Congrats on the release of Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1! What led you to direct this feature documentary film? It started with a crazy fascination with the whole idea of the zeitgeist of Jordan—the man and the shoe. I had a hunch that this story was much more than meets the eye. Then, during a meeting with the Jordan Brand on something unrelated, it dawned on me that the story began with the birth of the first shoe. Obsession took hold, and I couldn’t sleep or focus on anything else until I’d solved it.
What new skills did you have to learn to tackle a documentary? The real question is: What didn’t I learn? I’ve done scripted content, as I am first and foremost a writer, but I hadn’t done much documentary work. This project really pushed me to trust the process, plan and craft, and then let things happen. I’d also never run a documentary edit. I learned to think differently, piecing together threads of information, facts, details, hints and historical records to discover new ideas. I learned how the alchemy of instinct and the facts of reality can collide to create magical moments. And as a man, I learned about the power of conviction, staying steadfast to a vision no matter what. When you believe in something with all your heart, don’t let anyone tell you no, it can’t or shouldn’t be done. Just do it.
Why does the world of sports inspire you? It’s competitive. It’s passionate. It’s this alchemy of the physical, the mental, the emotional and the spiritual. Sports have the power to bridge nations, races, genders and ideologies, and ascend the limits of human potential. Sports are life. And I’m inspired by life, all of its many wonders and the ways of looking at it. I also attribute my work ethic to my training as a wrestler. I push beyond the brink of exhaustion, failure and my limits, and then I push again.
What do you hope to achieve with your creative content company, Falkon? Tell stories that help instigate cultural shifts in beliefs and behaviors en route to a better world. Fill people with hope and aspiration. Move them. Teach them. Open them up. Remind them why they are alive and what makes them so magnificently original. Not be defined by a certain working style. Work with brands, athletes, sports leagues and other influencers of culture—either all at once or through various combinations, but always in the service of the most powerful idea and the most authentic and original way to share it with the world.
Are we in a golden age for branded content right now? There are more opportunities to share stories with the world than ever before. There are more platforms that people are engaged with, and more channels that were built to serve a wide range of tastes and interests. It’s chaotic and even overwhelming as a viewer to decide what to watch and where to watch it, but compared to the narrow lane—with its rules and assumptions and constricted story types made for certain audiences—it’s a snapshot of freedom in storytelling. I couldn’t be more excited by the opportunity of it all, and I’m quite sure the sea of options will begin to be more organized in the coming years.
What emerging technologies and innovations will have the biggest impact on how you create in the next few years? Quibi. Instagram Stories. The range of emerging short-form platforms and tools available for nonprofessionals to make higher-end content will impact advertising and entertainment. Gloves are off on the idea that form must follow a specific set of rules. Story structure is paramount, but a three-act structure can be one minute, five minutes, fifteen minutes, two hours or twenty hours—and any variation and length in-between. So, why aren’t we seeing more content simply built around the demands of how the story should be told?
What advice would you give to today’s brands on marketing? Be really honest with yourself about who you are. Know the difference between who you are and who you wish you were. Just like people, brands can change. They can grow into something better and different, but it takes a tremendous amount of self-honesty, self-reflection and discomfort to truly change the things that are destructive, less positive and unhealthy. But if you can do that, and tell stories and communicate with the world from that place, you’ll have an audience and a true shot at fulfilling whatever your mission is.