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Rowing in the Media: Think Carefully


The gay and lesbian sports community has been bombarded by requests from media production companies for LGBT athletes and sports teams interested in being on camera for a TV show, a movie, or a documentary series.

Promoting your club or your team can be a great way to spread the word about rowing in the community and to develop new rowers. Your club may embrace the project with open arms or they may direct that the filming only focus on the rowers involved.

The key thing to understand is that the entertainment business is all about projects, pitches, and audience appeal. Those with the money, namely studios and networks, are inundated with pitches from production companies on a new idea or storyline. Conversely, a network may put out the word that they are looking for gay sports stories. Either way, the stories inevitably involve conflict, drama, and adversity. Keep that in mind from a club perspective. The publicity you garner may not always be favorable.  Your focus may be rowing. Their focus is typically on the human drama element.

Normally, the studios and networks do not actually make the movie or documentary. They hire an independent production company, and there are more of them than all the Starbucks outlets combined. To be “greenlighted” as they say in the industry, a production company either has to have content (which the production company initially funds and tries to sell) or they have to have people “tied” to a project in order to get it funded.

So when you receive an email that says:

“XYZ - the new LGBT network from MEMEME Networks is looking for LGBT athletes blah blah blah,....Are you:
  • trying to create your own LGBT team?
  • already part of a competitive sports league?
  • about to try your hand at a new sport?
  • playing on a team with your partner or an ex-lover?
  • competing against your partner in a sport?
  • training for some 20xx event?
Remember that this is one of many production companies looking for people and organizations to help sell their project. All they care about is getting their project funded because then they become the “hot ticket” in the biz by name dropping their project as being “picked up” by XYZ network. So a word of warning. They may initially say yes, we want to film you, and then if the project is picked up, you, your team, or your club may be cut based on budgets, the studios, or the production company. Universally, a club or a team will not get any money for the project.

You may hope to show the boat rowing, coming together, training for a regatta, whatever the initial idea. They may cut out major parts of the filming to focus on hot bods, beautiful faces, fights, or most of all, disappointment and failure. The real story and what they show can be two very different things.

Finally, after all is said and done, and after you, your boat, your team, or your club has put enormous amounts of time and effort to help the production company with the documentary or reality series, they may decide to shelve the deal, or delay its screening. Or even worse, schedule the screening for some nonprime time slot that serves only as filler, like a Saturday morning.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t go for the chance to promote rowing but do it with your eyes wide open.

Oh yeah, let’s do lunch. Call me. Love ya!


28 Feb 2015 - 13h48.
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