“It Is So Much More Than Just A Football Film” – Mal Pope on Jack To A King

Just over a month ago, Jack To A King was released in the United Kingdom – fast-forward to today and the Swansea City documentary is a record-breaking piece of work and has left many critics gushing.

Written, directed and produced by a team of people in love with Swansea City Football Club, Jack To A King documents the rollercoaster ride the community was taken on as the now-top-flight club flirted with relegation from the Football League before, 10 years later, finding themselves winning promotion to the Barclays Premier League.

Executive Producer and Writer, Mal Pope, travelled up to North Wales on Thursday night to lead a screening of the film hosted and organised by Documentary Wales at Bangor University before having a Q&A with Sports Historian Meilyr Emrys.

Meeting Mr Pope beforehand though in the Teras Lounge, overlooking Bangor, he told me that being so heavily involved in the film had been “a great honour to do, and the reception from everyone has been amazing”.

Speaking on the subject of what sparked his interest in the project, Mr Pope detailed his close ties to the Premier League outfit: “The thing is that Swansea City is my club – I live in the City, I know all of the directors personally, I sit next to Ed Thomas (Co-Executive Producer) in all of the home games”.

Despite being so heavily involved with the club playing into Mr Pope’s hands in some regards, in other ways he spoke of how it at times led to him feeling a bit more pressure.

“It has been an incredible pressure and a burden to just get it right, because they know where we live! I always thought, all we could do is screw it up, to be honest” He said.

Mr Pope added “However, as I say, the reaction to the film has been fantastic and means that, at the very least, we can walk around the town with our heads held high now”.

Joanna Wright, Co-Founder of Documentary Wales added to the plaudits the film has received saying “I think this is what good documentaries do – focus on something specific and tell a universal story”.

“The idea of people coming together and saving something that is important for them is something that we can all connect to – a sort of David and Goliath story!” She added.

After working with Co-Executive Producer Ed Thomas on bringing production of STARZ’s Da Vinci’s Demons to Swansea, Mr Pope noted that the pair decided to embark on this project when watching the Swans almost two years ago.

Mr Pope said “We were sat watching the games and decided that Swansea’s story was like Hollywood and that this was the story we wanted to do! We got the club involved – they were very supportive, completely opened the door to us”.

The Welshman was keen to convey his belief that Jack To A King had far more value to it than simply being considered as a great sporting documentary.

He said “We have to get over the fact that it is a football film because it isn’t a football film – it is more about the community, it is about this odd bunch of people who buy their club and I hope the film can make people love them”.

Mr Pope declared “absolutely” that the biggest challenge of making this film was condensing 10 years of activity down into a 100 minute account without losing any of the most important details.

“Deciding that we only wanted to do the 10 years was difficult enough – however the 10 years is actually easily marked out. It begins with, in world terms, The Twin Towers in 2001, and ends in 2011 in front of where the twin towers would have been at the old Wembley”.

In the month since the documentary’s release, Mr Pope seemed taken aback by the amount of interest shown towards the project by broadcasters in the UK and across the world.

“We’re in for a number of film festivals around the world but that isn’t confirmed yet and we could be up for a BAFTA so it is incredible. Sky Sports have already spoke to us about taking the film as well as others”.

Having smashed Manchester United’s Class of 92’ in the box office, Mr Pope was realistic about the prospect of matching what he described as “the benchmark for” Jack To A King in terms of overall revenue.

“To be honest it was a bit of a benchmark because in essence we were distributing this film ourselves. They’re five million DVD sales ahead of us so we still have a long way to go”.

Sporting documentaries have been seen to be making somewhat of a cinema comeback in recent months however Mr Pope argued that it was in fact the Senna documentary that rekindled producers’ interest in producing films of this genre.

“I think the Senna documentary has really opened people’s eyes that there is a market for this kind of thing and that documentaries of this nature are for everyone and not just the men” He said.

Mr Pope went on to explain further that “Senna was actually viewed on average at cinema more by women than by men” and that he believed this was a catalyst for the resurgence of sporting documentaries’ release in cinema.

The interview closed in a very honest manner, as it had been throughout with Mr Pope saying “We’ve learned an awful lot of lessons doing this – I know how to make a film now, and sort of know how to sell it, but I’m knackered”.

Before closing the interview on a note he had been pushing throughout “This project has a long way to run yet. We want to do everything we can to make sure it has its best chance to fulfil its potential; whether that is in the sport documentary field or something more only time will tell”.

