For The Culture Presented by Velveeta (tonight | 9 ET | SEC Network) is a behind-the-scenes look at the building of an exceptional 2019-20 women’s basketball squad at the University of South Carolina and its iconic head coach Dawn Staley. The documentary provides a glimpse into how the team’s leadership, talent, and chemistry came together for a magical season that was left unfinished by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Front Row spoke with coordinating producer Pat Lowry about how the project came to be, the team who produced and edited it, and the teamwork it took to make it happen.
How did the idea for the documentary come about?
Lowry: When the NCAA Tournament was canceled, the undisputed No. 1 team in the country was South Carolina. Staley’s Gamecocks were undefeated in SEC play and had just won the SEC Tournament. The team was close to perfection with only one loss during a tournament early in the season.
During a conversation with ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck and managing producer Lori Mancini, we all felt the South Carolina story needed to be told. I pitched the documentary to the SECN Programming team and was given the go-ahead to produce a one-hour documentary. South Carolina bought in and gave us access to a significant amount of behind-the-scenes footage.
How did COVID-19 change your ability to produce and edit?
Lowry: The challenge was now producing a documentary when everyone had stay-at-home orders because of the pandemic. We got creative and resourceful as parameters continued to shift during these last four weeks. Interviews were done remotely through video chat. Edit plans changed numerous times because access to different technology changed.
How did you compile your production team for the documentary?
Lowry: The production team fell into place almost immediately and the one thing all of us have in common is our love for women’s basketball. Mancini, Peck, and play-by-play commentator Courtney Lyle worked on eight South Carolina games this season and knew the team and their stories inside and out. Peck and Lyle contributed with content suggestions and Peck hosted interviews with Coach Staley and the team. Jessica Maddox, lead feature producer at the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament, and Jalaine Edwards, who worked on SEC Now in Greenville during the SEC Tournament, were both very familiar with the team’s story. Aimee Stokes, who oversees all feature content for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, and outstanding feature producer Emma Reed, who has worked on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament for many years, were both well versed in the South Carolina story.
Is this a group that typically works together throughout the women’s basketball season?
Lowry: These three (Maddox, Edwards, Reed) do not work together on a regular basis, but you would never know it. Their teamwork was brilliantly seamless, and their “can-do” attitude has been outstanding. Mancini and Stokes managed the day-to-day oversight of the project with Maddox, Edwards, and Reed all producing segments. One of the things that made this project unique is Maddox is based in Austin, Edwards is based in Charlotte and Reed is based in Bristol. Tom McCollum and Joe Disney in Charlotte oversee feature content for College Networks and made huge contributions to the editorial oversight and “polish” for this show.
A team of nearly two dozen worked on this documentary since the season ended in mid-March. The producers would like to thank all those who worked safely from their homes in Bristol, Charlotte, and Austin to make this show possible. We look forward to the return of basketball and enjoying games together in the future. Our thoughts are with those affected by this crisis, and we thank the heroes on the frontlines working to keep us safe.