Looking the part
Chances are if there is a movie, TV show or commercial featuring professional sports, a little-known Hollywood authentic uniform and equipment firm, Sports Studio, helped bring it to life by supplying the gear.
The firm owns a 20,000 square-foot warehouse in Torrance, Calif., for its racks of pro team authentic sports gear, and it has licenses with the NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS and U.S. Soccer as the go-to provider for entertainment. That means if a brand wants to air a commercial with a team uniform, or a movie or a TV show needs historic league merchandise, they must go through Sports Studio.
The hit NBC drama, “This is Us” opened its third season this fall with an episode about Franco Harris’s famed Immaculate Reception in 1972, which involved outfitting over a dozen actors in historic Steelers uniforms.
“We know it’s one call where we get complete authenticity, and as a show dealing in time and specificity in time and place, authenticity is always so critical,” said Jess Rosenthal, partner in Rhode Island Ave. Productions and executive producer of “This Is Us.” “So, we are grateful that the company shares that desire with us.”
Sports Studio started as a Hollywood sporting goods shop in 1972, and started making uniforms as a sideline for hit movies from that decade like “The Bad News Bears” and “North Dallas Forty.” By the mid 1980s the retail element went away, and the entertainment practice emerged.
In addition to being called on for about 200 photo shoots per year, Sport Studio’s work can also be seen in some pretty familiar places. Here are some examples of the company’s work, and the estimated number of projects per year in each category:
Examples: "42," "My All American"
Example: Yahoo Sports
300 TV Episodes
Example: "The Goldbergs"
Example: “Bull Durham the Musical”
*plays/music videos/special events
The current CEO, Mark Koesterer, led a buyout of the firm in 2008 with a handful of partners, and expanded the offerings to supplying actors for athlete roles and on-set choreography of the plays that were meant to make the action on film look legitimate.
Perhaps the biggest challenge Koesterer and Sports Studio faced recently was the Jackie Robinson film, “42.” To get the 1940s and 1950s uniform material just right, Sports Studio contracted with a silk factory in China.
“We actually milled fabric from different mills and we tested it on camera and we settled on a design and manufacturer in China,” he said. “We had that fabric shipped to us specifically for that project.” Sports Studio made 750 period uniforms for the movie.
Sports Studio has handled a number of recent baseball projects, including “42,” “Pitch” and a Ted Williams documentary on PBS. What stands out for Nick Trotta, MLB’s senior director of global media programming and licensing, is that Sports Studio doesn’t just deliver the uniforms, but also consults on set.
“I personally value that, the clients, the producers are surprised by that,” Trotta said.
No detail is too small, down to the brace a player featured in a commercial is wearing.
“What kind of arm brace does Rob Gronkowski wear? What kind of arm brace does J.J. Watt wear? What does a knee brace look like for Matt Ryan?” Koesterer asked, referring to commercials he recently handled with those players.
The rise of the superhero movies has in part caused a decline in sports flicks, leaving Sports Studio more focused on TV and commercials. But Koesterer is convinced sports movies will rebound. Why?
“Because Americans love sports,” he replied. “Sports in general provides an outlet in a crazy world.”