Executive producer James Gay-Rees speaks to Broadcast Sport about new shows Break Point and Full Swing

Justin Thomas & Jordan Spieth

Netflix’s success with hit behind-the-scenes docuseries, F1: Drive To Survive, is being followed up with a series of shows following other sports this year. 

The streaming giant released Break Point, following tennis stars on the ATP and WTA Tours as well as at the Grand Slams, earlier this month, with a similar show for golf, Full Swing, to follow on 15 February. Later this year, there will be more behind-the-scenes access to the Tour de France, Six Nations, and more - as announced last week.

Broadcast Sport spoke to Box To Box executive producer James Gay-Rees, who is working on Break Point and Full Swing - as well as Drive To Survive - about what will be in store for tennis and golf fans. A major question mark over the new series will be differentiation, to ensure they aren’t copies of Drive To Survive, and Gay-Rees is confident that the nature of the sports will be a big factor in this.

He explained: “The reality is that tennis could not be more diametrically different to Formula 1. First, it’s a truly solo sport, and Formula 1 is this completely defined precinct where you know exactly where everybody is going to be standing every single weekend that they’re on it. So you know exactly what you’re dealing with, exactly where they’re going to be, and the characters never change.


“In tennis different players play different tournaments, and they get injured, so it’s a totally different exercise. By definition, it ends up being a very different feeling show, and it has got a very different tone to Drive To Survive. The basic format is similar, you’re following some athletes over a course of a season, over 10 Netflix episodes. But that’s really the only similarity. It highlights different challenges that these sports people face compared to the athletes in Formula 1. So they end up being different by dint of their different DNA.”

A different sport also brings up different challenges, with this breadth of tournaments and players meaning there is a lot more to cover than in F1. Gay-Rees said: “There are obviously hundreds of tennis players to choose from, but it’s funny, you sort of land in the right place in the sense that the people you should be following are the ones you end up following. You don’t want lots of similar players at similar stages of their careers, you want to get a blend of different types of players, and you kind of take whatever you can get as part of that as you can’t force people to do it. So it ends up finding its own level.”

He continued on the added depth to the production: “The teams tend to be very small on the ground following the player or the driver, just because you don’t want to get in the way performance, but there’s a huge backroom staff. So the actual contact point is very small, but the machine is quite big, and it’s a huge amount of travel involved. It’s a logistical challenge every single time. We’d like to do one which is basically just in one country actually!”

Tony Finau & Fam

There’s also the need to keep talent on side, and Joel Dahmen, one of the golfers featured in Full Swing, told Broadcast Sport: “You could tell them no, anytime you wanted. It was it was totally 100% on the player. If we wanted them there, you could have them around. We had them over for home visits multiple times, we had a party in my backyard in Phoenix [Texas, USA], or you could do nothing with it. You didn’t ever have to have any of the personal life stuff. There were times where I told them no, plenty of times, for example they followed me in the locker room one time and I said no, I just wasn’t wasn’t in the mood for it. It was 100% up to us, and they respected it. It was great.”

Gay-Rees added: “We’ve been doing this for quite a long time now and you learn from experience. You do generate a sixth sense of when to put the camera down leave them alone, they give you a look, or they will be pretty direct about it and tell you to do one! It’s rarely an issue because if somebody has bought into being involved then they know what it basically entails. Of course they have good days and bad days, like any human being. So you’ve just got to read the room and make sure that you’re sensitive to them and their situation.”

Fans can see the results of this approach on Netflix now, with the first five episodes of Break Point available before another five are released in June. Full Swing will be available from 15 February, with series five of Drive To Survive to follow on 24 February.