Future Foxes: Inside Leicester City’s Academy
The Day Release programme
In April of 2023, Leicester City Football Club invited Slate and Mortar to produce a documentary that centred on their academy Day Release programme, a programme designed for talented young football players. Based out of the world-class LCFC Seagrave training facility, the Day Release programme is for children with exceptional football skills who, through collaboration between LCFC and the children’s educational institutes, are allowed the opportunity to spend one day a week at Seagrave, developing both their football skills, and through a carefully built academic programme, their STEM and soft transferable skills.
Addressing the general narrative
There is a particular narrative that when promising young players are selected for football academies, they can miss a large chunk of their academic studies as they spend time away from the classroom and on the pitch. If that football journey ends (sadly, there is only a tiny minority that ever do become professional footballers), the general perception is that these children have missed out on a crucial part of their academic development, and will be playing catch up with their peers in STEM subjects.
LCFC wanted to address this narrative and show this isn’t the case, that their youngsters are supported by dedicated specialist teachers, nutritionists, sports psychologist, and support workers, and that the youngsters at the academy, have an incredible opportunity to not only continue their football journey, but also get dedicated and bespoke learning opportunities. They also wanted to highlight that being a professional footballer isn’t necessarily the only career path available, with coaching, data science, physical therapy, and many more roles and opportunities also being available within the footballing world.
Filming at seagrave
Slate and Mortar were invited to spend two days with the children and their support staff, filming them as they went about their various football activities, but also spending time in the classroom with them, seeing the lessons that took place, and how they were integrating STEM subjects into the football training, keeping the youngsters actively engaged and onboard, whilst teaching them those vital skills.
Utilising a two-camera, gimbal setup with cinematic prime lenses (to give the film a strong visual aesthetic), We interviewed many key figures and stakeholders; the coaches, teachers, premier league officials, parents, the children, and even players who had come through the system, and were now playing at the very highest level. Because of this access, we were able to address some of those generalisations and narratives mentioned above and give an open, honest and authentic insight into the activities that went on during those days.
Reviewing and refining
With documentaries, you tend to collect a lot of footage, and with both our cameras rolling fairly continuously, we ended up with a lot of material to go through during post-production. This required a cyclical process from our editors… review the footage, delete extraneous material, shape a narrative, review, delete etc. This ended up reducing around 14 hours of footage to the 17 minutes you see in the final version.
We didn’t want things to feel contrived or set up (as they hadn’t been), so we leaned towards a fly-on-the-wall, observational approach, keeping the music and graphics to a minimum. This approach lends itself towards letting an audience make their own informed opinions, rather than us guiding them towards a particular feeling or thought through our music and art-direction choices.
The final touches were made in the colour grade, where we had to match the footage from the two cameras so that it looked seamless cutting between the two. We also introduced simple, clean graphics, again to maintain that unobtrusive, observational approach.
We’re really pleased with the final result, overall feedback has been really strong, and although this only gives a small insight into the overall setup of a football academy, we think it helps lift the veil on how they operate, the people involved, the benefits to the community and the joy children get from attending them.
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