Game changers #5, Christian Remoli and the tale of the curious Koala that has taken sport storytelling to a new level in South America
Christian Rémoli thought sport storytelling needed more space. So he founded his own company.
by Martin Mazur
There were no koalas in Argentina until Christian Rémoli, a sport journalist that had been working on television, decided to go independent and set up his own producing company, Koala Contenidos. A decade later, his creation is now a synonym of carefully developed documentaries with sport as main focus, but at the same time, as main excuse to tell the good stories that were hidden beneath. And he is willing to share some of his secrets.
-What do you like the most about sport journalism?
-I think the best part is to follow amazing stories that sometimes are noticeably better than some fiction scripts. Sport is full of these stories that are a pleasure to tell, and in some cases, like in a character series, they look like were imagined by someone. And they are not, they are just part of sport. Uncovering these, to me, is the most attracting aspect of our profession.
-What are the challenges that the current sport journalism must face?
-Our greatest challenge is to go deeper. In Argentina, and maybe also in the rest of the world, sport journalism is looking increasingly similar to showbiz journalism. It’s a trend that have a round table, controversy, panelists arguing with each other… The challenge that we have is to go deeper. If documentary, a biography or a feature is so well-made, so plenty of details, so well-told, that is capable of captivating an audience, we will be able to show the other side of this profession. I’m not saying that there is a good side, but what’s for sure is that controversy, arguments, interchanging opinions with yelling or with tension, has clearly eclipsed the other side, the one about the core of stories. If we go beyond, deeper, if we can make an impression working with the stories, the public will be able to choose which side way of understanding sport journalism they prefer. Even in the new ways of understanding TV, we need to go deeper. I’m convinced that quality content that seeks for excellence is already being searched and valued, and that quality content will end up imposing itself. In a short time, going viral will not be only related with what it is seen as viral now; it will also be related to the quality.
-What is the best or most comforting coverage you have done and that have left an impression in your career?
-One of the most intense and wonderful experiences I remember was shooting a documentary right after the Confederations Cup 2005. We stayed in Germany with a cameraman and a translator, and we visited the 12 stadiums, interviewing different characters and tracking stories for a product that was named “Germany 2006, the World Cup that is coming” for TyC Sports. And it was extremely well-made, with nearly a month travelling to shoot, discover and interview. The other thing that really marked me as a journalist was being in touch with the Golden Generation of Argentina’s basketball, getting to know all these stars, and eventually understanding that the collective mind that they had as a group, was always leading against the individual aspects, hence their success. It did not matter if they were big stars like Ginóbili, Oberto or Scola.
-What things did you learn and from whom that you want to share with others?
-The journalist that taught me the most was Ariel Scher. He really left an impression on me. I remember he would always say that being a journalist meant getting less hours of sleep, due to the number of uncomfortable questions that you must ask yourself, as I later found. Secondly, for his knowledge and his thoroughness when it comes to details, and finally, for his generosity. It’s not common to find someone so generous; in one of the first documentaries that I had to shoot, about Argentina 78, he opened me the doors with four or five stories, and four or five contacts, that were fundamental for the purpose of the documentary. When I had some doubts or questions, he always received me with interest, and I emphasise this because that’s not something that happens often in this profession, and it’s something that I learn from him and try to apply with my colleagues.
-This career is constantly changing. What is the current situation in your country?
-The situation is bad, and before we talked about challenges, but a challenge in itself is to get a stable, full-time job. For a number of reasons, the situation is absolutely not good right now.
One of the documentaries of Koala Contenidos: Argentina 1986.
-What do you think of the organisation of an international prize, such as the AIPS Sport Media Awards, open to professionals from 160 countries?
-I think it’s great, it’s a space that is badly needed. There are themed festivals of political cinema, Human Rights, indigenous people, ecology, but to see something like this, a festival focused just on sport and sport storytelling, which is not just audiovisual but also embracing every aspect of the profession, it’s great and we need it to be a long-standing platform, because it will be a reunion, an opportunity to see what other people from different countries are doing, and also trigger some multiple sights about a subject or a character.
-How can a prize of this kind help future generations of journalists?
-Having read the rules and visiting the website, the fact that there is so much emphasis on stories, which angles, how they are told, is something that can certainly be inspirational and a huge help for others. Just as it happens in football, with the kids copying Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, in sport journalism the young people also reproduce behaviours, and as we had discussed, the mainstream is what they consume on TV. So the fact that there is an award that focuses on sport as an excuse for culture and stories, is a good sign to the young journalists that are being educated right now: controversy is not the only way of success; you can tell stories, investigate, investing energy and time in a well-made product, a feature, an article. It is definitely a big incentive.
-Speaking of evolution, what’s your preferred format for consuming news?
-I listen to radio a lot since I was a kid, and I still do, the only thing that changed through the years is that now I’m streaming radio shows on my computer while I’m working. The other one is on-demand video platforms, mainly Netflix, where I search for documentaries and biographies. I do not read newspapers, I consume specific news that I’m interested in, or things that I first see on social media. And then, of course, I watch a lot of television, with one particular thing: I see a lot of the things that I do not like, because I believe that those of us that are producers or journalists, need to understand what the audience is getting and try to see which positive aspects, despite you may not like the show, are there to be taken and applied to something else.
-Which advice would you give to your younger self?
-This is really difficult! I suppose that rather than saying too much, I will try to give me confidence. In Argentina, studying sport journalism and fulfilling the dream of working as a sport journalism is almost an exception. I remember that from my course, we were 35 students and 30 were simply brilliant, yet only 5 were able to pursue a career in sport journalism, and not necessary the brightest ones. Sometimes you need… a miracle, and I’m not exaggerating. Those of us like have been in this profession for such a long time sometimes forget how hard it was, but that was the main question that all of us were doing: ‘How on Earth am I going to make a living, how am I going to find a job’. So what I would tell to myself is to go forward, to have faith, that opportunities will arise.
The latest release of Koala Contenidos: Playing with the soul, a documentary about Argentina's golden generation in basketball.
-How do you conceive a story on video? Do you imagine it, script it, or does the story lead you and make you decide on the way?
-No, what we try to do at Koala Contenidos is to tell a story that is still untold, or find an unknown side of a well-known story. It is similar to writing a book: you would not write a book of something that was already written, or at least it is not about that. So, for example, about Argentina 1986, the first thing we did is to talk to the sources, to see what were the possibilities of angles. With the investigation completed, we work on a script, but the script is never final. There will be new testimonies, new stories, and the heart of a good documentary needs to be able to gather them all, change and evolve while you’re shooting it. These is more or less the process.
-Why did you decide to set up your own company and how hard was it?
-It came especially as a need to find my own space for telling stories that I was otherwise unable to work on the TV channel that I worked, TyC Sports, or that couldn’t be told in the way I imagined or wanted to concentrate. So I focused on doing that on my own. I thought it was the right time to bet on it, to do it. In my opinion, the market conditions were stable, but even so it was difficult, because it was not that TV channels were waiting to buy the ideas that I had developed. It was a slow-building and learning process but it was so much worth it!
For more information, visit koalacontenidos.com.ar
Game changers is presented by AIPS Sport Media Awards, a bridge to the future of sport journalism. Divided in 6 main categories, the Awards are a celebration of the best sport storytellers from around the world. Submissions for professionals are free and open until September 17, 2018. Find more and submit your work in https://aipsawards.com/