In her new documentary, WINNING, Jacqueline Joseph '91BUS takes us on a journey through the careers of five legendary athletes: tennis champion Martina Navratilova, golf great Jack Nicklaus, Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci, track and field star Edwin Moses, and Dutch Paralympian Esther Vergee. The film premieres from September 8-14 at Cinepolis Cinemas in New York City, including a special event for CAA Arts Access on September 12. You can view the trailer for the film here.
Joseph, who directed, produced, and edited the film, came up with the idea for WINNING as she considered the question of why some athletes win multiple titles while others don't, "As a sports fan there are certain athletes, who I was a huge fan of, who were just incredibly talented, and I would look at them and wonder why haven't they won a major title. Then at the same time, there are other athletes who had won multiple majors over ten years or longer, and they were still out there practicing five hours a day. Where did that come from?"
The film utilizes candid interviews and stock footage to examine the lives of its subjects. Joseph said about the film, "I think that people look up to athletes and put them on a pedestal. So, I hope that listening to them talk about the journeys that they've had, the dreams, the challenges, their achievements, would be relevant with people whether they knew those athletes or whether they were involved in sports or not, I thought their stories would resonate."
MAKING A DOCUMENTARY
Joseph talked to The Low Down about the process and the challenges of creating the documentary. The first steps were to decide if the idea had potential, and then to identify the athletes that would best suit the concept. Joseph explains, "We were looking for athletes who not only transformed themselves but transformed their sport and ultimately transcended sports."
Getting the rights to the archival footage and editing the five stories into one cohesive film were among the most challenging aspects of making the film, according to Joseph. "I think for me, very much the process of making the film was what WINNING was about." Ultimately, she hopes the audience gains insight from the film that will stay with them long after they leave the theater. Her goal is that "people think about the stories and the journeys of these athletes, and how people can relate their experiences to their own personal and professional lives."
CHANGE OF CAREER PATH
Jacqueline Joseph graduated from the Columbia Business School, and while the switch from business to film might seem unusual, Joseph found that what she learned was very closely related. "I was managing large scale strategy design development projects where there were creative people involved, business people involved, and technical people involved. So, when I segued into making a film, it was quite familiar because you're producing something and there are creative issues and creative challenges and creative choices and there are business and strategic choices."
Joseph's experiences and connections at Columbia helped her in her transition to filmmaker. For instance, she took a class with Ira Deutchman, Professor of Professional Practice in the School of the Arts at Columbia University, and Chair of the Film Program from 2011-2015. "I thought he was an amazing professor and I learned a tremendous amount from that class, which I didn't utilize right away because I didn't make the film right away, but it's something that had a huge impact. It also reinforced that the industry was something I wanted to do. I did reach out to him when I was starting the process and working through a couple of film ideas." She also reached out to fellow business school alums, who were helpful in the post-production in terms of looking at rough cuts and advising her on plans to release and market the film.
Jacqueline Joseph, right (Image from http://www.thepulsesd.com)
ADVICE TO FELLOW COLUMBIANS ON FILMMAKING
"I think it's great to work on other films because one, you gain experience, two you develop relationships, three you learn what you're really interested in doing, what you like about the process, what you don't." She also advises finding a story that you are passionate about and that you believe will engage others, "There's no point in spending a lot of time on something if it's not something that you're just really excited to work on. I also think that if you're going to spend a tremendous amount of time, and money's going to be spent on a project you should also think, 'is it a story worth telling?' "
Jacqueline Joseph felt that her time at Columbia was valuable for all her career steps, "I really feel that the experience I had at Columbia, both in the tangible skills that I learned and the experiences that I had, and relationships that I established, gave me the background and the belief that I could travel in a number of different directions after I left Columbia, which I have. I've worked in the nonprofit world, I've worked in the business world, now I'm working in film, and I think that's been invaluable."
See WINNING for yourself on September 12 at a joint event with CAA Arts Access, Columbia Athletics, and Columbia Business School. Learn more and register here.