Docs

Bitcoin-funded basketball doc “Lynchpin” heads to Whistle TV

Lynchpin: Inside the Business of Basketball, from Full Surrender Films, will premiere on Whistle TV on Dec. 8. The documentary deconstructs the business dynamics within sports agencies and shoe companies that ...
December 7, 2021

Lynchpin: Inside the Business of Basketball, from Full Surrender Films, will premiere on Whistle TV on Dec. 8.

The documentary deconstructs the business dynamics within sports agencies and shoe companies that feed new stars into American basketball. The film is directed by Mike Nicoll and is a coda to the filmmaker’s 2017 feature At All Costs, which was acquired by Netflix and documented how American youth basketball has been professionalized.

“The core theme that unites At All Costs and Lynchpin is my fascination with where and how an athlete becomes a ‘professional.’ Where At All Costs focused more on the players’ perspective, truthfully I was always more interested in the adults in the room,” Nicoll tells Realscreen.

Lynchpin centers on the Compton Magic AAU basketball program and its CEO Etop Udo-Ema, who are in the pursuit of an unprecedented sponsorship deal. The film features Evan Mobley, the third pick in the 2021 NBA draft; Mikey Williams, the first high school player to sign a major shoe endorsement deal; and Johnny Juzang, the star of UCLA’s 2021 Final Four team.

The film is a joint venture between the Manhattan Film Studio and Swan Bitcoin. Nicoll praised the independent and “permission-less” nature of fully financing the film through Bitcoin, and added that he believes this will become a more common practice in filmmaking.

“On both the front and back end, Bitcoin creates a channel for me to connect directly with my audience without the traditional middlemen that have historically dictated the terms of film finance, distribution and audience engagement,” Nicoll says of the financing strategy.

“Traditional studio greenlights are notoriously saddled with exhausting obstacles — and that bureaucracy can be deadly for a project, no matter how good it is. We very nearly sold Lynchpin as a ‘traditional’ docuseries, but the red-tape & network politics made that ultimately unfeasible.”

Khaila Locke, Joe Ghallager, Gabriel Merkin and Zack Weiner serve as executive producers on the film, with Doug Matejka producing. Lynchpin debuted at the Lincoln Center in New York City on Nov. 23.

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