Choosing World Cup Directors First Step To Building Solid Production Teams
A football production is often only as good as the director and team assembled, and, as with the most successful teams on the pitch, trust, an intuitive understanding of what other teammates are doing, and the ability put a plan into motion are all required.
Assembling the team of seven directors who are leading the World Cup match productions fell on the shoulders of Host Broadcast Services (HBS) Director of Production Dan Miodownik.
For football directors, working on the World Cup is the kind of honor that any of them would love to receive. Global exposure, top athletes on the pitch, and the opportunity to work on the world’s most important sporting event are just three of the reasons.
Of course, four years is a long time, especially in the live-sports-production environment, and much can change in terms of skill set and capabilities.
The process of picking directors begins well before the World Cup kicks off, with Midownik and the staff evaluating the work of the previous Cup’s directors in the year or two after the previous tourney. And any other directors seeking to be considered must meet a difficult criterion that moves well beyond simply directing a football match with eight to 12 cameras. Big-match experience helps, but the difference is in the ability to handle complex multicamera coverage as well as such experience on a regular basis. The directors also need to be flexible.
“They need to show the ability to adapt their technique to fit what we want,” notes Miodownik.
That can sometimes be easier said than done, since many top directors are top directors because of their technique and their differing approaches reflect what their home nation wants out of a broadcast.
“The biggest difference between directors in Europe is the use of replays, the number of replays, the style,” says Miodownik. “For some, the ball is the most important thing while, for others, it’s the game, the aesthetic, that is most important.”
Once found, a director must then pick the best team. Many meetings are held with the directors, all in the interest of putting together the team that they are absolutely most comfortable with.
Once the team is assembled, it is on to the hard work of making sure that the World Cup broadcasts feel consistent, regardless of who is directing. At a basic level, that means emphasizing the quality of replays instead of the quantity of them.
“Having 32 cameras means better replays, not more,” add Miodownik.
At a more complex level, it is helping all involved to keep the end client in mind: a wide variety of broadcasters across the globe.
“We need to make the directors feel like they aren’t compromising their technique,” says Miodownik.
This year’s World Cup features seven production teams, one more than in 2006. For the HBS team, there was no better validation of the choices they made in 2006 then that all six were chosen for the European Cup and all six from 2006 are back this year.
“The open question was, who would be the seventh,” says Miodownik. “Because of our position, we were in a strong position to identify and work a particular director and build his team.”
That seventh director is Jean-Jacques Amsellem, who directed the 1998 World Cup Final and is a lead director for Canal Plus. The other six directors are Francois-Charles Bideaux (this is his fourth World Cup, and he also directs French football Ligue 1 matches);
Knut Fleischmann (this is his second World Cup, and he has also worked for the UEFA Champions League in Germany); Francois Lanaud (whose experience includes two Olympics, three World Cups, and the French F1 Grand Prix); Jamie Oakford (this is his third World Cup as director, and he has been involved with ITV Sport since 1986); Wolfgang Straub (working on his third World Cup, bringing 20 years of directing football in Germany and other sports, such as tennis and basketball); and John Watts (also working on his third World Cup as one of the UK’s most experienced outside broadcast directors).
Of course, with seven top-level directors on board, the question becomes who is directing the final? Fortunately for all involved, the decision is known before the World Cup even begins, ensuring that the directors working the final and the nearly as important semifinals have plenty of time to prep for the big final week, July 6-11.
So look for Bideaux to work the final in Soccer City and Lanaud to handle one semi in Cape Town and Fleischmann the other in Durban as well as the third-place match in Port Elizabeth.