Capturing March Madness

Capturing March Madness

April 17, 2024 An Eastern Region Special Projects Committee Virtual Event

The NCAA Division I basketball championship tournaments — also known as “March Madness” — is one of the most popular live sporting events on live television. The 2023 tournament had an average of 10 million viewers per game. On April 17, DGA members tuned in online to learn from the experts who work tirelessly to bring these games to the airwaves during the Eastern Region Special Projects Committee event, Capturing March Madness.

In a conversation illustrated by clips from the tournament and moderated by Associate Director/Eastern Region Special Projects Committee member Alanna Campbell, CBS Sports Directors Mark Grant, Robert Matina and Suzanne Smith, Associate Directors Judith Colonna and Sarah Rinaldi, and 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award in Direction Television Award recipient Robert Fishman shared a play-by-play of how they take the competition from the courts to the screen.

During the conversation, Fishman recalled the challenges and scope of the NCAA tournament when he directed the first games to air on CBS in 1982. “It was the dark ages of the tournament for sure in terms of the equipment we had. We weren’t sure how we would do it and what it would mean to the country. Thinking back, it was pretty simple because of the equipment we had. We probably had no more than seven cameras.”

Grant explained how he balances the technology now available versus telling the story the way it needs to be told. “When you get to the Final Four, it is like College Basketball on steroids. You have all these cameras; you have sky cams; you have drones, rail cams, cameras in the tunnel. You just don’t want to overdo it. It’s so easy to take all those toys and think about how I can use them. You have to sit back and say some of those are not going to be used. It’s a fine line you have to walk to not feel like you’re wasting resources. But the worst thing I can do is be on a camera shot and miss an inbound steal or a turnover or free throw to showcase some equipment.”

Smith highlighted the importance of maintaining high level coverage from the start of the tournament. “What I always try to remember, for these kids and these schools and the parents at home, this is the biggest day of their lives, so you need to treat every game that way. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, it’s the first game, it’s not a big deal.’ It’s a big deal to a lot of people. It’s a responsibility to make sure you have it right, make sure you know the best angle, where the parents are, the top players… Make sure you show the game and not overdo things.”

Matina expounded on what makes the tournament a national spectacle. “The studio stuff we do for the tournament is more about the shared experience of the tournament. People who are not basketball fans become fans during the tournament. People who are not even sports fans fill out their brackets and become fans during the tournament. So, we have this very broad group that we’re dealing with. We’re not immune to the shared experience in the studio either. We talk about our alma maters because that’s what everyone does during this event. That’s part of what makes it this national experience.”

Colonna described her AD work on the Friday shows that cover the open practice sessions during Final Four weekend. “It’s a great opportunity for people who are and are not there to experience the teams like they haven’t before. At the Practice Show, we get to spend an hour with each team on the courts as they practice. It’s a four-hour show, and the fans look forward to the interview with the coaches that usually happen halfway through the session. It’s all about timing the shows to make sure we get our commercial spots in and find a good time for the coaches. It’s another way for the people at home to feel really connected.”

Rinaldi shared how she sees her task is to support all the people on the screen. “My job is to draw fans in deeper to teams they might not know. Not everyone comes to March Madness knowing Marquette basketball. People watch the tournament that don’t watch other sporting events or basketball the rest of the year because it’s so much fun. I’m always seeing my job — whether it’s a really big story or it’s a ‘confidential’ piece where someone is embedded with the team, or it’s just a regular piece on a regular guy on a team you just don’t know about — as getting people a little more enthusiastic and invested in the live games that are unfolding.”


See video from this event in the gallery below.

