ESPN Films’ Daniel Silver Sets Creative Tone To Kick Off SportsPost NY

ESPN Films Director of Development Daniel Silver set a creative tone early on for a standing-room crowd of 150 video professionals at HBO’s Michael Fuchs Theater at SportsPost NY, Sports Video Group’s first event focused solely on postproduction strategies and technologies. “[Compared with] others working in the world of content production,” he said, “we have a distinct advantage: we work in sports.”

Daniel Silver, director of development at ESPN Films, gave the keynote address at SVG's first-annual postproduction event.

Daniel Silver, director of development at ESPN Films, gave the keynote address at SVG’s first-annual postproduction event.

In sports production, where nearly all the focus is reserved for the live event, postproduction — be it in the form of original series, shoulder programming, or graphics — can play a prominent role in building drama.

“For us, the ones working on producing content which does not unfold live, our job is to find ways to capture and transfer all of that excitement and emotion from the field and bring it back to the screen,” said Silver, who scouts and develops new projects for ESPN Films.

Over the past decade, ESPN Films was the toast of the sports-production community thanks to its Peabody Award-winning documentary series 30 for 30. The concept behind the project was to pair with a feature filmmaker on each doc, taking a special interest in stories that were close to the filmmaker’s heart and told a unique story that resonated at the time but were eventually forgotten.

“I know there are many other ways to tell sports stories,” said Silver, “but I have found that the component that separates the truly great sports films — short form or feature — from the rest, and the element I believe should be considered just as much as story and execution, is passion, how a piece taps into that unique allegiance we as fans have for our teams and that personal prism in which we view the experience. It’s the juice that makes the squeeze of countless creative meetings and discussions and analyses worth it.”

Silver emphasized the uniqueness that each 30 for 30 documentary has. There is no set look, style, or design to an ESPN Film. They are filmmaker-driven projects that, he noted, can work only if the filmmaker’s vision is fulfilled.

“We have very specific points of view on the kinds of projects we believe should be ESPN Films,” he said. “It needs to be a story that collectively excites us first. If the filmmaker is truly passionate, we look to see if that passion is being focused in the right way — meaning, is the director using his or her passion in their filmmaking? That’s when something truly distinctive is produced.”

Throughout the afternoon, SportsPost:NY took an in-depth look at various postproduction topics from the creative (storytelling, show opens, and graphics) to the technical (editing and remote asset management, the cloud, and future technologies).

Silver led attendees into the discussions with one final, overarching thought.

“I believe quality is the best business plan,” he said, admittedly quoting from Pixar and Disney Animations Studio Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter. “This can be applied to all of our work, but, for ESPN Films, I believe this to mean that we have to tap into our passion for what we do. To continue to be inspired and challenged by the work of others. To not get discouraged but [to be] determined when we see someone else bring forth an idea for a series or a piece of content we wish we had thought of. To be educated and forward-thinking as much as possible. And, ultimately, not to rest on success but flourish by challenging failure.

“In essence, we have to become the best fans possible.”

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