Leendert Derck (27) is one of Belgium’s upcoming and most talented sports documentary makers. He is a big fan of ESPN’s 30 For 30 series. A quick Q&A with Belgiums rising documentary-star.
Leendert, please explain your fascination for the 30 for 30 documentaries on ESPN?
“I’m always up for a good sports documentary but what sets 30 for 30 apart from everything else for me is the variation in the stories and in the way they are told. Whereas with a traditional series of documentaries (think Belga Sport in Belgium or Andere Tijden Sport in the Netherlands) the makers usually follow the same recipe for every episode (not a knock on those series by the way, they are both excellent), in 30 for 30, every documentary is made by another filmmaker so besides from the introduction and some graphical elements, they are all very different. They use different narration techniques, different styles of filming, basically everything changes from one documentary to the other. The one common denominator for all 30 for 30’s is the quality. With only two or three exceptions, every story is compelling, touching, moving, fascinating… For sports fans, it’s just unbelievably good. – paragraph normal.”
Which 30 for 30 is your favorite (and why)?
“It’s too hard to pick one. Let me give my top 5 – in a random order.”
- June 17th 1994: A great way of storytelling without a narrator or talking heads. It’s all archive footage and to tell a story that way is very hard to do (I’ve tried it on two accasions for documentary projects, only once were we able to pull it of successfully).
- Survive and Advance (Jim Valvano): Just a great story of courage and perseverance. Showing how Jim Valvano is as a person, whitout having the possibility to interview him, that’s a great accomplishment.
- The Two Escobars: this is a more traditional way of storytelling but the story in itself is so powerful. The connection between druglord Pablo Escobar and (the death of) footballer Andres Escobar makes for stunning television. I knew both individuals but I dindn’t even know half the story.
- No Crossover, The Trial of Allen Iverson: Whenever a documentary makes you understand the way a certain athlete carried himself on and off the court, it’s mission accomplished. I was a huge fan of Iverson before, after seeing this documentary I had even more respect for him (despite his obvious faults).
- Cutthroat: This is actually a 30 for 30 short. I don’t even want to say anything about it, I’d only spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet. Just watch it sometime. (check it out at espn.com, osa.)
You made a few documentaries yourself (Goudkoorts & Rode Duivels: koude oorlog in de lage landen). Were these in any way influenced by a 30 for 30?
“O yes, absolutely. I think you have to allow yourself to be influenced by other work. I guess that goes for a tv-maker as much as for a musician or an artist. It’s another thing to try to copy things. That usually doesn’t work out. But there have definitely been some influences, just watch the documentaries I was involved in, and you’ll recognize some things from 30 for 30.”
If you were asked to make a 30 for 30, (about an american sports story); what would it be about?
“As a basketball-fan I would love to make a documentary of the ‘Redeem Team’, the Olympic basketball team that won the gold for USA in Beijing. Not because of the gold medal (it was a super-tense final against Spain but that alone doesn’t make for a good story), but because of the influence it had on the basketball world. It was supposedly at the Olympic tournament that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hatched their plan to become teammates in 2010. Wade, for all accounts seems to be the ‘evil genius’ behind that plan, because he was able to convince his greatest rival (James) to join forces with him in Miami. But what gave them the idea in the first place? Were other players (Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony) aware of their plans?”
“Every NBA-fan knows what happened after the Olympics. Multiple teams tried to lure LeBron when he became a free agent (and Wade and Bosh), but in a stunningly self-promoting tv-special called ‘The Decision’, LeBron announced he would ‘take his talents to South Beach’ and join the Miami Heat. Starting the following season, the Miami Heat went on a run of 3 consecutive NBA Finals appearances (and counting) and two NBA titles (and counting). They have have a chance to become one of the greatest teams of all time. And it all started with one Olympic Tournament.”
“I think this would be a pretty cool story to tell if you could get everyone to talk about what went on ‘backstage’.”
Anything coming in Belgium, any time soon?
“Yes. I’m working on a short documentary about the best Belgian basketball player of all time. It will air mid-december.”