ESPN Senior Features Producer & Filmmaker Shares Advice

ESPN senior features producer and filmmaker Martin Khodabakhshian joined the Transatlantic Storytelling virtual class April 22 to share wisdom and offer advice to students at Ball State and Cardiff Met.

In the nearly two-hour session, Khodabakhshian offered reaction and storytelling feedback to student producers of the forthcoming documentary.

“Focus on the strengths,” Khodabakshian said. “Wales is a character. Each of the athletes all have different paths, but you can unify what they all have.”

Among the shared situations between the group amid a global pandemic, was remote editing.

“After we get to a pretty good spot with the rough cut, we literally take an iPad or a device and point it at the screen,” Khodbakhshian said. “We edit like we were editing in the same room. We share a links every couple of days until we are into the fine-cutting moments.”

Each of the Ball State student producers pitched their respective stories — from Sam Gordon to Will Godwin to Jenny Nesbitt — for Khodabakhshian’s reaction and input.

All seven of the documentary features were discussed.

“A lot of smart questions and you are so ahead of the game,” Khodabakhsian said. “Never stop asking questions. Never think something is stupid. You have to separate yourself, but also use each other as springboards.”

Khodabakhshian has 19 years of television experience with ESPN and is now a 13-time National Sports Emmy Award-winning senior producer and filmmaker. 

He has won two Edward R. Murrow Awards for sports reporting, two National Headliner Awards and a Prism Award.

Among a multitude of recent projects, Khodabakhshian produced “Strongman: Beyond The Mountain“, profiling Hafthor Julius Bjornsson.

Before he was “The Mountain” on Game of Thrones, Bjornsson was on a mission to become the World’s Strongest Man.

Khodabakhshian directed the 2016 Emmy- nominated long feature “Silent Night Lights“, which showcased a 30-minute piece without one spoken word.

The story on a high school football team at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, Calif., prompted ESPN programming to broadcast the first-ever nationally televised deaf football game on ESPN 2.

Transatlantic Storytelling is an immersive learning, global storytelling project between students at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and Cardiff Metropolitan University in Cardiff, Wales.

Ball State students collaborated with Cardiff Met students on identifying, developing and producing feature stories on Welsh athletes. 

While on the ground in Cardiff, Wales, for 12 days in late February to March, students worked together to capture footage, scenes and interviews with the athletes.

Upon return to the United States and currently in postproduction, the features will be part of a documentary with international digital and linear distribution.