For more information regarding Documentary Wales’ upcoming events, head over to http://www.dogfen.net/. For screening information regarding Jack To A King, check out www.jacktoaking.com. You can find the film’s official Twitter page at @jacktoakingfilm and get involved with the conversation on social media using the hashtag #jacktoaking. The DVD is pencilled for release on Boxing Day 2014. My review of the film is available via Fortitude Magazine and can be found here: http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/entertainment/film-tv/review-jack-king-swansea-story/21660/

A Talk with Marti Perarnau & BackPage Press on hotly anticipated Pep Guardiola book!

Hey guys,

Been a few weeks since I’ve published anything – back in university now and it is kinda hectic so apologies for that!

What I have for you today though is a piece I am really excited about. I’m a huge fan of BackPage Press and love the books they manage to publish – if you haven’t read any of them and you’re a sports fan then I seriously suggest you change that! You will not regret it. Anyway, their latest release is an insider’s account on Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge of Bayern Munich – written by the excellent Marti Perarnau.

Naturally, I had to try and get in on this so I got in touch with the excellent guys at BackPage Press and they put me in touch with Mr Perarnau who very kindly agreed to talk to me about his latest project. Read on to find out what he, and the guys at BackPage Press, had to say!

As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated – I hope you enjoy it! 🙂


Marti Perarnau, BackPage Press ‘Very Excited’ to Release Highly Anticipated Guardiola Book

Pep Guardiola is a champion of the modern game – releasing a book about one of the most highly respected and successful men in world football can understandably be a daunting task.

For Marti Perarnau though, a relative veteran of Guardiola-oriented literature, having written a book on the Tika-Taka tinkerer before, is ‘very excited’ about his latest Guardiola book’s impending UK release.

Pep Confidential is the inside story of the former Barcelona superstar’s first season at the helm of FC Bayern Munich and marks the first time in the modern football era that a writer has been given such candid access to one of the powerhouses of world football.

As the book’s October 16th release date neared, Mr Perarnau told me of his unwavering excitement: “I had the same feeling of excitement when the book was published in Germany and in Spain. With each country it is published in, it seems as if it is a new book”.

Publishers, BackPage Press – who are co-publishing Pep Confidential with Arena Sport, an imprint of Edinburgh-based Birlinn – were equally buoyant regarding the latest addition to their catalogue: “We’re very excited. It is an incredible achievement for a writer to be granted such a level of access but also to pull it off with such skill”.

They went on to add “This is arguably the greatest football coach in the world laying out his coaching manual in great detail. If there is any justice, Pep Confidential will be a huge book not only for readers but people within football”.

Mr Perarnau had only met Guardiola once, four years ago, prior to writing this book and detailed how the help of a good friend as well as a little bit of luck enabled him to embark on this project.

“I am very good friends with Manel Estiarte, his assistant, and I informed him that I was going to write a book about Pep’s first year at Bayern. By then, they had already decided that, for once, they would make an exception to their privacy”.

“It was at that moment, I appeared. It was a coincidence – luckily for me. Even then, I had to earn the confidence of Pep day by day.” He added.

Perarnau pointed out that one of his main inspirations for writing the book was “wanting to know, in depth, the true Pep, who is very different from what is said about him”.

It didn’t take the Spanish writer long to decide that Guardiola was who he wanted to be the topic of his latest literary piece, describing how he decided instantly on the day Munich announced him as their new manager.

He said “I was thinking of some ideas for a new book when I heard the news and I thought that this could be a good idea: A great coach like Pep at a great club like Bayern”.

Despite relocating to Munich for a year to fully focus on the challenge that lay in front of him, Mr Perarnau spoke of how he enjoyed the task that lay ahead of him and how much he appreciated the opportunity Guardiola had given him.

“It’s been a fun year but also very stressful. Particularly stressful because I had to pick out all the details and remember the conversations to write. I always tried to be honest and show the trust and generosity Pep had shown me”.

Understandably, with Guardiola being one of the game’s great tacticians, getting to grips with his instructions on the training pitch is difficult – Mr Perarnau characterised this as one of his biggest challenges.

“The challenges were to understand Pep’s technical explanations, stay focused, not to miss the details of what happened and try to remember all the details in order to write them down. There was no chance to relax”.

As grateful as he evidently is for the opportunity, Mr Perarnau seemed slightly melancholic when discussing his next project: “Now begins a big problem. Pep Guardiola’s character is fascinating because it is rich in nuances – he is not just a great coach. Now what? It is the question that I ask every day”.

However he ended by pointing out that he had “several ideas” but was still yet to make a decision on which one to pursue.

Publishers BackPage Press, however, were clear on where their next book was coming from: “We have a book on the Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas out next year, which we’ll be releasing more details of soon”.

You can find more information about Marti Perarnau’s new book (out on the 16th of October) and the other award-winning titles they have in their catalogue via the BackPage Press website or through hitting the guys up on Twitter via @BackPagePress and/or @ArenaSportBooks