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XLIVE Interview Series
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Aaron Saffa & Joseantonio "GrizzlyMug" Danner - 705 Hollywood - XLIVE Interview Series

This week on the XLIVE Interview Series, we sat down with Aaron Saffa and Joseantonio “GrizzlyMug” Danner, Co-Founder and Co-Founder / Head of Creative respectively for 705 Hollywood, to talk about their new documentary (Directed by GrizzlyMug) in partnership with Red Bull and Ten100, Against the Odds.

The documentary details the story of five Dota 2 players, their manager and coach, who months before had never played together, and follows them on their journey through friendship, loss, rebuilding, and competition. Read the interview below!

Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today, Aaron & GrizzlyMug. For those who don’t know about 705 Hollywood, can you give a brief overview of the company, the founding, and the types of projects you work on today?

Aaron: Our pleasure! GrizzlyMug and I met about twenty years ago, when we were both getting our start in the film / television industry. We’ve been friends ever since, and after Grizz spent a number of years learning his craft on the sets of some great films and tv shows (Spider-Man 2, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Terminal, The Office, etc) he had become an amazing filmmaker in his own right.  705 Hollywood was created as a platform for GrizzlyMug’s work, and several years ago, we had the opportunity to make a Valve player profile about CSGO pro player Fallen, which allowed us to combine his love of filmmaking with our shared love of gaming. Since then, Grizz has made over thirty films in twelve countries across six different esports - and we get to play games at work and call it “research”. Win, win.

Congratulations on the documentary, it’s really fantastic. How did the idea for this project, and the different pieces such as yourself, Red Bull, and Team OG come together?

Aaron: Red Bull is obviously an incredibly well respected name in the gaming / esports space, so we’ve been hoping to find an opportunity to collaborate with them for some time. We’ve also done quite a bit of work for Valve at this point, and have been to The International several times as fans, so GrizzlyMug is very familiar with, and passionate about the narratives of this world. When the unbelievable events of TI8 unfolded, it was clear that the story of OG needed to be told… And we were extremely fortunate to find, in Red Bull, partners that were willing and able to offer the support needed, to tell it the right way.

How is the documentary different or similar to other existing esports/sports documentaries?

GrizzlyMug: There are so few esports with a history as long and storied as The International. Being able to go back to its beginnings, and tell the stories of so many pro players, in their own words, with TI as the backdrop, was a pretty unique opportunity.

What was it like working with a brand like Red Bull during the creative process andstorytelling?

Aaron: To put it simply, without Red Bull, this project would never have happened. More than just being a respected brand, they are truly unique in how deeply they are invested in, and a part of, the gaming and esports community.

GrizzlyMug: It was incredible to get to work so closely with the players of Team OG and the creative team at Red Bull Media House. There was so much story to unpack, but everyone involved cared so deeply about getting it right, that they were willing to do whatever it was going to take to make it the best it could be. I always want that for any story I’m a part of telling, but this experience definitely exceeded all of my expectations for how well it came together in the end.

Aside from telling the story of Team OG, were there any other stories in the esports space which your teams tried to convey through the piece?

GrizzlyMug: The story of esport’s rapid growth. Not only do the crowd sizes and prize pools grow throughout our documentary, but also the ways that teams adapt to that growth, the tools that they use, and the presence of mainstream brands.

The documentary definitely humanizes the athletes, and shows the rigor which is required to play at the highest levels of professional esports. Is this important for the industry?

GrizzlyMug: From my perspective, having interviewed so many parents of pro gamers, it’s just a lack of understanding that’s holding most people back from fully supporting what esports is all about. Once stories like “Against The Odds” help them connect the dots, to realize how similar esports is to anything else worth pursuing professionally, hopefully their support won’t be far behind. Even though most pro gamers, up to this point, have excelled despite that lack of support, I’d imagine there are plenty of young gamers that we may never get to see attain greatness if society as a whole doesn’t understand why they deserve that support.

Thanks GrizzlyMug and Aaron, and again, great work, and congratulations! Where can people watch Against the Odds, and how can people get in touch with you and 705 Hollywood to learn more?

Aaron: Thank you! It’s worth mentioning how much we appreciate what XLive is doing in the esports space recently as well, and we look forward to the next event! The film is on Red Bull TV at: https://www.redbull.com/int-en/films/against-theodds, or on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/bdgTa9ni4S8. You can see more of GrizzlyMug’s work at www.GrizzlyMug.com, and you can get in touch with us at: letstalk@705hollywood.com.


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