ESPN Films today announced a new documentary short series, Versus, that will explore moments of inspiration, when the world of sports transcended the action on the field. The series will be executive produced by Eva Longoria who is also the director of the first short, “Go, Sebastian, Go!” that will kick off the series in May. Other directors will include: Retta (Parks and Recreations), Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives) and Melissa Johnson (director, Nine for IX Shorts’ “Brittney Griner: Lifesize”).
“There are so many moments from the world of sports that represent a broad cultural theme while at the same time, focus on a uniquely human story,” said Longoria. “I’m excited to be working with ESPN Films, along with a variety of talented filmmakers, to tell these stories of courage and perseverance.”
Versus will consist of five films that will premiere monthly from May through September. Each film will premiere on a Friday episode of SportsCenter followed by a tiered rollout to the SportsCenter app and additional digital platforms, including ESPN.com, Twitter, Facebook and others. There will be a second season of Versus in 2016.
“As sports fans continue to consume more than just scores and game updates via digital platforms, we’re continuing to expand our focus on creating high-quality, entertaining programming, such a Versus, for them to access whether they are watching ESPN on television or browsing on any device,” said Dan Silver, senior director of development, ESPN Films. “Over the years, Eva has proven how multifaceted she is, from acting to producing to directing, and we’re inspired by her commitment to tell stories with weight and significance.”
Longoria’s Unbelievable Entertainment is producing the series for ESPN Films. Longoria is currently executive producing the third season of Devious Maids for Lifetime, and Unbelievable currently has nine projects in development under its first-look producing deal with Universal Television. Unbelievable’s Ben Spector will executive produce Versus alongside Longoria.
Film Summaries (additional films to be announced):
Go, Sebastian, Go! (May 2015)
Directed by Eva Longoria
On June 11, 2013 Sebastian de la Cruz stepped onto center court, dressed in his traditional mariachi charro suit, to sing the national anthem before Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. Sebastian’s performance ignited racial tweets and hate filled comments – thrusting the young singer into the national immigration reform debate. But as the son of a Navy Veteran, Sebastian didn’t let the negativity diminish his accomplishment or tarnish his love and respect for his country. He returned for Game 4 to once again sing the National Anthem. He stood tall in the spotlight, proud of his culture and his heritage, and as his beautiful voice echoed throughout the arena the cheers in the stands turned from “Go Spurs Go” to “Go Sebastian Go!”
Queen Vee (Spring 2015)
Directed by Melissa Johnson
Night after night, she grabs her uniform and laces up just like the big boys of the NBA she runs with. She’s been in the league longer than most of them. Seventeen years. She’s Violet ‘Vee’ Palmer, the first female referee in the NBA. Queen Vee is a story about this intrepid pioneer with gigantic ambition who beat all odds to make it to the NBA. The film chronicles Violet’s singular journey as an African-American woman who grew up Southern Baptist in Compton and managed to reach the elite club of refs at the highest level. “I didn’t just put my little foot through the door,” she says, “I kicked the damn thing over.”
About ESPN Films
Created in March 2008, ESPN Films produces high-quality films showcasing some of the most compelling stories in sports. In October 2009, ESPN Films launched the Peabody Award-winning, Producer’s Guild Award-winning and Emmy-winning 30 for 30 film series. Inspired by ESPN’s 30th Anniversary, the films that made up the series were a thoughtful and innovative reflection on the past three decades told through the lens of diverse and interesting sports fans and social commentators. The strong reaction from both critics and fans led to the launch of 30 for 30 Volume II, which is currently underway. Additional projects from ESPN Films include the critically acclaimed Nine for IX series, SEC Storied and 30 for 30 Shorts.