Simone Biles docuseries: Women-led crew ‘pivotal’ to filming process, say, producers

Simone Biles at Tokyo 2020

The producers of Simone Biles’ new docuseries – which focuses on the gymnast’s Tokyo Olympics journey – have lauded the impact of having a “female-centred” crew for the project.

The seven-episode series, titled “Simone vs Herself”, looks at the highs and lows of Biles’ life over the course of the past couple of years and celebrates the brilliance of one of the world’s greatest ever athletes.

Emmy award-winning sports media company, Religion of Sports, were the masterminds behind the documentary. Senior producer, Katie Walsh, spoke to Insider about how crucial having a majority women team proved to be.

"Having such a female-centred crew was a real benefit on this project... especially when it comes to the various components that make up Simone's story," she stressed.

"Obviously she's a survivor of sexual abuse. She's just gone through a lot and we can relate as women in a way that is useful and helpful to the overall project."

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Another vital aspect of the project was gaining the respect of Biles’ family. The gymnast has been open about the struggles she has faced in the past and Religion of Sports recognised the US star needed a production crew she would welcome.

Given Biles’ support network of women consists of her mother, sister, agent and coach, it seemed only natural to assemble a predominantly female team for the docuseries.

"Simone is very much protected by the people that really care for her," stressed co-executive producer, Giselle Parets.

“A decision was made to bring a team that [Simone's] agents and her family were really going to welcome.”

Filming for the series took more than two years, owing to the setbacks caused by the pandemic. While this understandably caused complications, it also allowed the crew to develop more of a personal relationship with Biles –– even travelling with her on a family holiday.

Biles

Subsequently, the 24-year-old revealed inner thoughts she had never previously communicated publicly, including how she’s dealt with the emotional trauma of being sexually assaulted by former US women’s national gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar.

“I was very careful about when we went there because it's triggering,” Walsh emphasised. “Any time you discuss Nassar or anything related to that, you have to take a couple of steps back in order to move forward again. And I knew that was the case for her.”

Eventually, trust was formed to such an extent where Biles felt comfortable sharing everything. At this year’s Olympics, the crew sent the gymnast with a camera for filming video diaries.

Biles admitted she found it difficult to deal with the weight of expectation on her shoulders in Tokyo, coupled with the prolonged mental trauma of coping with what happened with Nassar. This caused her to suffer from a problem known as the ‘twisties’, and she was forced to withdraw from four Olympic events in Tokyo.

Yet, in a remarkable moment in the series, a tearful Biles records herself attempting to flip onto her hotel bed in Tokyo. Walsh and Young were also present in the same room as Biles’ family when she phoned home to tell her mum she couldn’t “do it” any longer.

The documentary captures the highs of Biles’ Tokyo experience as well, including her pride when the US team secured team all-around silver and her jubilation after claiming bronze in the beam final, despite everything she’d gone through at the Games.

"She defied all greatness in my opinion," said Young. "Her story became more important when she realized she was worth more than gold medals. The awakening of putting her health first will define her legacy — in a far better way than just be remembered for winning."

You can read Insider’s full interview with the women behind the docuseries here

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