via press release:
NEW YORK – June 10, 2015 – Showtime Networks Inc. has acquired the rights to PLAY IT FORWARD, an intimate portrait on the life, family and career of legendary NFL tight end and future Hall of Fame inductee Tony Gonzalez, and his relationship with his older brother Chris. The documentary premiered as the Opening Gala of the 2015 Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival — which screens sports movies as part of the annual Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary was the only non-ESPN film in the festival’s nine-year history to win the coveted opening gala spot. PLAY IT FORWARD was written and directed by Oscar® nominee Andrea Nevins. From SMAC Entertainment and Rare Bird Films, the documentary was produced by Cristan Reilly and executive produced by Constance Schwartz and Pro Football Hall of Famer, host and analyst Michael Strahan. The announcement was made today by Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Sports and Event Programming, Showtime Networks Inc.
PLAY IT FORWARD, which the Los Angeles Times calls “remarkable, intimate and moving,” tells the compelling story about the relationship between two brothers, the football star, Tony, and his older brother and wingman, Chris, whose heart’s desire was to play the game as only his little brother could. The film follows the Gonzalez brothers over the course of a pivotal year as Tony’s career is winding down, as are his chances of finally getting to a Super Bowl. During this time, Chris, who first taught Tony how to play the game, and always stood by him throughout his college and professional football journey, now chases his own mid-life ambition to become a firefighter. This candid, heartfelt film explores brotherhood, sacrifice and what it takes to achieve greatness, on or off the field.
“I’m so appreciative of Tony and his family who were open and honest in what proved to be such an emotional series of events we bore witness to,” said director Andrea Nevins. “We’re so excited to share the Gonzalez family’s very human story of dreams deferred, loss, and ultimately triumph.”
“The Gonzalez’s story in Play it Forward resonates with the love, joy, loss, struggle and sacrifice it takes to hold a family together and achieve success,” said executive producer Michael Strahan. “Whether you’re a player in the NFL or chasing a dream to be a firefighter the one central theme is family. As executive producers, Constance Schwartz and I are thrilled that Showtime has joined us on this journey to take this film to audiences in hopes that they will be as inspired by this story as we are.”
Former Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez now serves as a CBS Sports analyst for the NFL pre-game show, THE NFL TODAY, alongside James Brown, Boomer Esiason, Bill Cowher and Bart Scott. Gonzalez also contributes across multiple CBS platforms including INSIDE THE NFL on SHOWTIME and CBS Sports Network’s Sunday pre-game show, THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW (TOPS). Gonzalez’s NFL career spanned 17 years, 12 with Kansas City after being their first-round pick in 1997, and five with Atlanta before his retirement in 2013. He is the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdowns (111) and yards (15,127) by a tight end. He also is the NFL’s all-time leader in consecutive starts (120) and Pro-Bowl appearances (14) by a tight end, and ranks second overall among all players in catches with 1,325. Known for his strength and durability, Gonzalez missed only two games during his 17-year career.
Academy Award® nominee Andrea Nevins has produced, directed and written for documentary film, television news, public radio and newspapers for over 25 years. She produced critically-acclaimed and award-winning documentaries for Peter Jennings: Reporting, which earned her an Emmy® Award for her work on an ABC News/Time forum on the issue of gun control in America. Nevins’ first independent documentary project, Still Kicking, earned her an Academy Award nomination. The short, which she produced and wrote, chronicled the experiences of former dancers getting back on stage in their golden years. Following this, she co-produced the award-winning Tom Brokaw special, “Why Can’t We Live Together,” about a town south of Chicago that was “tipping” from white to black. Nevins partnered with producer Cristan Reilly to tell the story of aging punk rockers turned fathers in “The Other F Word,” which served as the genesis of their company Rare Bird Films. Her most recent piece with her team at Rare Bird Films was on HBO’s State of Play. Titled Happiness, this film explored the career transitions of football greats Brett Favre, Tiki Barber and Wayne Chrebet.
Play it Forward will also be uniquely supported by the National Football League’s Legends program. The Legends Community connects and celebrates all who have played in the NFL. Its mission is to bring opportunities and information to retired players through other members of the Legends Community and to help them stay connected with former teammates, clubs, and the league. For more information please contact NFLLegends@NFL.com.
Consumers who subscribe to SHOWTIME either through the stand-alone service on Roku® and Apple® devices or through the PlayStation® Vue will have the network’s live broadcast of the east and west coast feeds, as well as unlimited on demand access to every season of award-winning SHOWTIME original series, and hundreds of hours of movies, documentary and sports programming.
ABOUT SHOWTIME NETWORKS INC.
Showtime Networks Inc. (SNI), a wholly-owned subsidiary of CBS Corporation, owns and operates the premium television networks SHOWTIME®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL™ and FLIX®, and also offers SHOWTIME ON DEMAND®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL™ ON DEMAND and FLIX ON DEMAND®, and the network’s authentication service SHOWTIME ANYTIME®. Showtime Digital Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of SNI, operates the stand-alone streaming service SHOWTIME®. SNI also manages Smithsonian Networks™, a joint venture between SNI and the Smithsonian Institution, which offers Smithsonian Channel™. SNI markets and distributes sports and entertainment events for exhibition to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis through SHOWTIME PPV. For more information, go to www.SHO.com.
ABOUT RARE BIRD FILMS:
In the six years since it was founded, Rare Bird Films has found success and acclaim for their emotional, character-driven storytelling. Their work has premiered at major film festivals like SXSW and Tribeca, as well as consistently found national and international sales including distribution by Showtime, HBO, Amazon, Netflix and iTunes and theatrically by Oscilloscope Laboratories.
ABOUT SMAC ENTERTAINMENT:
Founded in 2011, SMAC Entertainment, a multi-dimensional talent management, branding and production company, brings together former NFL strategist and marketing executive Constance Schwartz and NFL Hall of Famer and television host Michael Strahan to create a major presence in the sports and entertainment arena. In addition to representing dynamic and globally recognized talent, SMAC Entertainment produces strong and diversified content, and has a multitude of projects setup with primetime cable and broadcast networks, including HBO, AMC, ABC, E!, USA Network, A&E and FYI, as well as Amazon’s streaming video service. In 2014, the company produced the highly–rated and critically acclaimed inaugural Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards, along with the innovative HBO documentary series STATE OF PLAY: HAPPINESS, which explores athletes’ retirement transition in relation to larger society.