A few weeks ago, we asked you to submit questions for an HBO producer, as we were to talk to him about the awesomeness that is HBO Sports 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road To The NHL Winter Classic. The show debuted Wednesday night, and you can check out my recap over at SBNation.com. You can also see Geoff's recap at SB Nation Philly.
But for now, here are those answers to your questions. We submitted them to HBO producer Dave Harmon, and he was gracious enough to take the time to answer. Check out an exclusive preview of 24/7 Flyers-Rangers, Road to the Winter Classic on XFINITY TV here, and then make the jump for our exclusive Q&A with Mr. Harmon.
Exclusive Q&A With HBO Sports Vice President of Production, Senior Producer Dave Harmon
Q: What traits does the production team look for when selecting which players to focus on in the series? Is a decision based on which players are the most entertaining, the most popular, etc?
A: "Aside from the coaches who naturally take a central role in any team, we do not go into a show with a preplanned or storyboard approach on who will become a star of the show. Each year individuals naturally emerge and become a bigger part of the ongoing coverage."
Q: Is the footage of a players' personal life largely dependent upon which players freely offer access? Or are there any pre-decided players that the 24/7 crew seeks to highlight on a personal level?
A: "Clearly we need access and cooperation from anyone when it comes to their personal life but again, we do not go in with a storyboard on who will be a star or standout individual. But yes, the more open the access we receive, the more likely that footage is to air within the show."
Q: Are the cameras always rolling, or do they get turned on when anything interesting is happening?
A:" Cameras are always rolling during games and between periods. Otherwise, cameras are almost always rolling. You never know if someone is going to say something interesting, or if someone is going to do something great or get hurt within practice sessions. Somehow our teams in the field find time to sleep."
Q: Do players seem to talk and act differently when the cameras aren't on, as opposed to when they're right in their faces?
A: "Our experience has shown that within a couple of days of being embedded with the teams the players and coaches become so used to having the cameras around that they go about their normal activities as if we were not there. We try and stay out of the way."
Q: What are the biggest challenges the production team faces when trying to get candid behind-the-scenes footage?
A: "This show is being shot during the regular season, which is a time of extreme intensity for the players, coaches, and management. They are not actors in a television series, so our challenge is to be present with cameras and microphones while at the same time seeming invisible to the participants."
Q: How many people does it take to put together a program like the HBO 24/7 Series? How many cameras are involved and how big of an undertaking is it overall?
A: "We have a total of approximately 50 production people, and 25 more support personnel working to create 24/7. From camera people to field producers to editors to marketing and on-air support folks, these 75 people work hard every day to make sure the series is a success. We use between 6 and 8 cameras on the series, depending on whether we're shooting a daily practice session or a live game."
Q: How much attention will be focused on the cities of Philadelphia and New York City and the overall rivalry between their fan bases?
A: "The cities and the rivalry between the two teams are a natural part of the story we are covering."
Q: Does having language barriers impact things with production, especially in a sport like hockey where there is a significant amount of European and Russian influence?
A: "Both head coaches speak English, so that language is the predominant one in the locker room and on the ice. Language barriers are not an issue."
Q: How do you balance between dictating the narrative and editing accordingly versus just documenting and letting storylines develop organically?
A: "We never dictate any narrative or use editing to create storylines; we are there to capture the story as it unfolds. We try and present it so the HBO subscribers will enjoy it. One of the most satisfying compliments we get is for the compelling writing by Aaron Cohen and narration by Liev Schreiber."
Q: As a producer, how satisfying is it to capture a perfect moment that's going to make the show a real success - like the Bruce Boudreau rant in the locker room last season?
A:" It's very satisfying to know when we are in the right place at the right time. One instance which jumps out is the Winter Classic from Pittsburgh. By having cameras there every day, we wound up shooting the discussions about a weather delay and what the game-plan would be. That type of behind the scenes access makes the show feel special."
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face when filming live game action?
A: " Hockey may be the fastest paced game in the world. Players are on skates, and the puck gets whipped around at up to 100mph. The live game broadcasts do an excellent job of showing you who wins and loses, and who scores and assists on the goals. For 24/7 we try to complement the coverage viewers are used to seeing with shots which attempt to portray the game for how fast, difficult, and even physical it really is on the ice."
Q: What percentage of the footage you shoot actually gets seen in the final cut?
A:" We shoot approximately 200 hours of footage per week, and use 1 hour in the final cut. That's why it's great to see the home video of last season's 24/7 series (Penguins/Capitals) made available to the public, because hockey fans will enjoy having it in their library."
Q: Is there interest in expanding the format of the 24/7 series to include other sports like baseball, basketball, and college football?
A: "The 24/7 franchise has proven successful in covering boxing, NASCAR and the NHL. Clearly other sports would also fit well within our format. We are always prospecting."
HBO Sports® presents 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic®, an all-access, four-part reality series. Go behind the scenes with two of the NHL's fiercest rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers, as they gear up for this year's iconic Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®, to be held outdoors in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park on January 2. New episodes premiere every Wednesday, leading up to the finale on 1/5. Plus this month, all Comcast subscribers can get an inside look at the action with exclusive extras and the first episode, just visit Top Picks, xfinityTV.com or the Xfinity TV App.