'13 CSE Sports Marketing Symposium: Behind The Scenes Of "Draft Day," "Million Dollar Arm"
Movie director Ivan Reitman took the '13 CSE Sports Marketing Symposium audience behind the scenes of his new film, “Draft Day,” as part of a Hollywood-focused panel on Thursday. Reitman said the first step in making the movie was “to find out if the NFL was interested, because to really make it the way it had to be, we needed their cooperation.” He added, “We couldn't make up team names the way certain films have and create our own league or our own draft, because then the film really wouldn't have any power. It wouldn't have the energy that the story had.” Convincing the NFL to be fully invested in the project was no easy task. NFL VP/Entertainment Marketing & Promotions Tracy Perlman said, “When we got the script originally, there were some things in it that made me a little bit nervous and we weren't sure where it was going.” But a meeting with Reitman allayed those concerns. Perlman: “I could see that he wanted to make an authentic film about the NFL and about what the Draft was truly about. After we spoke, I brought it around the building and said Ivan’s the right partner, he wants this to be exactly what it is. He wants to show the drama of being on the clock and the humanity of having to save your job on this day, the humanity of being a football player and trying to wait to see what’s going to happen to you.” The script had to go through a long list of NFL departments for approval, including legal, PR, marketing, events, football operations, NFL Films and the individual teams that would be involved. Reitman said, “It was a really difficult process finally to get all the pieces together -- actors, money, distribution - in time to make the film. And we just made it by the skin of our teeth to be able to shoot with the Draft.”
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: It was important to both Reitman and the NFL that the league and the Draft be portrayed in an authentic way. All of the NFL’s sponsors -- include Gatorade, Pepsi, Frito Lay and GMC -- are represented in the film, without any kind of separate deal. Perlman said, “All of our partners are in the film because it’s authentic to who we are. It’s authentic to what happens at the Draft.” The NFL Network and ESPN also play large roles in the film. Reitman said, “They are the great commentators of sports events, particularly football. They are the Draft as it’s portrayed on television and so they had to be a very big part of this film.” Producer Ali Bell said of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s role in the film, “There’s nothing more credible than having the actual commissioner show up.” Meanwhile, Reitman said of Texans RB Arian Foster, who has a role in the film, “I think he’s got a future as an actor. He has this lovely quality. For a guy who pounds it up the field, he has extraordinary sensitivity in a close up. I actually moved him up to a larger part after I saw it.” Lionsgate next week will begin pre-screening “Draft Day,” and the hope is the film will come out sometime between Super Bowl XLVIII in February and the ’14 NFL Draft in April.
MILLION DOLLAR ARM: The makers of "Million Dollar Arm," the forthcoming movie chronicling the unlikely bid by agent J.B. Bernstein to turn two young Indian men into professional baseball players, portrayed it as more of a universal human interest story than a sports-centric film. The movie, set for release in May, chronicles Bernstein's efforts in India to stage a reality show in search of baseball's version of Yao Ming. The two winning players, Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh, were both drafted by the Pirates in '09, with Singh still in their system as one of their top left-handed pitching prospects. But rather than sell this as primarily an underdog baseball film, the producers intend to position "Million Dollar Arm" as more of a quirkier, inspirational story. A large part of the reasoning is financial, as American-made sports movies traditionally have been limited in their global audience appeal. "Sports movies are not easy. They're usually not what the studios are looking for, they're looking for big international hits with a lot of potential," said producer Mark Ciardi, whose prior credits include "The Rookie," “Invincible," and "Miracle." "This is more of a double fish-out-of-water story, J.B. being in India, the boys being in America, with an inspirational twist. And because of that, we think there's a lot of international potential," Ciardi said.