March 26th, 2010

Director Driving Fantasyland as a Brand

Friday, March 26th, 2010

With the Fantasyland movie hitting the Web last Friday, and the 2010 drafts for Tout Wars — the “expert” competition at the center of the tale — coming up this weekend, thought it worthwhile to toss a few questions toward director Stephen Palgon.

Along with providing some insight into the creation of the documentary, Palgon mentioned plans to try to extend the Fantasyland brand to create an ongoing presence on the Web and in the fantasy industry. Here are our questions and his answers.

1. What is your background with fantasy sports?

I have played fantasy sports a bit, but mostly NBA fantasy. I did NFL fantasy in college and some MLB fantasy while I worked at ESPN but recently my focus has been on NBA fantasy.

2. What made you want to make this movie?

Several years ago I read an article about Sam Walker’s book Fantasyland and I found it very interesting and I thought that his approach to fantasy sports helped make the sport come alive and away from the numbers. Sam’s take is really what inspired the film because when I read the book I saw what could be a really dramatic documentary if we found a compelling character and followed them around for a season and they played the game in a similar fashion to Sam and went out and attempted to play fantasy baseball for real.

3. How did the Tout Wars folks respond to your proposal? Did it take any convincing?

I think that there might have been some brief hesitation from the Tout Wars players after Sam’s book. I think that some members of Tout Wars had some negative opinions of their portrayal in the book but after a little bit of conversation and letting them know what our goals were they came on board. I have to say that Ron Shandler has been incredible throughout the process, and since the film has been completed he has been a real champion of the film, which is something we are very grateful about.

4. How did you elicit applications for the “regular-guy” spot? What made you choose Jed Latkin?

The audition or application process was basically an online campaign. We posted on websites, got the word out through people we knew in the fantasy world and once the word got out the applications began pouring in and it was actually through this process that we began to realize even more how compelling this world was. We were hearing stories and learning about people that we never knew existed.

5. Other than funding, what were some particular challenges in making this movie? What went better than you might have expected?

One of the challenges was making sure we were picking the right spots and moments to follow and focus on. Of course you don’t want to miss anything but you can’t be filming 24/7, so we wanted to make sure we were there during the moments that were essential to the film. I think also the hard part is making sure you know which people to be following. It can be especially difficult when the drama is unfolding in front of you. I think one of the things that worked out better than expected was Jed. We really didn’t know what we would get from him. We knew what had a unique personality when we first met him, but we didn’t quite know the extent of it until we got off and running. And of course, having the camera in the right position when he got hit in the head with the ball was a moment I am very grateful for, Jed perhaps not so much.

6. Looking at the finished product, is there anything you wish you had done with the film that maybe didn’t end up fitting?

There are definitely more player scenes that we really liked but we wanted to be careful to not overdo this. I think that there are other very funny moments with Jed where he is simply talking about things that are somewhat mind boggling that I would’ve liked to include. I think that the other thing is that we definitely wish that we could’ve included some of the bigger names who play fantasy whether it be celebrities or politicians, etc but it just didn’t happen.

7. Would you want to play in a league with Jed?

I know that a lot of people look at Jed as the guy they WOULD NOT want in their league, but I think that playing against Jed could be fun. At least for a season. He is going to come at you from all angles and he is going to be the guy that you really want to beat. Jed is not mean spirited at all, he just really loves to play and is obsessed with it, but I don’t think he is out there trying to be a jerk.

8. What goals do you have for the film now that it’s out there? Any future plans relating to fantasy?

We definitely have some big goals related to this film and really view the book and film as just the initial parts of this journey. We are launching the Fantasyland brand which is going to be a website filled with daily video content that is dedicated to the lives of the people who play fantasy sports, the stories, the characters and everything about fantasy sports that isn’t about the numbers. We want to create a video fantasy Web network for this world that is unlike anything that is currently out there.

You can also find info on the Fantasyland Film Facebook and Twitter pages.