Miracle at Medinah

Co-producers Leanne MccLernon and Emma Self give us the full story behind the making of Miracle at Medinah

By Dave Tindall.   Last Updated: 24/09/13 3:50pm

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First shown on Christmas Day 2012, Miracle At Medinah re-tells the story of Europe's incredible come-from-behind Ryder Cup victory last September.

The response to the film has been excellent and rightly so.

Had roles been reversed, you suspect US TV might have presented us with a film dripping with syrupy voice-overs, shots of weepy family members at every turn, lots of over-the-top cringeworthy life messages and Bruce Hornsby (And The Range) tinkling away on his piano for the whole 93 minutes.

The documentary made by the Sky Sports golf team has a classy, timeless feel with a subtlety of touch which allows the captain and players, the stars of it all, to tell their story without being drowned out by heavy production values.

Co-producers Leanne McClernon and Emma Self

To get the full story behind the making of Miracle at Medinah, we talked to the film's co-producers Leanne MccLernon and Emma Self.

How much of a challenge was it to get the film ready for a Christmas Day viewing?

Leanne: It was a massive challenge as we have live golf on the European Tour and PGA Tour every week so in the end we had around three weeks to shoot the player interviews, links and voice over with presenter David Livingstone and prep and edit the programme. There was a small team. Emma and I co-produced and Pete MacLeod cut the music pieces. We worked with editor Robbie Easterbrook over our deadline right up to the Saturday before Christmas to give the extra touches that make the programme so special .

Emma: It was a big undertaking to have the programme ready, mainly because we had a clear idea from the start how we wanted it to work and we wanted to do the interviews and story justice. There wasn't much time off and there were some very long days for us as producers as well as the editors who helped finesse the programme and the other two members of our team who were helping with prep and cutting the lovely opening and closing montages. It was a massive sigh of relief and sense of achievement when it was finally on tape and ready to go.

Nicolas Colsaerts watches his interview back while GMac comes in for his slot

When and where did the filming of the players take place and how long did each interview take?

Leanne: After lots of chat with the each player's agents we managed to pencil in 10 minutes with everyone in Dubai over three days while they were playing at November's DP World Tour Championship. Although getting them at the time was not easy due to their schedules.

Emma: It was great to have all the players in one place but it was quite a challenge logistically to fit all 12 in to two days of filming. As world number one Rory McIlroy obviously had a lot of demands on his time, we filmed his interview at his hotel. Then the other 11 were done in a little room by the tennis centre at the Earth Course. We had to make sure the look of all the interviews matched up even though we were shooting in more than one location, so with all the lighting, the backdrop, cameras etc we were a bit of a travelling circus. Tying down the rest of the players in between various press calls, practice and pro-ams took a lot of juggling. But they were all still really keen to talk about the Ryder Cup and are a really nice group of guys, so didn't mind waiting for a while if a fellow team-mate over-ran their timeslot a little bit. We'd asked for 10 minutes with each player, but in the end unless they had somewhere else they needed to be urgently most of them went well over this - great stuff but even harder to choose the best bits when it came down to making the programme!

Was it easy to get all 12 of the European players to speak and would you have felt disappointed if one or more hadn't been able to contribute?

Leanne: We talked to the players and made them aware of what a special programme we were making and then they really wanted to be part of it. It was very important to speak to everyone because you never know who is going to come out with the best story.

Emma: They were all still really enthusiastic about the Ryder Cup of course, but also still enthusiastic to talk about it - even though it was two months after the event and they had all done lots of previous interviews. We were really keen to get all 12 of them because we wanted to tell the whole team's story. We were slightly worried Peter Hanson wouldn't want to talk about it as much as he didn't quite get a point on the board through the whole event. But his partnership with Paul Lawrie and the way he just wouldn't give up in the singles were things we wanted to include, so we were thrilled he wanted to speak to us.

Rory McIlroy about to recall his mad dash from the hotel on Singles Sunday

At one point Rory McIlroy says: "I'm sitting here with goosebumps just talking about it." Was there a real sense that the players were excited to be recalling the amazing events at Medinah?

Leanne: Yes, it really felt like they were excited to talk about it again, you could tell it was a time they will always enjoy remembering and despite saying they could only do 10 minutes most stayed for as long as they wanted because they were enjoying it so much. They also told us other stories off camera! Most memorabe was Peter Hanson talking about Lee Westwood crawling along the floor at the final press conference and having his mic turned off because he was so overwhelmed by it all he kept interrupting everyone.

Emma: Even though they'd obviously spoken about it many times before it still seemed very fresh in all their minds and stirred up a lot of emotions when they were talking. Like Leanne says, all the interviews ran over the arranged time. We were really lucky, but we'd certainly written enough questions to keep them going as long as they were happy to be answering them! You could definitely see a light in the players' eyes when they were talking - properly re-living the stories they were telling us. We and the crew were getting quite emotional as well at some points - particularly when they were talking about Olazabal and Seve's influence on the team. They were all definitely re-living the moments they were recalling and not just telling us the same old thing they've said over and over.

Did you have a favourite interviewee? Justin Rose certainly shines with his depth of recall and insights.

Leanne: Justin was the longest, he stayed for over half an hour and was fantastic. He is such an eloquent man. He described every shot and just seemed to get lost in what he was talking about. Ian Poulter was brilliant too, his passion for the Ryder Cup is amazing.

