It appears Stephenville High School football will once again be cast in the limelight.
44 Blue Productions, the company that produced the award winning 2001 documentary, “Wide Open,” which aired on the Arts & Entertainment Network (A&E), is returning to Stephenville to chronicle different perspectives of the magnitude of football both locally and statewide.
“We can’t get the love of football out of our veins,” says David Hale, head of current programming for 44 Blue Productions. “It’s been a while since our last sports project. With the success of the Friday Night Lights series, the temperature is right for a documentary series on high school football in Texas, and we feel like we are the company to do it and Stephenville is the perfect back drop.”
Wide Open was built around the comparison of high school football at schools in very different socioeconomic environments - Stephenville and Jefferson High School in south central Los Angeles. This time, however, Hale plans to focus on the magnitude of the sport at the high school level in Texas, using Stephenville as the focal point.
“This is exciting for the community, for our program and for our kids,” said Joseph Gillespie, head football coach and athletics director at Stephenville High School. “We were a little hesitant (in 2001) because we weren’t sure how it would be portrayed, but we thought they were very fair and did a great job. We ended up feeling honored to have been a part of it, and we’re honored that they’ve decided to come back here.”
Hale says plans are for the scope of the project to be much more broad than in 2001.
“We shot over 100 hours of film last time we were there,” he says. “We were at dinner tables, local diners, churches, all over the community, but we had to condense that down to a two-hour film, and Stephenville was only one side of the story. The other side focused on the Jefferson Democrats. This time, with a series based solely on Texas high school football in Stephenville, we will get to show a lot more from around the community. We really want to broaden the scope and show how involved the community is in football there.”
Hale and others will represent 44 Blue Productions at Stephenville High School from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, and Sunday, April 5, as they film casting interviews.
“We want entire families to come together,” Hale said. “We want players and families, cheerleaders and their parents. We want to get moms, dads, loyal fans, everyone. We don’t just want to follow the team, we want to capture the hopes, dreams, trials and tears of a great Texas football town.”
Hale says next week’s interviews will be included in a short piece that will be used in an effort to sell the series to networks. If all goes well, the company will return in the fall to chronicle the entire football season.
“We’ve grown a lot since the last time we were in Stephenville,” he said of 44 Blue Productions, “and we’re confident this is a project the networks will love.”
Anyone interested in being interviewed next week is encouraged to e-mail the production company ahead of time so a tentative schedule can be set. Interested parties can contact 44 Blue Productions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hale asks that interested parties include an in-depth description of their relationship to the program and why they should be on camera as representatives of the “Yellow Jacket family.” Attaching a family photo is also helpful, he says.
This will be the third time 44 Blue Productions has visited Stephenville. Before filming “Wide Open” in 2001, they were here in 1990 to capture the Stephenville-Brownwood rivalry on film. Coincidentally, the Yellow Jackets beat their arch-rivals for the first time in 27 years that fall.
“We have a great relationship with the Stephenville community,” Hale said. “We literally moved there last time we were there. We got to know a lot of people, especially the coaches and their families, and we’re excited to be going back.”
The Studio City, Calif. based production company was established by the husband-wife team of Rasha and Stephanie Drachkovich with the launch of the world’s first sports bloopers show, “Bob Uecker’s Wacky World of Sports,” which went on to be nationally syndicated. According to Hale, the company’s name is actually based on the name of a football play, “44 Blue,” that was included in Rasha’s high school playbook.
The company has since branched out into many avenues of entertainment, winning awards in numerous categories and airing more than 60 series and 40 documentaries on several television networks, including CBS, ESPN, A&E and more. Their work has been shown in 120 countries around the world, according to their online press kit that can be viewed at 44blue.com on the Web.