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Volume 24 No. 160
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Motorsports Marketing Forum: Trying To Use Hollywood To Showcase The Industry

Developing sports projects in Hollywood remains difficult because sports films need to appeal to a broad audience to drive enough box office receipts to justify the production expense. During the panel “Storytelling through Entertainment: How Hollywood Showcases Motorsports and Ultimately Builds Awareness,” producer Neal Edelstein, who was behind the films “The Ring” and “Mullholland Drive,” said that Hollywood’s approach to sports is cyclical, and that only after a successful sports movie, like “The Blind Side,” is made are there opportunities for other sports productions. NASCAR Managing Dir of Entertainment Marketing & Business Development Zane Stoddard agreed, saying, “The advice we get is: You want projects that appeal to women and men will tolerate.” The other challenge is the lack of international interest in sports movies. Edelstein said, “International is driving the box office. It is something like 65% of a movie’s (box office) run.” Another challenge is managing and ensuring cooperation between a producer or show and a league or sanctioning body. Elle Johnson, a writer-producer for A&E's “The Glades,” said, “There’s no way we would have done an episode without NASCAR’s full cooperation.”

* Johnson, on drivers being paid for TV: “The drivers showed up on the sponsorship deal and we said, ‘We have to pay you.’ They bent over backwards, but a lot of them didn’t think they were going to get paid for it. Carl Edwards flew himself out.”
* Edelstein, on the movie “Senna,” about the F1 driver, “It’s such a powerful film and it’s irrelevant about racing. It’s about life and character and these eternal truths that make for great drama and storytelling. It could win an Academy Award.”
* Stoddard, on how NASCAR makes decisions about being integrated into existing programming: “David Stern was a lot more ‘nos’ than ‘yeses.' We’ve always said that NASCAR, if it’s going to be in the space, has to have some level of appetite for drama. Otherwise, there’s no reason to be there. We have tried to expand NASCAR’s perspective on this a bit to be open to telling some grittier stories with great texture. The biggest concern is you end up with something that goes sideways, like ‘Playmakers.’”