ABOUT THE PANELISTS:

Robert FishmanDirector Robert Fishman
During his half-century tenure at CBS, Fishman has helmed 39 NCAA Final Fours, 27 US Open tennis championships, 21 Daytona 500s, three Olympic Winter Games, two World Series, numerous NFL and NBA playoffs, college football, Triple Crown horse races, and so much more. He garnered 20 Emmy Award nominations with 16 wins including Outstanding Live Sports Series for NFL on CBS and NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2019; Outstanding Playoff Coverage for NCAA Basketball; and Outstanding Live Sports Series for the 1990 and 1991 NCAA Basketball Tournaments and for the 1988 NCAA Basketball. A DGA member since 1972, Fishman was recognized by his peers with a DGA Award nomination in the Musical Variety category for his 1996 special, Sergei Grinkov, Celebration of Life and another in the Sports category for his 1988 telecast of the NCAA Basketball Championship, Oklahoma vs Kansas. He has won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Sports three times: for his direction of the American League Championships Series Game 4 in 1990, US Open Tennis in 1989 and NCAA Basketball Championship Syracuse/Indiana in 1987. In 2022 Fishman became the fifth Director to receive one of the Guild’s top accolades, the Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Achievement in Television Direction. 

 
Mark GrantDirector Mark Grant
Grant is a five-time Emmy Award-winning Director, and 25-year veteran of CBS Sports where he covers NFL and college football, college basketball, and golf. He has covered sports in ten countries and in 48 states. Prior to CBS, he worked with ESPN for 11 years, where he covered nearly all the major events covered by the network. He was recently chosen as CBS’s lead Director for college basketball. In his new role he directs the biggest game each week on the network. In 2023, Grant became the first person of color to ever direct a national championship in any major sport in America when he directed the NCAA Final Four. He has been a DGA member since 1998. 
 
Robert MatinaDirector Robert Matina
An 11-time Emmy Award-winner, Matina has been a member of the production team covering the NCAA Tournament since CBS first acquired the rights in 1982. He currently directs the Selection Show and the studio segments originating from New York in the joint venture with TNT Sports. Entering his 27th consecutive season directing The NFL Today, Matina has served as the Director of The Super Bowl Today pregame show for nine Super Bowls. Other assignments include the Masters, and the PGA Championship. He joined CBS Sports in 1981, directing The NFL on CBS from 1985 to 1993, as well as a variety of other live and edited sports events and served as Coordinating Director of CBS Sports’ coverage of the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Olympic Winter Games. Matina has been a DGA member since 1982. 
 
Suzanne SmithDirector Suzanne Smith
As a CBS Sports Director, Smith has been with the network since 1983. She has worked on events programming including the NFL, The Masters, NCAA Basketball, Olympics and everything in between. In 2020 she Directed Nickelodeon’s Emmy Award-winning NFC Wild Card game and in 2022, the AFC Championship. Smith is the only woman to direct any NFL playoff game. She has been a DGA member since 1986.
 
Judith ColonnaAssociate Director Judith Colonna
Colonna has been in TV production for almost 30 years. Her work has included remote, studio and post editorial assignments where she has been a part of productions covering the NBA, NHL, Olympics, tennis, ski racing, track & field and boxing, amongst others. Since transitioning to studio work, she works on programs including The NFL Today, Inside College Football, Inside College Basketball, We Need to Talk, Monday QB, March Madness Bracket Breakdown, Road to the Final Four, and most other CBS Studio productions. When not ADing, Colonna also directs for various CBS Sports properties. She has been a DGA member since 2004. 
 
Sarah RinaldiAssociate Director Sarah Rinaldi
Rinaldi is a feature producer and Associate Director for CBS Sports working on original content for properties ranging from March Madness to NFL to We Need to Talk. Her focus is creating entertaining feature content that supports the larger network studio shows and live game broadcasts. She is a six-time Emmy Award-winner for short features. Rinaldi has been a DGA member since 2004. 
 
Alanna CampbellAssociate Director Alanna Campbell (moderator)
Campbell is a feature producer and Associate Director for CBS Sports. A five-time Emmy Award-winner, she primarily works on the NFL and college basketball and has covered 20 Final Fours, eight Super Bowls, five US Open Tennis Championships, and three Olympic Games in her 23-year career. Campbell produced One Shining Moment at the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in 2019 and 2021, and started directing live games, including college football, college basketball and the Big3, in 2022. A proud second-generation member since 2008, Campbell serves as an Alternate to the DGA National Board, as Second Vice Chair of the Eastern AD/SM/PA Council and is a member of the Eastern Region Special Projects Committee. 

About The Special Projects Committee

Special Projects is the educational and cultural arm of the Directors Guild of America, providing its members opportunities for creative exchange to advance their craft and celebrate the achievements of directors and their teams.

 
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