Hard Knock Life: Behind the scenes of HBO's documentary on Cowboys
Jones has never shied away from allowing the media into his world and into his team. He was the first to allow cameras and microphones into the Cowboys draft room, doing so after he bought the team in 1989. He gave NFL Films an unprecedented, all-access view into the Cowboys tumultuous 1995 season for a week -- the same week they signed
"We've always viewed visibility and exposure as an opportunity to build the Dallas Cowboys," said Jones, who agreed to do Hard Knocks after NFL Films COO
So accessible is Jones that his office in Room 213 at the Residence Inn Marriott, where the Cowboys are calling home during training camp, is located right behind the two production trailers for Hard Knocks. Not that the on-site crew of 25 NFL Films staffers isn't already keeping tabs on the Cowboys owner at all times with a camera affixed to the wall of his office and wiretaps monitoring all his phone calls.
"You don't notice it," said Jones of the cameras and microphones. "After the initial talk, the players don't even notice it. You don't even know it's there. I'm in there talking about players, stadium issues, by the end of the day I can't even remember what I talked about, but I'm sure it's colorful."
With the Cowboys as the show's subject, that was never going to be a problem. Jones, however, is still like an eager screenwriter trying to sell a script as he talks about the wealth of storylines surrounding the team this season.
"Right off the bat,
The only problem with the Cowboys is there may be too many stories to tell on a team that had a record 13 Pro Bowlers last season and enters this season as the favorite to win the Super Bowl. As the show's director,
"We plan as much as we can, but without speaking about other reality shows I think this is a pure reality show. It's a documentary series," said Gehring, walking around the trailer and reviewing upcoming interviews. "This is real."
HBO Sports President
"We showed up to camp and we see this Mrs. Price, and I'm standing next to Jerry Jones and I look at T.O. and they see her and smile, so an NFL Films camera is racing over to her while another NFL Films camera is on the sidelines as the players are yakking it up about the fact that Mrs. Price has arrived," said Greenburg. "You think we knew that story was going to happen? But it's good, fun television. You just never know when something's going to happen"
Hard Knocks may not be blatantly choreographed as other popular "reality" shows such as MTV's The Hills. You'll certainly never have an NFL Films crew ask
"I talk to [producer]
The first episode of the show hadn't even aired yet before a handful of signs were posted inside and outside of both production trucks: "SHOW #2 THEME "FAMILY"
Another sign taped to the door of one of the production truck delivers an edict from the NFL Films offices: "We can throw a real softball in show one if we show Wade telling the coaches in a meeting to 'spend more time with the players in the locker room, getting to know them not just on the field. The players will appreciate it, and it's just more fun that way.' If we can get some shots, any shots of the assistant coaches in the locker room and/or interacting with players off the field, lunch, hallways, walking to practice, joking around, etc., that will make that meeting byte work well. And the player will love Wade even more (and he'll like us more -- keeping him from kicking our cameras out of huddles)."
The second episode stayed true to the edict as it focused on the family aspect of the team, highlighted by Phillips' similarity to his father's player-friendly style of dealing with his team and showing how much the team appreciates his approach. While that was certainly the objective heading into the episode, Gehring is quick to point out it was also an accurate depiction of a coach who has been misunderstood by outsiders, who perceive him as being a pushover.
"We go to Wade's meetings every night and Wade is great in those meetings," said Gehring. "Every night those team meetings are amazing. I mean people don't realize how much of a motivator and a good coach Wade is. You read and hear all these things about him and say what you will, but he knows how to talk to his players and he knows how to treat his players. He kind of reminds me of (NFL Films president)
During a recent conference call between Jones and Sabol, Jones, who doesn't screen the episodes before they air, shows how much free reign he gives NFL Films, mentioning an upcoming visitor but stopping short of giving him any direction.
"Well, we have some great shots of you and your grandchildren," said Sabol, who used shots of Miller's visit and Jones' grandchildren in the second episode. "That's definitely going to be a storyline."
"That's great," said Jones. "I look forward to seeing that."