Similarly to what I have done for Wimbledon, this year we had players watch iPad video of themselves during a pivotal time at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Roger had an epic rally with Lleyton in the early 2000s. Isner became the #1 American at IW. Jack Sock won the doubles title in 2015. Petra thoughtfully recalled being injured, missing the tournament and the large poster fans signed wishing her a successful recovery. Lastly, Elena Vesnina remembered when she was in the press conference after winning the single’s title in 2017. A man came up and took the trophy. This was Matt Van Tuinen, the director of media for the tournament. The men’s final was going quickly and they needed the only trophy back on court for the ceremony. We had Matt return to take the iPad from her during the filming of this memory. Elena got the meta joke and took it really well. She ended up posting the memory video to her personal Instagram profile where it reached 22,000 views.
This series was moderately successful. The epic point with Roger and Lleyton is genuinely amazing tennis archival footage. Roger provided some solid play by play for us. The other memories were released sporadically but remain on the tournament website as a bingeable series.
Also of note is that we shot this series in an interview room filming in 4k ultra high definition using the 1DXii. We lit the subjects using Arri Skypanel S30-c LEDs. The hedges with the flowers were brought in by the onsite florist to fit the full bloom theme.
The Great American Eclipse coincided with the Connecticut Open in August of 2017. While in New Haven providing coverage I was tasked with creating an original all-access piece when we had media time with the top seeded players. Before the tournament I had thought about doing a piece with some players reacting to watching the eclipse. But obviously that video would be finished after the event. It would not benefit from the momentum of the national conversation, hype and excitement about the coast to coast celestial show.
My concept for a PSA was approved and I wrote the script the day before our all-access sessions. Having the benefit of working with these female players in the past, I knew their personalities well enough to write lines that suited their delivery.
It was definitely a blast writing, directing and editing. I really enjoy working the Connecticut Open because the tournament director, Anne Worcester allows for so much latitude to create original content. The team in New Haven scrambled and came up with all of the props needed. Katie Spellman, the new PR director for the tournament, is very well connected having worked for the WTA and also repping players. Her ability to cajole players and worldwide tennis contacts to share and retweet the piece meant that the video reached an audience that dwarfed all of our previous output from the past three years.
I enjoyed doing the voiceover, making the tennis ball eclipse graphics, picking the 1950s light and lively orchestral track. Editing meant that some fun jokey parts were left on the cutting room floor. But I think the piece ended up being tighter and more watchable as a result. This video and the Connecticut Open Debate video from 2016 rank as two of my favorite pieces we have created recently. Obviously there is limited interest and fans of European tennis players is niche audience, but making something from scratch that people respond well to and enjoy is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
Working for MVT PR on behalf of The Connecticut Open always feels like vacation. Connecticut is a small women’s tournament that is charming and welcoming in a New England way. The social/digital team enjoyed more than a few food truck breakfast sandwiches, Ben & Jerry’s Peace Pops and lobster rolls. At night the small team gathered to visit and plan for the events of the next day. At New Haven we get an all-access slot with some of the top seeded players at the tournament. In the past we have used that time to do a Tonight Show style “Whisper Challenge” and a timed triathalon of children’s games. This year we were without our onscreen personality and usual host, Nick McCarvel. What to do? We bandied about a lot of ideas but started cracking one another up with the idea of staging a fake election season debate. For a little context, it was then the time of the summer when the conventions were over and the real presidential debates were about to begin.
Pulling politics out of the equation, we decided to have our tennis players debate ridiculous topics like, “What’s better pizza or pasta? What Disney movie is the best, Frozen or Finding Nemo” Our players were Danish, Czech and Italian. Their reactions were great. We filmed each separately at the same podium. I shot with compression to give the picture more of the feel of a real debate. I directed them in shaking their heads to agree, disagree, looking stern, looking happy…a range of emotions so that there was a lot of footage to play with in post. Caroline Wozniacki was last. We had a two hour break before her portion as moderator needed to be filmed. Based on the other’s reactions to questions, we quickly wrote Caro’s script including direction for inflection and attitude. She will likely be a broadcaster once her tennis career is over. So it all meshed perfectly. As the most Americanized of the group, she intuited quickly what we were doing. Her read could not have been better.
Then for the next two days I edited the piece. I cribbed CNN’s debate graphics for the parody. All in all it was a ton of fun to make the women talk over one another and to create arguments when they had all originally been shot separately. Roberta Vinci ended up being the funniest. Petra was classy wearing her bronze medal from Rio. This debate video is probably the most complicated edit I completed in 2016 because of how much tweaking of the timing was involved. Hope you enjoy! It did gangbusters business for New Haven. Over 200,000 views on Facebook, YouTube & Twitter. 200k is a solid number for a smaller sized tournament that did not have the top three women participating. The WTA retweeted and then all of the players who participated retweeted. Petra even sent Roberta little emoticons of pasta. The organic spread of content is necessary for a semi-viral video with no advertising budget behind it. Producing pieces that not only the fans like but also the players, makes the job more rewarding.