Farm League and XTR team up to bring the inspirational documentaries to life, starting with the story of softball outfielder Haylie McCleney
After a year hiatus, the Summer Olympic Games are going ahead and athletes from around the world are finally coming together again to compete in the biggest international multi-sport event. This year, ahead of the games, Ralph Lauren - the official outfitter for Team USA - wanted to promote five star athletes through a series of documentary-style branded shorts. The films, created by creative film company Farm League and film and television studio XTR, will be released ahead of each athletes’ first competition round, starting with professional softball outfielder - Haylie McCleney.
The short form episodic series will follow the lives of athletes from five different disciplines, including Softball (Haylie McCleney), men’s Sabre Fencing (Daryl Homer), Skateboarding (Heimana Reynolds), Karate (Sakura Kokumai) and Paralympic Track and Field (Roderick Townsend), highlighting Ralph Lauren’s ambassadors and showcasing their journeys to becoming Olympians.
Having previously worked with Farm League and director Britton Caillouette on a new feature film in development, XTR were no strangers to the capabilities and the craft of the creative company, and brought them on board for this collaboration. With a tight turnaround of under a month, Farm League used a divide-and-conquer approach by tapping directors Caillouette and Janssen Powers to co-direct the series.
The first film follows the life of two-time WBSC Women's World Champion, Haylie McCleney. A small town kid from Morris, Alabama, Haylie has envisioned her life as a professional softball player since the early age of five. The 90” film bears a signature Farm League style of personal storytelling, juxtaposing realism with cinematic visuals. The audience is invited to a “day in the life” experience with the Olympian through the intimate style of storytelling, which traces her journey from the spark of her dream to the current moment. Unlike traditional sports pieces which concentrate on action, Caillouette and Powers wanted to create individual human portraits that reflect the inner state of mind of the subject. By telling these stories through old photographs, cinematic footage and interview VO, they accomplished the highly visceral and personable tone.
Tim Lynch, founder and EP at Farm League comments: “It’s so rare for directors to have the opportunity to collaborate with one another, so this project was a great chance to let Britton & Janssen team up. They had partnered in similar ways over the past year, so given the fast turnaround and travel scope of the project, this seemed like the perfect approach to take. They interviewed each athlete and developed a filming strategy and technique that fit with each individual personality.
Both directors have a lot of experience in working with real people. They got to know each athlete via pre-interviews prior to the shoot days so they could start fostering those relationships to make things as comfortable as possible on the day. They both love telling human stories, and the goal here was to get people excited and invested in each athlete’s story and successes.”
Britton Caillouette, director at Farm League adds: “Janssen and I were really interested in the contrast between the focused mental space and the explosive physical energy that each of these athletes relied on in their quest for excellence.
We wanted to juxtapose quiet, meditative moments of reflection with high-action training footage to strike that perfect balance of power and poise that really separates an Olympian from everyone else. I am blown away by the dedication each of these athletes possess. They have spent their entire lives working toward that singular moment of competing in the Olympics. The rigor and consistency of their daily routines and their determination to be the best is awe inspiring.
Janssen and I share a similar love for capturing human portraits. We both love digging deep and finding those statements and moments that resonate on a more universal level. There was a lot to do with very little time, so we both had to share a lot of responsibilities from production through post to get the job done. We had very limited time in each city, so it was a compelling challenge to see how we could structure each day to get in and out quickly but still get what we needed.”
To launch the series, Ralph Lauren will release the first film, starring Haylie McCleney on 23rd July, followed by the additional four episodes, which will be released on social as follows: Daryl Homer - Men's Sabre Fencing, Heimana Reynolds - Skateboarding (park), Sakura Kokumai - Karate and Roderick Townsend - Paralympic Track & Field.