NFL Films tackles challenge of making the 2016 Rams watchable
It’s an experience that neither the Rams nor their fans want to endure again. But the club’s first season back in Los Angeles was captured in minute detail by the highly skilled storytellers at NFL Films for the Amazon original series “All or Nothing: A Season with the Los Angeles Rams,” now available on Amazon Prime video.
The Times caught up with NFL Films coordinating producer Keith Cossrow, the “All or Nothing” show runner, and the director, Shannon Furman, about what went into the eight-episode project.
Q: You did HBO’s “Hard Knocks” with the Rams last summer. How did the decision come about to stay with the team through the fall?
Cossrow: From a league perspective, there was an interest in documenting the entire season of the return to Los Angeles. That was from the commissioner on down. There hadn’t been a relocation in a generation, and this one was different because it was a return to L.A. by a team that had spent its first 50 years there. Everyone was aware of the historical significance of the Rams returning. We knew we were going to document it somehow, so at a certain point it made sense to do it this way.
Q: What’s the difference between doing “Hard Knocks” at training camp and “All or Nothing” during the season?
Furman: It was completely different. Our crew is much smaller on “All or Nothing,” and we’re not airing it until later. I think the teams are a little less uptight during the season throughout the process. On “Hard Knocks,” if a fight breaks out, that’s a huge story line for us, whereas on “All or Nothing” that’s probably nothing by the time the show’s airing. The story lines and characters are different, because we’ve got a lot of guys that no one’s heard of on “Hard Knocks” so it’s harder to get guys like Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley involved. On “All or Nothing,” those are the people that you need to depend on.
Q: Can you describe the challenge of making an interesting story out of a 4-12 team?
Furman: The biggest thing for us was trying to find characters that people are going to care about. That’s why we kind of got lucky with John Fassel (the special teams coach eventually promoted to interim head coach). Because myself and Pat Harris, who helped me direct it, we loved him, and we noticed he was just different. He was a guy we wanted to root for, and we wanted to see him do well. So it was finding guys like that. It’s trying to humanize these guys that we see getting slammed all the time, getting to know them on a personal level.
Q: You begin the series with the firing of Jeff Fisher as coach. What went into the decision to start with that?
Cossrow: We knew that was the elephant in the room, and the thing people were going to be most interested in. Are they going to show coach Fisher’s firing? We decided this is at the heart of the story we wanted to tell. We wanted to lay that out very clearly in those first five minutes: We have a story to tell about the NFL that’s never really been told before. It’s a story about what happens to those seven or eight teams every season whose coach gets fired, and everything gets turned upside down for all those people.
Q: You captured some pretty incredible scenes, with Fisher telling the players he had been fired, and the subsequent meetings with the players and the remaining coaches. But you didn’t show the actual moment the Rams fired Fisher. Why not?
Cossrow: I think anyone who understands the nature of documentary filmmaking knows that it’s impossible to capture everything. You can have 10 cameras rolling 24/7 and you would still miss a thousand important moments. That’s just the nature of the beast. So I think the fact that Shannon and the crew were able to capture so much of what happened the day coach Fisher was fired, and that no one ever told us to turn off the cameras once they were rolling, is an extraordinary achievement and a testament to the job they did in the field building trust with the team.
Q: So what exactly happened on that morning?
Furman: We don’t have cameras in the coach’s office at all, and that’s one difference between “Hard Knocks” and “All or Nothing.” After the Falcons game, Coach Fisher and Coach Mac (Dave McGinnis) were together on Monday morning, prepping for the Seattle game. They were in Coach Fisher’s office. I touched base with coach Fisher, and then left to grab a smoothie for breakfast. I got a phone call from my production assistant who works the robotics cameras, and he asked, “How far away are you?” I said, “I can be there in three minutes.” He said, “Coach just told the staff he was fired.”
Q: Do you have a team lined up for “All or Nothing” this fall?
Cossrow: We’re talking with several teams, but we don’t have anything to announce at this point.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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