Created byTHINK450, Game Change Game, a poignant documentary about the extraordinary 2020 NBA season, which carried on in the face of COVID and a social justice reckoning, is out today for digital release on STARZ, the streaming network dedicated to narratives by, about and for underrepresented audiences.
The monumental film, which premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival for its theatrical release, is directed by Spike Jordan and Maxime Quoilin from the bicoastal creative production studio Good Company, and created by veteran media leader Christina Norman for THINK450, the partnership and innovation engine of The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).
“The creation of this film came from our core mission as an organization to amplify the players and their collective voices,” said Que Gaskins, President of THINK450. “As we saw our players come together to stand up for change, we knew we had the unique opportunity to document this powerful moment in time from the players’ perspective. Game Change Game is a remarkable film, and we are excited to share it with more viewers this month through our partnership with STARZ.”
The film affords viewers privileged access to “The NBA Bubble,” the infamous bio-secure hub where the elite athletes carried out the 2020 basketball season during the pandemic shutdown. As it highlights their struggle with unforeseen sacrifice, loss, and their own morality amidst disturbing current events of the time, the documentary displays the players’ bonds of fierce brotherhood while they use their platform to demand change.
“Game Change Game really captures all of the emotions that we were experiencing as players and as Black men during that very intense and pivotal time in our society,” said CJ McCollum, NBPA President and one of the players featured in the film. “With so many different player perspectives in the film, it is truly a unique expression of our collective experience, and I am honored to be a part of it.”
Threading together interviews with more than 40 notable stakeholders, directors Quoilin and Jordan highlight the series of events that led to the creation of the “bubble.” They blatantly expose viewers to the waves of police brutality that took place during the same era, and how many NBA players decided to take a stand and speak out against injustice – despite the pervasive cultural narrative that sports and athletes are, and should remain, apolitical. The interviewees include athletes like NBPA President CJ McCollum, Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown
, as well as leading activists and artists.
Without the use of a narrator, the co-directors expertly craft a fluid storyline, by weaving, amongst the interviews, vital contextual footage from both the archives and the players themselves, including special family moments.
“The meaning of the film shifted as we lived through one cataclysmic event after another. Shot in real-time, it became a deep race conversation, on top of the already deep COVID conversation,” said co-director Quoilin. “Ultimately, we hope that the documentary continues to spur an ongoing dialogue about racism and policing in the US, and how we can each do our part to make equity a reality for everyone.”
Good Company’s impeccable reputation for culturally-relevant work and Quoilin and Jordan’s bold visual storytelling style made them the perfect fit for a non-traditional sports documentary. Philadelphia native Jordan is known for his music videos like Nas’ “Ultra Black” and Future & Juice WRLD’s “WRLD on Drugs,” while Belgium-born Quoilin is known for his work on Beyonce’s Formation World Tour, and the fiery Kanye West video, “Come to Life.”
When tapped by THINK450, it was an easy yes for the filmmakers, who are both passionate basketball fans and frequent collaborators with uncanny creative simpatico. Together, the pair have previously collaborated on a variety of music videos, including Gunna’s “Dollaz On My Head” and Meek Mill’s “Believe”.
“Max and I have this chemistry; we’re on the same wavelength. During the shooting, I would turn to say something, and it was like Max already knew what I was going to say. We had the same intuition about what was needed on-screen,” said Jordan.
One of the first shoots to go remote during the pandemic, Game Change Game was filmed in two phases. At first, the co-directors utilized a robust remote filming technology inspired by Errol Morris’s Interrotron, which allowed up-close, face-to-face interviews with the players living in the bubble. Once the season ended and COVID restrictions eased to some extent, the directors filmed additional in-person interviews and incorporated a wealth of contextual footage.
Good Company had a hand in every aspect of the film’s production. Despite unimaginable flux and emotion, they tirelessly documented the uncommon NBA season as well as spent an additional year honing the story’s look and feel in post-production.
“After living through that intense, paradigm-shifting time, and now, coming out the other side of it with this release feels almost cathartic. We could’ve never expected the journey the world would go through, but it was all hands on deck for this project from the get-go,” commented Producer Jonathan Lia, Good Company’s Co-Founder. “I hope this beautiful portrait of the NBA’s journey will remind viewers of the power of our collective voices, and the strength and healing that can be found when we lean on each other.”
The documentary can be found on STARZ across all platforms, including in their Juneteenth programming and throughout the month on STARZ linear channels.