FRANTIC Films’ Fuelled By Passion: The Return Of The Jets will air Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. cst on CBC TV. The documentary follows the loss of the Jets in 1996 and their return 15 years later and includes interviews with current owner Mark Chipman, former owner Barry Shenkarow, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and several players.
Viewers in Canada can stream the entire documentary from CBC.ca
I had the chance to meet with the team behind this project, including Charles Officer (Director of the documentary) and Lynne Skromeda (President of Production at Frantic Films) on several occasions and I am really looking forward to finally seeing the finished product.
Lynne took some time to answer some questions about this project, in this IC exclusive Q & A:
IC: How did Frantic get involved in this project?
LS: As soon as we heard the Jets might be coming back, we knew it would be a great story to tell. Prior to the actual announcement that the NHL would be returning, CBC had reached out to us about a potential collaboration. And shortly after the announcement was made our CEO & Executive Producer , Jamie Brown, contacted Mark Chipman, who he knew through a number of various Manitoba business initiatives, to see if he’d be interested in participating, which he was. We knew this was more than just a local story and the CBC was very excited to do a new kind of sports documentary. On July 20 we had a meeting at the True North offices with CBC, our director, Charles Officer, and the True North team and off we went from there!
IC: What was your first reaction to this as a Jets fan?
LS: We never really got over the initial shock and excitement of the team returning in the first place, because all of a sudden, we were going to see it happen from the inside for a crucial couple of months – get to meet the players, see things come together, learn from the people how they felt about the NHL coming back to Winnipeg and the process involved. We knew we were a part of a unique experience that was something very special and that feeling has continued throughout this whole process.
IC: What was your level of access like? (To True North. NHL. etc).
LS: The True North folks were very generous to us with their time and access, which was great given how busy they were. We spent a lot of time in the MTS Centre this summer! We interviewed coaches, staff, players and executives. They even helped us arrange the interviews with Gary Bettman and David Thomson, which was pulling big favours for us. The CBC and NHL have worked together to provide us action to game footage that we couldn’t otherwise be able to use on our own due to rights issues. So we’ve been lucky to have such great support from all organizations involved. That was really important because we were working under incredible deadlines – normally a one-hour doc takes 6 months to a year to produce on average…this one was done in 2 months, which is practically unheard of. Lots of people on our team put in 18+ hour days to meet our deadlines.
IC: Was it difficult to condense all the footage you took into an hour ?
LS: Absolutely – we feel like we could have made a 4-hour miniseries at least! And it’s not even a full hour – the CBC broadcast hour is only 45 minutes. Hour-long interviews we did have been reduced to a couple of very short clips in some cases; in others, we just didn’t have time to elaborate on great stories that we would have loved to tell. We wish there was more we could do with it all as we think fans would love hearing more.
IC: What was the most interesting thing you discovered about the Jets?
LS: You always hear opinions and rumours – it was great to hear from Barry Shenkarow and Gary Bettman first hand the realities of why the Jets had to leave at the time. And understanding how hard people have worked so quietly to make it happen. We always knew that they were a classy organization on the surface, but that was really echoed throughout all of our experiences with them, from the PR team’s responsiveness to the generosity that people showed us with their time. Interacting with people who were previously just stories in the media situations made it exciting in a new way, as we got a totally different feeling from spending more time with them. For example, meeting Mark Scheifele for the first time, it was obvious how badly he wanted it but was still putting it all in perspective – he had such a mature attitude but such drive, and we really got a chance to feel that from him. It really made me want him to do well even when no one knew how he’d perform as a rookie and look where he is now.
IC: What can fans expect from this documentary?
LS: Fans can expect a pretty fast-paced, action-packed hour with genuine excitement and emotional highs and lows. They’ll get to remember the team that was as we look back on the history of the team and get excited for the team that will be when we see the coaches and players coming together on the ice. This is being broadcast across the country so it’s important that we not only speak to people here in Winnipeg who love the Jets but also those who aren’t as familiar with why they’re important, why they left and why the NHL was able to come back. We really wanted to tell the compelling and comprehensive story of the history up to the first exhibition game (which is the latest we could shoot and still get this on air in time for October 7!) and I think we achieved that.
Once you’ve had an opportunity to watch it we want to hear your thoughts. Or in advance, let us know what you’re looking forward to seeing. As always sound off in comments.