U.S. Skydiving championships.
I got to know these sports inside and out.
Exoplanets. Wormholes. Solar sailing. Stellar Cartography. I delved into these scientific space age concepts head on.
To effectively produce non-fiction television and other media on subjects I’m unfamiliar with, I always IMMERSE myself into research. Tons of it. It can be time-consuming, but most often….fun.
For Fox Sports, I helped produce a “Wide World of Sports”-type program, requiring heavy research into little-known sports. For Ultimate Dodgeball, players bounce and pounce on trampolines. The largest fresh water lake in the world hosted an ice yachting championship, with one-person sail-powered schooners zipping at 80-plus miles an hour. The Carolina Turbos, Arizona Arsenal, and other top sky jumpers compete in categories like 4-man canopy formation, where parachutes literally stack on top of one another, peel off, and stack again. Then there was sanshou, slamball, waterlining, and wushu, just to name a few odd sports.
For Paramount Home Entertainment’s release of a new “Star Trek” Film Collection, I pitched a documentary about ‘real’ outer space using experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. That meant boning up on many complex scientific concepts and space lingo to illicit easy-to-grasp comments from astrophysicists. Fascinating, as Spock would say, but challenging. As a result, I was able to contrast and compare Star Trek’s fictional world with cutting-edge technology.
Immersion into topics can be informative, eye-brow raising, and a kick in the pants. Chart the history of Disco with a former Studio 54 Dee Jay (for the DVD of Saturday Night Fever). Get the skinny on robotics at a Boston Robot Convention or U.S.C.’s Robotic Lab. Uncover the grisly details behind John Hinkley, Jr.’s insanity defense (a Primal Fear DVD bonus feature).
IMMERSION. It’s more than researching a subject. It’s making sure the topic will work ahead of time. It allows a producer to know the subject backwards and forwards in order to achieve the ultimate goal — tell a compelling story.