What was supposed to be some short website videos turned into a two-hour special about the creation of FC Cincinnati and how it captured the hearts of Greater Cincinnati.
"When our team runs with something, it snowballs quickly. And what was going to be five web/social media videos quickly became an hour-long documentary. Then 90 minutes and finally two hours," says Tom Gelehrter, the club's play-by-play announcer and executive producer of Nonstop Flight: The Untold Story of FC Cincinnati.
WCPO-TV airs the special Wednesday, Sept. 9 (8-10 p.m., Channel 9).
"The Nonstop Flight name comes from the idea that it has been a wild, nonstop flight since the day the club was formed in 2015 and that at many times, it felt like we were building the plane while flying it," says Gelehrter, president and founder of 4th Floor Creative, which produced the special. That's his "team" who ran with the suggestion to do a FC Cincinnati documentary.
"4th Floor Creative has been with the club since day zero. We were at the kitchen table with Jeff Berding planning the USL launch in 2015; at the first-ever practice as a club; and every step along the way. So we always joked in the office that one day we would make an amazing documentary about the club, showcasing all of the footage we accumulated year after year, much of which has never been seen," he says.
In those early days, before the soccer club had offices, team officials met in coffee shops. Nonstop Flight shows the uphill fight to establish a soccer team in a city dominated by the Reds, Bengals, Bearcats and Musketeers.
"When we started this, it's not as if Cincinnati was the soccer capital of the USA," Jeff Berding says in the film. Berding left the Bengals after 19 years in 2015 to start the United Soccer League team, which switched to Major League Soccer for the 2019 season. Nonstop Flight covers the team's history through its MLS home opener on March 17, 2019.
They shot 40 hours of interviews with Berding, Carl H. Lindner III, former head coach Alan Koch, Gary DeJesus, Kevin McCloskey, Dan McNally, Jeff Smith, Cody Parsons, Darin Russell, Kenney Walker, Corben Bone, Jimmy McLaughlin, Omar Cummings, Max Ellerbe, Abbey Witzgall, Yoann Damet, Austin Berry, Lindsay Berding, Enquirer reporter Pat Brennan and Gelehrter. There is no narrator; the story is told through the 20 participants.
All the interviews were done in June, so the film "was edited at a wicked pace for the past two months. I am immensely proud of the job our team did," Gelehrter says.
One more thing: No, FC Cincinnati didn't buy two hours of television time from WCPO-TV to air the special, as the club did for some of its USL games.
"We instead looked for a partner in the market to show the documentary on one of the local network stations. We're fortunate to have Jeff Brogan (Channel 9 general manager) and his team believe in our vision and run with it," Gelehrter says.