With over a decade of observational documentary experience through titles such as Bondi Veterinarian, ask the doctorand Paramedicsproducer Anne-Maree Sparkman is no stranger to seeing subjects at their most vivid.
However, even she was surprised by the candor shown throughout the filming of the Disney+ docuseries. Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW.
“When we talk about newbies in television, we wonder if they will freeze in front of the cameras, or will they want to run away from the cameras?” she says.
“In the end, I was surprised not only to see what great ambassadors [the players] were for themselves and their clubs, but also how articulate they were and how willing they were to absolutely reveal themselves in funny and sad times.
The Sparkman executive is producing the six-part series which, when it launches next week, will mark Disney+’s first Australian Original. The Mouse House has eight more local titles planned for the streamer, announcing a slate of scripted and unscripted content during a showcase in May.
The JAM TV Australia production highlights four clubs – Adelaide Crows, Collingwood, GWS Giants and Western Bulldogs – in their bid for premiership glory in the league’s sixth season, with cameras capturing Adelaide’s historic victory Crows in the April Grand Final to take their third AFLW Premier.
Filming took place at various locations across Australia, with Sparkman, director Michael Venables and series producer Becky Taylor providing unlimited access to pre-season clubs all the way to the best and fairest rewards .
Sparkman identified making decisions about which players to track specifically as one of the project’s biggest challenges.
“There’s just a beautifully rich range of stories among these women,” she said.
“You think about who you want to focus on at each club and do pre-season shoots because there are some that definitely stand out.
“But as the season goes on, you think to yourself that each episode is only 45-50 minutes long, which doesn’t seem like a lot of room when you’re trying to tell all the stories. Hopefully we got the right mix of background and football for the viewers.
The unpredictable and often cruel nature of the sport becomes apparent early on when Collingwood co-captain Brianna Davey – already named as one of the players to feature prominently in the draft – suffers a season-ending ACL injury during the first game.
Sparkman said the level of trust between clubs and film crews has resulted in “the most post-season injury coverage in terms of footage and access that you will ever see”.
“From the start, we said, ‘You understand that if we’re here it’s not just about showing your great times – it’s also going to be about showing your worst times, but trust us, it’s going to have a context for all of these themes,” she said.
“So there were discussions that continued throughout the season and throughout some shoots, but I think everyone got the most out of that message.
She also paid tribute to the Disney+ commissioner for believing in the league.
“Disney+ has just been the most amazing partner in all of this,” she said.
“Really, they are incredibly positive and supportive people.
“I think the women in this league are really grateful for the opportunity for people to see how intense this league is and there was no sense of ‘Let’s do that sun and those lollipops’.”
Another player identified for further consideration was Irish GWS rookie Brid Stack, who made his league debut this year after fracturing his C7 vertebra in a practice match ahead of the 2021 season. which led to a long recovery process.
The 11-time All-Ireland winner Gaelic women’s former footballer admitted to IF that while she was initially “a little apprehensive” about being the focus of the series due to her desire to focus solely on football, the crews ended up being a “pleasure to deal with”.
“It was certainly emotional at times, but also probably a bit cathartic in terms of having something to look back on and see how much everyone in the team has come from what happened there. previous year and how my own story fits into it,” she says.
“I think there was a great story to tell there and looking back on it now, I’m glad it was captured.”
Sparkman agreed, describing the series as “almost like a time capsule”.
“Ten years from now, when women who have played football all their lives come out on top, we will see a sharp or exponential increase in level, although there are some incredible players out there right now,” she said. declared.
“But what shines for me is the passion, the dedication and also the love [for the game].
“They work 10 hours a day and practice, and even though they’re exhausted, they feel it’s such a privilege to be able to play this game.”
Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW premieres only on Disney+ on August 24.