Lights, camera ...
How a film about the NFL Draft got stuck in red zone
Posted: Friday December 21, 2007 11:22AM; Updated: Saturday December 22, 2007 10:22AM
The executive producer of the successful reality series The Biggest Loser, Dave Broome, seldom gets through a day without someone suggesting a topic for his next show. But in the fall of 2005, Broome was in his North Hollywood office when he received a call about a football-related concept. The idea tugged at him.
The pitch came through a chain of intermediaries, but it was the brainchild of Tom Condon, a prominent NFL agent whose clients include Peyton Manning, LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson. The conceit was simple: cameras would trail a group of Condon's latest clients for four months as they prepared for the 2006 NFL Draft. Young, athletic males on the cusp of a professional sports career would make for compelling subjects. And there would be plenty of dramatic tension. As Condon would later remark on film, the interval between the end of a player's college season and the NFL Draft -- encompassing the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine and individual team workouts -- is critically important and suffused with pressure.
"A player drafted in the middle of the first round is going to average $2 million a year on a five-year contract," Condon says. "A second-round draft pick is going to be averaging $600,000 a year."
Condon outlined his vision for the show and made clear that, while he had no expectation of getting paid for his work, he requested an executive producer credit. Broome recalls asking Condon why he was so passionate about the project. "He said it would be an incredible marketing tool," Broome recollects. "He was in a cutthroat business and this would be a way for him to get a leg up on the competition." (Condon declined comment for this story.)
Reflecting on the project, Broome decided it would be better suited for a documentary format. The film Broome envisioned would follow the subjects and intersperse personal vignettes with the natural narrative arc -- in this case, the journey to the climax of Draft Day. Condon agreed and Broome quickly lined up financing and distribution with Red Envelope Entertainment, the original entertainment arm of Netflix.
"We loved the idea and we were looking to the future," says Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix. "I remember Tom saying, 'I represent the biggest athletes and they all have ideas for a reality show. This could be the start of a real relationship."
Sarandos recalls that when he asked about access, Condon responded, "Relax. The access will be unprecedented."
Red Envelope Entertainment greenlighted the project and, in December 2005, Broome hired a director, Don Argott, who had recently scored with the critically acclaimed 2005 documentary Rock School.
In the winter of 2006, Broom, Argott and Condon converged on the IMG Training Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to meet the players and start filming. They were charged with optimism. While others spoke vaguely and abstractly about the "crossover" between sports and Hollywood, here was an A-list NFL agent and an A-list producer collaborating on a concrete project.
At the time, anyway, it was inconceivable that two years, one lawsuit and millions of dollars in sunken costs later, the documentary would still be unreleased, screened only by a few dozen people. And that a project that began with such promise would devolve into a noirish drama that doubles as a parable for what can go wrong when sports and entertainment collide.