Producers of sports-related content need to be careful with the issue of footage rights as it's a mine field and can also be prohibitively expensive. So says film director Marc Rowlston of Pulp Film Johannesburg, who shot and directed episodes of My Beautiful Game, Africa's premiere football documentary series.


Marc Rowlston shooting the title sequence for My Beautiful Game
"This is an absolute minefield and the cost of footage of this nature is quite often prohibitively expensive. Global distribution will see you paying up to $10 000 per minute. The post production needs to make sure all this footage is properly logged and your producer needs to be very sharp. I have seen shows that just use stills, obviously cheaper but also not good television."


Rowlston says there are many challenges when shooting a sports documentary or film. "For me, the hardest thing is to get the relevant interviews. Interviews are the heart of the content and they need to be informed and interesting, but sometimes even just getting them set up is difficult."

Most important in shooting a documentary or feature film, is the need to ask people to give of their time and, in his experience, this has meant "either begging or mugging people to give you the interview. I must say I have been disappointed (waiting for a whole day for an interview then politely being asked for payment) and pleasantly surprised (invited to the home of a national coach)."

Rowlston explains that shooting drama and sports films are two different worlds. "These are contrasting disciplines, drama is shot in terms of script, every minute of the day is scheduled and you work to put the script onto the screen. Sports television/documentary starts with an idea or theme and then pieced together from all the interviews to form a coherent ' story'.

"The challenge of sports drama however is another story. Creating believable scenarios on the sports field depends on how much time you have (always an issue with any drama project), the practitioners (can the actor actually kick a ball?) and planning of shots for edit."

Comparing sports drama and the feature genre, he says drama is hard because of the hours and the expense of shooting with big crews and cast. "On the other hand, documentary is demanding in terms of ratio, but you end up shooting 20 hours of footage to condense into 26 or 52 minutes. This translates into edit hours and often you have to lose stuff you really worked hard to get. You have to make decisions and live with them. In a way you never really finish this kind of edit, you abandon it."

He says sport documentary series are popular - for example, My Beautiful Game viewership grew from 500 000 in the first season to over 600 000 in the second. "This was only on the satellite channels. We are negotiating free to air at the moment and those numbers will be spectacular I'm sure," he adds.

Rowlston has shot and directed for My Beautiful Game for 2 years and has also been the DOP for over 100 episodes of the soap ZONE 14, which included a lot of dramatised football.

My Beautiful Game features in the GFC's 2010 SA Catalogue in celebration of the FIFA Soccer World Cup, Africa's time has come. Click here to download the PDF.