A series of seismic developments caused director Greg Whiteley and the team behind the Netflix hit to triple their storytelling instincts.
It’s easy to say, in a series of sports documentaries like “Cheer, ”Winning is not as important. Regardless of the outcome of a particular season, it’s about getting to know the people involved in that pursuit along the way. But after six seasons involving the creation of different versions of Netflix documentary series “Last Chance U”, director Greg Whiteley soon discovered that the world of cheerleading had created more intense pressure on how the team at Navarro College completed any given spring.
That’s something he was especially aware of when he was on Season 2 of the show.
“We found a recipe in ‘Last Chance U’ that was very helpful. The season can go bad from the team’s point of view, but you still have the individual championship. If they go on to receive a D1 scholarship, that is an arc well worth demonstrating. But in ‘Cheer’ you don’t have that,” Whiteley said. “Navarro, for most people, it’s their end, it’s everything. When they’re there, they want to win that championship. However, what I found was just adding to the stakes. It just made that ending even more interesting.”
“Cheer” Season 2 offers its own additional sense of expectation. Not only has public awareness of the team and staff at Navarro increased after the fugitive’s attention was given to the first episode in early 2020, but there is now a solid foundation for how these fugitives are going to be. This story is told and who is under the microscope. Balancing the “where are they now” element of the previous season with keeping abreast of the ongoing events of the 2019-2020 school year became something the production team had to be aware of from the start.
“It’s hard, because if you completely ignore what you think the audience is going to want, I think you’re going to be like one of those really bad ’90s bands that just went and ignored all the music. their hits. and people leave the concert unsatisfied,” Whiteley said. “At the same time, you think you want more Morgan or Lexi or whoever, the truth is we told their stories. We spent a lot of time telling what happened to them to make them want to choose to cheer and receive their intense attention. It doesn’t mean there aren’t more of their stories to tell. But it just gets harder.”
Season 2 acknowledged early on that some returning and graduating members of the larger Navarro family had achieved a level of attention that “shared the stage with Oprah”. But even that referral came after the settlement of charges against former team member Jerry Harris. As a prominent Navarro stuntman in Season 1, Harris was the subject of an FBI investigation and was eventually arrested. child pornography charges.
“I spent some time wondering what percentage of our audience would know the story. We filmed almost a whole season before those allegations were made. And so he was a member of that team. Of course, he’s in the shot,” Whiteley said. “And I just thought that the audience, if they knew the story, it would be very strange. And they would ask the filmmakers, ‘What happened? Will they admit this? Are they just pretending to be? ‘ And so the ultimate solution is, ‘Let’s tackle the problem in the first place. We know that this happened. This is coming. We will explain it later. ‘”
Following a chronological approach to Season 2, “Cheer” spends most of Episode 5 documenting Harris’s alleged pattern of behavior. Harris and his legal team declined to participate, but the episode included interviews with USA Today reporters Marisa Kwiatkowski and Tricia L. Nadolny, who helped bring the story to the public them in September 2020. Twins joined Reporting by Kwiatkowski and Nadolnyalong with their mother, also gave an on-camera interview for “Cheer,” detailing their personal experiences with Harris.
“I feel like our job as a documentary team to try to address this very delicate issue is to do what we’ve always tried to do, which is tell the truth. Listen to everyone. And then let the audience decide for themselves what is right and what is not right or what is right and what is wrong. Those who have a voice and a voice in this particular story, give them that voice and let it float,” Whiteley said.
Figuring out how to show Harris’ involvement with the team means sticking to the original goals the series has pursued for both seasons.
“Audiences should always know that we are giving you a snapshot of these people. It would be impossible to know everything about someone during the four months that we were allowed to film them. That is not a reasonable expectation. And I think it’s important for the audience to know, I’m not telling you biblical facts about these people. This is our experience with them for a very limited period of time in their lives. And so it’s unbelievable. We will not go to everything. The only thing we can do is when we learn something new, assuming it is relevant, we will show it. Even if it’s uncomfortable, even if it’s difficult. I think that’s the best thing you can do as a journalist or as a documentarian.”
After the 2020 NCA College Nationals were cancelled, “Cheer” added some other school year-worthy stories to Season 2 which was replaced by following not only Navarro but also the College rival. Trinity Valley Community (TVCC). The final four episodes bring together events that took place last year in Daytona, but while the scenes may have been shot in the same style, there are stark differences in the day-to-day functions of the production team. .
“Even if we’re only on one campus, we’re in multiple locations on that one campus and often have to split up. Now that we’re 30 or 40 miles apart, the hard part is that we can’t see each other in the ways we used to. We keep those teams separate for COVID purposes and to keep those respective teams safe,” Whiteley said. “What I do remember is having people come together in the evening in a hotel lobby or meeting room and say, ‘Okay, what do you see today? What are some stories? ‘ That has to be tracked through zoom, it still works and still works. But I missed having everyone together. And I know that the crew felt the same way. You start to feel depressed in ways that I think are oddly helpful in some respects. But in general, it’s not fun for the crew. It does not bring the sense of cooperation as in previous years. “
That segregated approach made its way all the way to Daytona, where separate crews watched the Navarro and TVCC teams as they awaited the final results. For a show that watched both teams during two years of separate suffering, confusion, and preparation, how “Cheer” chooses whose reaction to show first: realizing the champion’s radiance or runner-up? Coincidence or not, that climactic moment was presented in much of the way Whiteley described it to his inner circle shortly after it happened.
“I had a really talented story team back in LA. They are editing as we are in progress. And I remember being on the phone with a few of them and just recounting what happened. I said to my wife and daughter, ‘Hey, this is how it turned out.’ And I reversed it. Navarro received the news and then TVCC received the news. Daniel McDonald, who was the supervising editor of the final episode, played an integral role, and I, Adam Leibowitz, and Daniel had to discuss a lot about how that sequence would play out,” said Whiteley. speak. “And it was difficult. We went back and forth. I feel as if we did our job right, that you feel empathy for both teams. You will be thrilled for who wins and you will be heartbroken for who loses. Hopefully after eight and a half episodes, we’ve told the individual stories in a way that you really care about these people as human beings and you want what they want.”
“Cheer” Season 2 is now available to stream on Netflix.
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/01/cheer-netflix-director-greg-whiteley-season-2-1234694140/ ‘Cheer’ on Netflix: Director Greg Whiteley talks season 2 challenges