Columbia professor wins five Telly Awards for ‘American Fumble’

By Miranda Manier, Managing Editor

Courtesy Carolina Posse

“American Fumble,” a made-for-TV movie that tells the story of former athlete R. Jay Soward, recently won five Telly Awards—which honor regional, local and cable TV.

Carolina Posse, an assistant professor in the Cinema and Television Arts Department and a producer for “American Fumble,” spoke to The Chronicle about her work on the project, collaborating with students and what she hopes people take away from the movie.

THE CHRONICLE: What did the production process look like for “American Fumble”?

POSSE: We began working on “American Fumble” around three years ago. The director and writer of “American Fumble,” [Michael N.J. Wright], also teaches lighting in the Cinema and Television Arts [Department]. He and I are partners; we’ve been working together on many projects. We began some research on the kind of project that we wanted to do, particularly for streaming audiences—something that was short but could have a long-term effect, and by that I mean we could do [a] series, but … not too expensive to show on television. We decided to begin with a 30-minute piece, which is the story of R. Jay Soward. It’s not entirely the story of his life, it’s just a moment of his life.

Production was a period of a year and a half. The first thing we did was a research interview, which [involved] going to California, to San Bernardino, and actually interviewing R. Jay and his girlfriend. We did a preliminary interview to help him feel comfortable and for us to be comfortable with him. A lot of that footage is included in the cut that is available now. Our [original] intention was not to include it, but there were so many really transparent moments there and very emotional moments that we decided to include it.

Courtesy Caroline Posse
Assistant Professor in the Cinema and Television Arts Department Carolina Posse, center, was a producer for “American Fumble,” which recently won five Telly Awards.

Who is R. Jay Soward?

He was a professional athlete, really a star athlete since he was very young. He went professionally to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars and he had a lot of problems, emotional problems, and he was an alcoholic while he was playing professionally. He really never received the guidance and support he needed. He ended up losing everything, including his career. And just recently, he was homeless living in California.

How did you collaborate with Columbia students?

A lot of students—both [graduates] and [undergraduates]—helped us out, and we compensated everybody because we were lucky enough to be able to raise enough money to cover all the costs. We shot it … on and off for a while and … then we did post-production here. The editor is also an alum, Priscilla Perez, and she won the [Telly Award] for Best Editing.

What do you hope people take away from “American Fumble”?

Sometimes we hold athletes, and maybe even artists, to a certain level and then we recognize, “Wait a minute, they are human, too and they have problems, and they have issues that they don’t know who to go to sometimes.” R. Jay really wanted to get an opportunity to share his story because he was just tortured [by] the media, in a way. Ultimately when people watch it, my goal is that they will give people second chances because there’s truly another side to every story.