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All or Nothing Tottenham Hotspur – How We Made It: 'We don’t rub our hands at losses'
72 Films producers John Douglas and Clare Cameron on working with José Mourinho, shooting during Covid-19 and the secret to making the All or Nothing series a hit.
After the success of All or Nothing: Manchester City, the second Premier League club to open the doors to Amazon Prime Video are Tottenham Hotspur.
With a jaw-dropping new stadium, an established and popular manager and a Champions League final in 2018-19, fans and the club probably expected the series to showcase a club on the rise and possibly even some long-awaited silverware.
But things didn’t quite turn out as expected. All or Nothing Tottenham Hotspur captures a team in crisis, the explosive arrival of new manager José Mourinho and a global pandemic shutting down the entire Premier League.
Producers 72 Films have captured intimate scenes in the dressing room, on the training ground and inside the manager’s office, as they lift the lid on an extraordinary season and dig into the characters at one of the biggest football teams in the country.
BT TV caught up with three-time Bafta winner John Douglas and series producer Clare Cameron to find out the secrets behind All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur.
Dealing with José Mourinho
The arrival of Mourinho at Spurs dominates the series as the charismatic and divisive manager quickly establishes himself in North London.
Mauricio Pochettino’s final months at the club are wrapped up in the first 25-minutes of episode one and the Argentinian’s shock exit created an editorial challenge for the producers.
“I think with any documentary you have to go into with an open-mind and be very flexible,” said Douglas.
“From our point of view, those first couple of months of filming, that’s always quite a gentle process. You don’t go in, start filming everything from day one. You build up trust and relationships. There is a misconception that we were filming 24 hours a day and we filmed the meeting where Mauricio was asked to leave. We weren’t filming all the time.
“I guess what was hard for us creatively and editorially was working out how to tell that story. Looking back enough to understand what a big moment that was for the club, while also looking ahead to the rest of the season.
“At that point we didn’t know it would be José coming in and it was all in the air. But you always have to do that when making observational documentaries. There is no script or worked out storylines, you have to react to what happens.”
And despite his reputation, Mourinho comes across as eager to please on the camera and is mesmerising when dropping swear words in the dressing room or delivering more considered conversations with players in his office.
“We’d earned a lot of trust with the club at that point and had done a lot of work with the players,” said Douglas.
“José coming in, fitted into that way of working, very generously. The football wasn’t going great at that point and they had a lot more to think about than us. We were very lucky with everyone. They were so tolerate of us and very accepting. We were incredibly lucky”.
And how did the producers really feel about Spurs downward spiral at the start of the season?
“I think people presume TV producers are rubbing their hands with glee during moments of adversity, but it’s not like that at all,” said Cameron.
“You’re always just thinking of how you will cover this story sensitively and truthfully. We’ve been there for 13 months and become embedded, so even if you have another club, you do root for the team and become supporters.
“You just understand the immense pressure everyone is under to deliver results, so it’s impossible not to get swept along and want them to win, rather than enjoying the losses.”
Capturing honest and intimate moments
Whether its Mourinho challenging Dele Alli’s commitment and ambition or Son Heung-Min breaking down in tears in the dressing room after a red card in a crucial game, the show’s fixed rig camera set-up shines a light on the human side of a football club.
“The beauty of the way we shoot the series is we do have handheld crews and set up interviews with everyone, but we also agreed with the club that we would have 25 cameras installed across the training ground and stadium,” said Cameron.
“The club bought into that early on and José was very keen on that, as were the players. That meant we didn’t have to be in the room and they could get on with things and those frank and honest scenes are captured.”
Cameron admits the production team are “always lurking around corners with cameras”, so nobody ever fully forgets the filming process is going on, but the fixed-camera set-up does mean that lots of moments are gathered where people are uninhibited.
“Having those fixed rig cameras gives us the chance to be as intimate as is possible in an environment like that,” said Douglas.
The impact of Coronavirus
Spurs 2019-20 season was already fairly tumultuous, but a global pandemic took things to a whole new level for the producers as Boris Johnson sent the country into lockdown and the Premier League season was paused indefinitely.
“Worrying” and “aging” are the words Douglas and Cameron use to describe the last six months of filming and editing. At the beginning of lockdown, they feared they might not even get to finish the series.
“When lockdown started and the season stopped, we didn’t know if it the season would even start again,” said Douglas.
“And because we hadn’t done all our editing, we didn’t know if there was a full series, what we were missing and we hadn’t done lots of those key interviews with players for context.
“If we weren’t able to get those at some point, we would have struggled.”
Cameron said: “We spent a long while planning for the unknown.
“It felt extraordinary to be filming when the pandemic first hit. We were following the day to day conversations with the coaches and physios and players, and then as we approached the actual lockdown when Boris sent everyone home, all the conversations at the club felt historical.”
Social distancing and lockdown meant 72 Films had to shift to editing the series remotely and working with Amazon, Spurs and the Premier League on long lists of protocols. It also meant extra work for everyone in the crew as they had to strip back the numbers of people on the show.
“When we did get back, everyone was doubling up on jobs and it was incredibly hard work for the team,” added Cameron.
Making a football series for everyone
Spurs fans will obviously be intrigued to peek behind the curtain at the club, but did the creators consider non-football fans or even making the show palatable for *whisper it* Arsenal fans when pulling it together.
“Honestly, I want it to appeal to the masses. Not just Spurs fans, football fans and sports fans. Just everyone,” said Cameron.
“It doesn’t matter who the audience is to me, it’s about showing these extraordinary people doing an extraordinary job as human beings that we can all relate to. José on a first day at a new job and the players wondering what the new coach will be like, they all felt like things I would experience and feel at a job.”
Douglas said: “There’s a real balance to get those scenes right. Football fans and Spurs fans will know terminology and shortcuts to understanding players and tactics. But on the other end of the spectrum you have people who know nothing apart from a couple of names and are just intrigued.
“You have to find the middle ground so that football fans don’t feel there’s no football in it and that non-football fans get enough human stories."
All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur starts on Amazon Prime Video on Monday, August 31st, with new episodes available each Monday.