More likely, he’s pacing down the sideline, orchestrating teams towards perfection. Despite the victories, he always manages to look joyless. Football may be a game, but to Saban, it’s a no-nonsense business.
What about Saban the other six days of the week? What about the off-season? Are there other dimensions to the man? Or does he live, eat and drink football 24/7?
“Nick Saban: Gamechanger,” the first authorized biographical film of Saban, attempts to answer these questions.
“He can seem like a two-dimensional figure,” said Trey Reynolds, director/producer of the film and an Alabama alumnus. “But there’s much more to him. He is a dad and a husband. He’s an organizational leader, an administrator and a humanitarian.”
This is not the first time Saban has been approached by filmmakers. He’s coached at many different schools, winning championships and sometimes bringing a little controversy to the table. Saban never agreed to cooperate in a film project until after last season when Flashlight Media Group approached him, though it took some persuading.
“After [Saban’s] first title, he was approached by a lot of people about books and video projects—he didn’t like this experience at LSU,” Reynolds said. “It took some time for us to get the green light, but we convinced Coach that we’d be flies on the wall.”
The University is already familiar with Flashlight’s work. The group produced another documentary titled “Defining Moments: The Stories Behind Alabama Football’s Greatest Plays.” Their history with the University and relationship with Jimmy Sexton, Saban’s agent, helped them to win the coach’s trust.
Grant Guffin, producer of “Gamechanger,” said he is pleased with the relationship Flashlight and the University have formed.
“We tried to show respect for the environment we were in,” Guffin said. “It was a good, mutual understanding.”
In the film, Saban recalls his humble upbringings in West Virginia and his various coaching stops throughout his career. It gives the audience rare glimpses of Saban and his program preparing for the BCS National Championship Game, and it contains many interviews of celebrities speaking to his success on and off the football field. Among the interviewees are Bill Belichick, Joe Namath, and Gene Stallings.
“We were surprised by the lack of any difficulty in contacting his more famous colleagues,” Guffin said. “But that just points to the fact that coach Saban has great rapport with these guys.”
By winning his trust, the filmmakers were granted unimpeded access to Saban for an extended time this past spring. During this time they followed the coach to spring practice, the A-day game, his home in Tuscaloosa and even his hometown in West Virginia. Saban even let them pick his brain, a privilege not bestowed on many.
“He was very giving,” Reynolds said. “He never waved off a question, never told us to get lost.”
Reynolds did not interview any of Saban’s critics for the film because, he said, it’s already well documented that Saban is a polarizing figure.
Still, some Alabama students are excited to see new sides of Saban.
“He doesn’t say much in his typical interviews. I’m happy that the documentary will show more of his true self,” said Cassie Mccay, a junior majoring in marketing and advertising.
Reynolds said he believes the film will appeal to all sports lovers and anticipates its reception when it is released to the public on Aug. 27 to theatres in the state and region.
“The reason for the film is to entertain people,” Reynolds said. “We want people to be thoroughly taken on a ride.”