Daniele Anastasion Named espnW's First-Ever Film Fellow

Courtesy of "Run Mama Run"

Elite runner Sarah Brown, who is training to making the 2016 U.S. Olympic track team while pregnant, is the subject of a new espnW documentary film series, "Run Mama Run." The series is being created by espnW's first-ever film fellow Daniele Anastasion.

The first-ever espnW Film Fellowship, presented by Walmart, was created to bring a woman-centric sports story to life on screen and chronicle her journey on espnW.com. Filmmaker Daniele Anastasion was announced as the film fellow recipient Thursday night at espnW's Impact 25 gala in New York City.

Anastasion was chosen for her documentary about elite runner Sarah Brown, who is training to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic track team while pregnant. Her work, "Run Mama Run," now in production, is a series of four short films that will follow Brown through her pregnancy and postpartum training.

Anastasion is a director and writer with more than a decade of experience creating critically acclaimed documentaries and television series. Her most recent work includes writing and producing the groundbreaking series "Belief" for Oprah Winfrey, a global exploration of spirituality and the human search for meaning. She was the director of "I am Yup'ik," a 30 for 30 short. 

Still in the early stages of shooting "Run Mama Run," we caught up with Anastasion to talk about her first-ever sports series, her new appreciation for athletes and why she was moved to make this film series.

"Run Mama Run" highlights runner and soon-to-be mom, Sarah Brown as she prepares to compete for a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic world championship team. What themes will the film explore?

This is a film about sports, but it's also about being a woman and a mother. [Run Mama Run] explores a lot of themes that all women face, whether you're an athlete or not. It has to do with how much you can continue to go after your dreams professionally and also pursue motherhood. Every woman, at one point, in her life faces a crossroad around the years of her fertility. I think this story is a perfect vehicle to explore the issues around that and the compromises that women have to make. It's a story about motherhood and athleticism.

Jay Premack

Filmmaker Daniele Anastasion

Her husband Darren Brown is also her coach. What are you learning by watching them operate in the roles of athlete and coach?

That sports is an incredibly mental game. It's been really mind opening to see how important having a positive mind frame is to being an elite athlete.They way they talk about their love of running and to see them training has turned me into a massive sports fan.

Really, how so?

I wasn't into sports growing up, but filmmaking has turned me into a convert. I knew very little about the world of competitive track and field before I started filming with Sarah and Darren Brown. Now I'm obsessed with it. That's what a good story will do!

It must be exciting to be working on this project.

Yes, you just get a front-row seat to some really incredible people. That's my favorite thing about being a documentary filmmaker. I'm just really excited to [witness] what Sarah is trying to do and achieve.

Why did you get into filmmaking?

To tell stories and figure something out about the world. Sarah Brown is juggling pregnancy and her career as an athlete. These are themes that I'm drawn to and I see women around me struggle with.

Just out of curiosity, what kind of reactions do you receive when you tell them about this project?

I think what people hear is a runner training for the Olympic trials and she's pregnant. People do a dull face like 'What, how is that even possible?' But when you see it up close it doesn't sound as far fetched.

"Run Mama Run" is a four episode digital series, and it will be available on espnW.com beginning in late April.

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