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ESPN Films and FiveThirtyEight Announce Plans for Two Short Documentary Series


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First Short Film, The Man Vs. The Machine, to Debut at Toronto Film Festival on Sept 9


This fall, ESPN Films and FiveThirtyEight will partner on two new series of short films that will combine FiveThirtyEight’s data-driven stories and visualizations with ESPN Films’ passion-based, point-of-view filmmaking. The two series, Signals and The Collectors, are the latest projects to come out of ESPN content unit Exit 31 and will live on

“This collaboration represents the kind of storytelling we envisioned when we created Exit 31,” said Marie Donoghue, executive vice president, global strategy and original content. “These series combine the strengths of both FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films to create content that can travel across platforms.”

Signals, an anthology series from a diverse group of filmmakers, will explore stories where analytics and data meet compelling political, economic, science, lifestyle and sports narratives.  Related features and visualizations on FiveThirtyEight will accompany the films to provide greater context. Signals will launch October 22 with “The Man Vs. The Machine,” which will make its debut at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 9. The film was directed by Frank Marshall (Alive, Eight Below) and looks at a story Nate Silver explored in a chapter of his best-selling book, The Signal and the Noise – that of chess World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov and his historic match with IBM’s “Deep Blue.” New films from the Signals series will debut approximately every six weeks following “The Man Vs. The Machine.”

The second series, The Collectors, will launch December 10 and tell the stories of an eclectic group of characters who collect data: from the official scorer at a baseball game, to a meteorologist tracking hurricanes. The films will show how these people gather information, and how their judgment in translating ambiguity into hard numbers can shape how the world is viewed and interpreted. Members of the FiveThirtyEight team will collect and analyze data that relates to the topics of the films for companion pieces that will be available on the site. With a total of 10 short films, The Collectors will debut subsequent episodes every three to four weeks. All of the films in The Collectors series will be produced by Academy Award nominee Steven Cantor, through Stick Figure Studios.

Specific film topics and directors for both series will be announced at a later date. Writers from FiveThirtyEight will serve as experts in films from both series, where appropriate.

“These are exactly the kinds of projects I envisioned from the outset when I decided to bring FiveThirtyEight to ESPN,” said Nate Silver, Editor in Chief of FiveThirtyEight. “Working with ESPN Films will help to expand our journalism in ways that prove a sound knowledge of data and statistics can make stories more compelling as well as more accurate.”

Added Connor Schell, vice president and executive producer, ESPN Films and Original Content, “As a content studio, ESPN Films is always looking to offer evolve in both style and content and this collaboration with FiveThirtyEight provides the ability to tell stories well beyond the sports world.  Additionally, both Signals and The Collectors will give us an opportunity not just to drill down on narratives that differ from what we offer with 30 for 30, but also to bring data-driven stories to life through film.”

30 for 30 Shorts won its first Primetime Emmy this year in the Outstanding Short-Format Nonfiction Program category and 30 for 30 recently won a Sports Emmy for Best Documentary Series.

FiveThirtyEight, which launched as an ESPN entity in 2014, is a data journalism organization delivering compelling stories across the verticals of politics, economy, science, life and sports. The site, founded by award-winning author and statistician Nate Silver, first gained national attention during the 2008 presidential election, when it correctly predicted the results of the presidential election in 49 of 50 states, along with all 35 U.S. Senate races. Since its debut at ESPN, FiveThirtyEight has built a team with a broad set of skills and experiences in order to apply statistical analysis, data visualization, and data-literate reporting to topics in the news and in everyday life.