erin Leyden.
ESPN Films producer
Erin Leyden

What are your normal work duties as an ESPN Films producer?
My main role for ESPN Films is as a producer on the 30 for 30 series. The first film I worked on was The Band That Wouldn’t Die and the most recent was last month’s Elway to Marino. I work directly with our filmmakers, providing editorial input and support and acting as the main point of contact between the filmmaker and the network.

How do you balance directing a documentary on top of your regular day-to-day projects at ESPN?
Mostly by working a lot of hours. It was a challenge at times, juggling my day-to-day duties as a producer. I got great support from my bosses and co-workers at ESPN Films. And most importantly, I had a great partner in my Abby Head On co-director, Gentry Kirby. I knew that if I had to switch gears to my “day job,” he was always there to pick up my slack.

Why did you decide to tell Abby Wambach’s story for the SEC Storied series?
I was actually working on another soccer film with [ESPN soccer analyst] Julie Foudy, on the 1999 World Cup, when I was asked to work on the Abby documentary. Abby helped lead Florida to the NCAA Championship in her freshman season, and it’s still the only time an SEC school has won an NCAA Championship in soccer, so it’s a great moment to highlight for the SEC Storied series.

What can viewers look forward to with Abby Head On?
I think one highlight of the film is seeing Abby with her former United States Women’s National Team and WUSA teammate, Mia Hamm. They are two women’s soccer icons who have been so instrumental in growing the game, so to get to hear them talk soccer is pretty special.