1998 World Cup Soccer Zinedine Zidane

Posted by Paul Devlin:

It was one of those great calls out of nowhere: How would you like to go to Paris for six weeks and work on World Cup Soccer with ABC/ESPN?

Are you kidding? Of course! I edited dozens of pieces like this one about soccer superstar Zinedine Zidane. It was the first time ABC/ESPN had done a joint project together. Years later, ESPN would completely absorb the ABC Sport Department. It was clear at the time where the wind was blowing: The ABC producers would come into the edit room full of defensive arrogance. One actually said, “Now you’re going to find out how a REAL feature gets made,” as if his ESPN counter-part who had just left the room didn’t know what she was doing.  The ESPN producers, on the other hand, had come from an environment of cranking out content to fill round-the-clock programming. They were courteous, talented, prepared and efficient. No fuss, and they could produce high-quality work in one-third the time of an ABC producer.

I also had a fantastic time in Paris, a city I already knew well from living there for awhile right after college. I went to a lot of exciting matches on my free time and sparked up a romance with a lovely French woman. What could be better?  Well, 1998 was the year France won at home. After the championship, Paris felt like it was V-E day – the entire city was one all-night big party. It was thrilling to have played a role.

Only one problem – the day I was packing to leave for Paris, I got another great call, except the timing was way off: Film Forum, the prestigious repertory cinema in New York City had an unexpected gap in their summer schedule and wanted to program my film SlamNation to fill it. That meant a NYC theatrical premiere and two-week run, complete with publicist for my first feature-length movie! But it was scheduled to play very soon after my return from France. How would I prepare?  But I had no choice, it was too good to turn down. So in between edits in Paris, I found myself constantly on the phone trying to manage the premiere of SlamNation remotely…

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