Break Point producer on Drive to Survive comparisons and "well-designed luck"
Break Point producer James Gay-Rees takes RadioTimes.com behind the scenes on the first season.
"They're different beasts, almost entirely." Formula 1: Drive to Survive producer James Gay-Rees may be sports officials' most popular man on the planet right now.
The rampant, runaway success of the smash-hit Netflix documentary – which is gearing up for a fifth season in February – has led to an explosion of interest in the sport, and an ever-mounting to-do list for Gay-Rees.
Break Point is his next venture, with the tennis world next to be given the F1:DTS treatment, though he remains adamant the two shows are united by only two threads: "These programmes... are really hard to make!
"I know they have a similar sort of format, but that's pretty much where the similarity ends."
In an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com, Gay-Rees explained the process of creating the show, the biggest challenges and the need to be in the right place at the right time.
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Gay-Rees said: "It's hard to be specific [with comparisons to Drive to Survive] because they're such different sports with such different landscapes.
"With Drive to Survive, I was just talking to Netflix about this earlier – it's a self contained precinct. You know exactly what the shape is going to be week-in week-out, exactly where each character is going to be – literally where they're going to be standing. And it's a team sport.
"Tennis is just the opposite. Obviously, there's a season but not all the players play the same tournaments and they have different specialities and it's an individual sport.
"It was incredibly good fun to make, but it was challenging in different ways."
The Box To Box producer spoke about the decision-making process behind selecting the players they chose to focus on, with various tennis organisations each playing a part in determining who to follow.
He said: "When the series was locked in with the Grand Slams, ATP, WTA and Netflix, we sat down and went through a long list of players. Everyone's heard of the top five or 10 but there's a lot of players people haven't heard about before.
"We relied on them to slightly give us the inside scoop on which players were doing what, when, why and how. And then you just kind of cast your net – it's very unscientific!
"We went to the Australian Open and we planted ourselves in the players' canteen and just started basically meeting people, then arranging interviews. A lot of those people who we first approached actually did end up being in the show, so it was quite a good process.
"These shows have a funny way of finding their own level. You can't force somebody to be in it who doesn't want to be in it, you can't force a Formula 1 team to do anything they don't want to do, and so you kind of end up finding each other.
"Sometimes players have really interesting stories and sometimes they don't. Some of these start off in a really good place and it drops off or vice versa.
"You can't predict it entirely, but showrunner Kari [Lia] and the team made a lot of their own luck by just massaging the relationships in the right way with the right player at the right time. And then things started to happen.
"It's well-designed luck, that is the bottom line."