Emma: Yes, Justin is so articulate and capable of putting his emotions into words so well. Leanne and I kept glancing at each other during most of the interviews, but particularly his, with a knowing look that we were on to something very good. It was great to speak to all of them, and I think their different personalities and ways of looking at things came across well. Martin Kaymer was really insightful and also amusing at times about how factually and clinically he sees things. For instance when everyone else was really emotional and inspired at the end of two but there was still a long way to go, he says: "At the end of the day it was 10-6, they need five matches from us. Even though they need four and a half points they need five matches which is almost 50%. So I thought there's a chance. Of course there's a chance." When you hear him saying that it all sounds so simple and you almost begin to wonder why we all got so excited at the time! And the crazy thoughts going through his head on the 18th green standing over those important putts. Great stuff.

Sergio Garcia prepares to offer his Medinah recollections

The players are filmed in front of a neutral back-drop while Ollie's is white. Was that a visual trick to differentiate him as the captain or was it just circumstance?

Leanne: Ollie was hard to get hold of as, after the Ryder Cup, he understandably wanted to go home for the rest of the year, so we spoke to the European Tour about using an interview for the official film. We felt the captain was the only one we were happy having a different background.

Many documentaries use a narrator and have lots of voiceover but in Miracle At Medinah it's noticeable that David Livingstone is used sparingly. Was that a conscious decision or did the film's flow mean it just wasn't necessary?

Emma: We'd talked a lot about how we wanted it to be very much the players telling their story, not just filling in with the odd thought here and there to back up words that we had written. We put a lot of time and effort into posing questions which would hopefully mean the players could lead us through everything with just a bit of introduction and tying things together from Livo here and there. We wanted him to have a presence throughout but also for it to be the team's story. We also tried wherever possible to use as many different camera angles of the golf action as we could where appropriate to illustrate the player's point of view and give the viewers something more interesting to watch than just the key moments from the coverage with a different commentary behind them.

Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer both talk about having watched certain incidents back on TV (Rose admits that, at the time, he hadn't noticed Phil Mickelson's congratulatory thumbs up for his superb putt on 17). Did you show them any footage right before or during their interviews or had they just watched it themselves independently at an earlier time?

Leanne: No, we didn't show them any but we asked specific questions about certain holes and reactions. They had obviously watched it back so it was very interesting to find out what they had missed on the day.

Emma: We'd been through the footage a few times and also tried to ask them about any extra points or throwaway comments we'd heard or seen in other interviews, such as Justin taking his putter home the night before the singles. But we didn't show them anything to jog their memories, so everything they said or remembered was all their own, rather than just a new reaction to something they'd just seen. As Leanne says, it was interesting to hear what they had taken in at the time and how 'in the zone' they were and whether or not they had been aware of certain things.

It's tough, as there are plenty of great ones, but do you have a favourite quote?

Leanne: There were many and at the time of the interviews you really just felt that it was going to be really hard to cut them as everything was so interesting. My favourite was Poulter saying that everyone was chanting his name when he came back to the locker room on the Saturday night and the feeling in that team room was of a team that was up not down. I remember on site in the TV Compound we were all screaming for Poulter but even after that five-birdie finish we were still thinking 'can they come back on Sunday?' By contrast, the European team seemed to be sure they could do it!

Emma: It was certainly very hard trying to cut all the interviews down - they were all crammed with such interesting comments and insight into moments that are already very familiar to viewers. I loved the idea that no-one could believe Rory was late and that there was a rumour he might've "been abducted" and also the difference between reactions to Martin Kaymer missing his first putt on the 18th on Sunday. Olazabal going crazy pulling the radio earpiece out - "Martin, you only needed two putts" - and Kaymer, meanwhile, cool as a cucumber over the second putt - "It's uphill, inside right. It's the easiest putt you can have. But obviously the circumstances changed it a little bit but I was not nervous I was not shaking I was just, I wanted it really bad..." - an incredible description of so much emotion flowing but having to be contained. Even though we've seen it so many times since September, I definitely can't watch that putt in the same way now.

Was it ever in your thoughts, or even a viable option, to interview anyone from the losing US camp?

Leanne: No, we wanted it to be a celebration of the European victory and because it was one of the best comebacks in golf ever we felt we wanted as much as we could on how they achieved it.

Emma: Like Leanne says, we wanted it to be about Europe and their incredible comeback. We didn't even try to speak to any of the US team for the programme. We wanted it to be the inside track on how each European player had felt and how they thought they had managed to do it.

Would getting the Americans to speak be an option further down the line and, if so, would you remake the original documentary?

Leanne: I think it's always hard to get people to talk about a defeat as they will be a lot flatter and not really want to give reasons why things didn't go their way.

Emma: I agree with Leanne. Even if somehow we did get to speak to the whole US team in the same way it would be a completely different stand-alone programme. I don't think they would be as forthcoming as the Europeans were, so one of the key things that helped make our programme really stand out wouldn't be there in the US interviews. I don't think the programme would be as strong.

Nicolas Colsaerts reflects on his amazing debut

Could the film ever be released as a DVD with out-takes and extras?!

Emma: We would've kept our original ridiculously long version if we'd thought of having a director's cut! Most of the out-takes involved us having to take a break in the interviews because they set up a café near where we were doing the interviews and they kept cleaning out the coffee machines really loudly! Anything else of note the cameras weren't rolling for...honest!

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