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Monday, May 20, 2024

Behind the Scenes of a New Caitlin Clark Docuseries

  • Omaha Productions is releasing a docuseries on ABC focused around Caitlin Clark, Kamilla Cardoso, and Kiki Rice.
  • Head of production Therese Andrews joined ‘Front Office Sports Today’ to discuss how her team told their stories through the historic 2023–24 season.
Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

On weekends, Front Office Sports brings you one of the week’s best conversations from our daily show, FOS Today. This week we’re highlighting host Owen Poindexter’s interview with Therese Andrews, head of production at Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions. The company is debuting a docuseries on ABC (and then streaming on ESPN+), Full Court Press, focused on Caitlin Clark, Kamilla Cardoso, and Kiki Rice—and the just-concluded record-breaking season for women’s college basketball. Andrews takes us from the show’s development discussions through the moment they called wrap. To hear the whole conversation, check out the episode here. The following has been edited for clarity and length.

Front Office Sports: At any given moment, how many irons do you have in the fire usually in terms of shows in progress?

Therese Andrews: Omaha is a busy place. Probably somewhere between eight and 12 active projects, whether they’re in preproduction or in active production on a given day. 

FOS: Full Court Press focuses on Caitlin Clark, Kamilla Cardoso, and Kiki Rice. I imagine there had to be some temptation just to focus on Clark, given that she’s one of the most prominent athletes in the country right now. Why go with all three?

Therese Andrews: Well, you know, when we were early in development, we of course went back and forth a little bit on what is the best series that would show the extensive nature of women’s college basketball. And though Caitlin is obviously a good vantage point into that, it felt really important for us to make sure that we were really balancing different characters and understanding their archetypes and their vantage points into the sport. So Caitlin is obviously really impressive, but without Kiki and Kamilla, we wouldn’t really have the depth of character and understanding of the sport in its full complexity. It felt really important to make sure that we were doing that properly.

FOS: On the Caitlin piece of this, because she’s been receiving so much national attention for months now, the audience already knows a lot about her. How did that shape where you put your focus in telling her story?

TA: Honestly, this show was a wild ride in preproduction of figuring out, How many days do we need to cover? How important is the regular season? How important is March Madness? So it was a complex strategy session to really think through how to approach all three of them. Early on in development, Kristen Lappas—our director, who’s absolutely wonderful and such a superstar—spent a lot of time working through the story angles that we wanted to approach and how many days and what type of access we needed. 

FOS: To what degree did you end up in a place you sort of expected?

TA: It’s impossible to know how their seasons are going to turn out. It’s also impossible to know, of course, with the magic of March Madness, How is the tournament going to play out? So I think part of the biggest challenge wasn’t necessarily in filming, but it was in editing, because we were trying to figure out the scope of these episodes while the season was in progress. By the time the season ended, we needed episodes one and two to be truly locked. Episode three was partially locked, and four was kind of up in the air. 

So we were figuring out how the content team really needed to be managed as we were hoping that the athletes would have a really successful run in the tournament, which, thankfully, we picked superstars in the beginning and we felt really strong about them and it paid off in a big way. But anybody who’s a college basketball fan knows that you can never guarantee how the season is going to end. 

FOS: Caitlin has her super-fiery on-court persona, and then there’s her with the media, which is very friendly, very giving to her teammates and just focused on the game. There has to be a third side of her that is neither of those things, because those are two very specific contexts. Can you speak to what you learned, what the audience will learn about her, that we’re not getting from all this attention?

TA: I think that with any character like this, who’s in the spotlight, and for her under the immense pressure that she was in this season, it was really powerful for us to be there in some of the more vulnerable quiet moments. We’re there while she’s with her family, with her boyfriend. Her family is just so core and critical to who she is as a person and also defines her as an individual and how she carries her life. So there were a lot of family moments that really pop off the screen. I think there’s also that quiet, a few steps removed from the spotlight for any character, that really helps you understand who they are on a deeper level. 

And you see that with Caitlin: She has a really strong sense of self and awareness. I think, in that way, she’s a really wonderful role model, not just for women but for people.

FOS: Kamilla was the third pick in the WNBA draft, going to the Chicago Sky. Kiki is a star at UCLA. How do they fill out this picture for us?

TA: Kamilla’s story has international scope. I think there are aspects of her story that I feel like are probably going to be the most surprising to people. And Kiki comes from a really successful family herself. I think there’s a little bit of her trying to figure out how to measure up to that and how to stand independently.

FOS: Sports docuseries are becoming more and more part of the sports media world. Where do you guys see your place in that as one of the main producers focused on this kind of content?

TA: Peyton wants to be attached to projects that make sense for him and are an extension of his brand. And I think when people watch Full Court Press, they’ll understand part of why Peyton finds this really compelling, and also why Omaha really cared to help with facilitating this. I think there’s a transcendent nature with this show, and, not to oversell it, but this story hasn’t been told really, about women’s sports in general. Also, it’s the first time that we’re able to view college basketball in this way. So I think we want to continue to be part of that conversation and figure out how to do things in a way that’s new and different and fresh. 

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