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OJ Doc Director Helped Shape Filming Of The Last Dance

“Michael Jordan sat down with Hehir and his crew for three separate interviews during a span of 15 months in the making of The Last Dance.”

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Everyone is talking about ESPN’s The Last Dance. The docu-series is routinely pulling down big audiences and drawing interest across a wide spectrum of media. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic sat down with director Jason Hehir for a column that came out on Monday to discuss how the interviews with Michael Jordan came together.

Hehir revealed that a lot of the way the film was made was influenced by a conversation he had with Ezra Edelman, director of the Oscar-winning 30 for 30 docu-series OJ Simpson: Made in America.

“He asked me why I wanted to interview Michael first and I said that that’s just what I normally do,” Hehir told Deitsch. “I told him I get the first big one out of the way and then kind of have all these other interviews rotate around them like a satellite. Ezra said that’s not the way he would do it. By the end of that dinner, I decided that he was right for a story this big. I needed to get certain basics down first before I went to Michael.”

One device Hehir has used that has become a favorite of the audience is Jordan reacting to video of other people talking about interactions with him. The director revealed that it was a practice designed to make sure The Last Dance featured new quotes and perspectives from someone that has had every moment of his basketball career dissected and fawned over.

“My goal all along was: He’s been asked every question so let’s deviate from the format in which he’s been asked these questions in the past. And that might mean pulling out an iPad or showing him the clip on an iPhone.”

Michael Jordan sat down with Hehir and his crew for three separate interviews during a span of 15 months in the making of The Last Dance. The first conversation and the final one each lasted three hours. Hehir told Dietsch that spending that much time with the main characters of a documentary is a common practice. In fact, in comparison to some of his past documentaries, the total time Hehir spent with Jordan was minuscule in scale.

“To put it in perspective: Andre the Giant (which Hehir directed for HBO) was 80 minutes long and we got Vince McMahon for five and a half hours over the course of two days,” He told Deitsch. “The Fab Five was 100 minutes long and I got Jalen Rose for seven hours. So I wasn’t asking Michael to have those same proportions. I wasn’t going to ask him to give me 80 hours to get 10 hours.”

The full interview sheds light on how Hehir approached difficult subjects including Jordan’s gambling, the death of his father, and the rumor that his 1993 retirement was a way to cover up what was really a suspension.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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