Sports Doc Producer Jason Sciavicco Talks About the Success of His Latest Project, ‘Titletown High’
What’s the secret behind the success of Netflix’s latest docu-series Titletown High? Jason Sciavicco, the Emmy-award-winning producer behind many critically acclaimed sports docu-series, admits that it’s being able to entertain an audience through storytelling and drama. Sciavicco, whose work includes well-known projects such as Two-A-Days, Friday Night Tykes, and A Season With, has become an expert and pioneer of combining sports and entertainment. Titletown High is yet another project that showcases his storytelling abilities that delve beyond the surface of young athletes and present the stress of their high school lives from a different perspective. In return, it ultimately appeals to the emotions of an audience that may as well go beyond the typical sports fan.
Sciavicco has always been interested in keeping an audience captivated, especially within sports, and it was this interest that led to his first successful project, Two-A-Days. The show, which premiered on MTV in 2006 and was an instant hit. Inspired by Hard Knocks, a successful reality series that went behind the scenes of NFL training, Two-a-Days was also his first project to focus on high school football for a whole season. It shed light on what young talented athletes have to go through alongside football, whether having to handle the pressure of parents or competing to earn scholarships. Ultimately, it was what launched Sciavicco’s career within this niche genre of telling stories within sports.
Fast forward 15 years later, Titletown High tells a similar story of the uncensored, raw drama and struggles of a high school student with big dreams who must learn to handle relationships and academics. While Two-A-Days was filmed at Hoover High School in Hoover, Alabama, Titletown High takes place at Valdosta High School in Valdosta, Georgia. Sciavicco describes the similar concepts as something that was done on purpose, saying that “they have a similar feel, similar shooting styles. We did that with intent. We were happy with how Two-A-Days turned out, and we did not want to change too much besides how society changed, and we showed that.” The show also includes appearances from former head coach Rush Propst (who also previously appeared on Two-A-Days) before his recent removal as head coach of the Valdosta football team.
Sciavicco’s expert ability to capture the unfiltered moments that humanize, rather than sensationalize, has remained constant throughout his career. However, while shooting Titletown High, he notes that the biggest difference he observed was how ready his characters were to open up to the camera, compared to 15 years ago where the characters he describes were a “little more guarded.” It might be because kids nowadays have “a little more room to be authentically themselves. Society isn’t as hard as it was on kids 15 years ago. Things have kind of lightened up over time – whether that’s social media or society in general, who knows. But it’s evident in the way the kids are nowadays,” says Sciavicco. It’s a great look into “what it’s like for kids growing up in 2020.”
At the core of these projects are coming-of-age stories that are told by a credible producer. Sciavicco’s talent of humanizing his characters through the story he tells is truly what shines through. He recounts, “What’s so unique about sports documentaries is the real, raw emotion you get. Nothing is set up, no do-overs. We shoot their real practices, competing for jobs, life balance, the drama of balancing time with friends, with their girlfriends and boyfriends, coaches, family, everything. 15-18 years old, how does all of that affect you?”
While Titletown High has been successful since its recent release, it’s also important to mention Sciavicco’s previous projects that tell engrossing stories and have made him a pioneer storyteller within the realm of sports entertainment. Brian Kelly, the University of Notre Dame head football coach who appeared in A Season With, which premiered on Showtime in 2015, describes Sciavicco as an “innovative storyteller,” recounting his experience as “the first time the Notre Dame story was told in such a robust way, and not just through the football lens. He was able to convey who we are and the uniqueness of Notre Dame to a national audience.”
With this praise, Sciavicco was also the only person who gained access to major college football teams to film for a whole season for A Season With, something no one else could do before. John Calipari, the University of Kentucky head basketball coach who appeared in Inside the Madness, which premiered on Facebook Watch in 2018, had similar praise to offer: “I had a great time working with Jason. You could tell from the very beginning, he and his staff are pros at what they do. Jason made us feel comfortable and able to completely open up and trust them into our lives, not only on the court but off the court as well.”
At the heart of these projects is an expert storyteller committed to delivering an honest narrative of the struggles athletes face. Sciavicco’s dedication to offering a new perspective by presenting the emotions that exist in sports is what distinguishes him from other sports documentary producers. In his work, nothing is scripted. Every moment is an honest and raw moment captured within sports and reality.
Tune in to Titletown High, now premiering on Netflix.