Jason Hehir, director of the Emmy-winning Netflix documentary, “The Last Dance,” spoke to Penn State students about the documentary’s development and gave students personal advice Wednesday.
“The Last Dance” details the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty, with a focus on Michael Jordan.
Hehir described the documentary as a “highway to the ’97-’98 season” and said that Jordan was not involved in selecting the documentary’s content.
Hehir researched by reading every book possible. This process allowed him to get stories and ideas from his subjects, along with a laugh from Jordan when recounting a description of the Bulls as a “traveling-cocaine circus.”
Hehir said that he changed the original idea of an eight-part documentary on just the 1997-1998 season into a 10-part documentary about the entire Bulls’ dynasty.
The documentary also evolved because of the unique subjects Hehir interviewed.
“We were blessed with incredible characters,” Hehir said.
Each interview was incredibly different because of the celebrities’ personalities.
“Have you ever babysat a 4-year-old?” Hehir said about Dennis Rodman, who wore wrap-around sunglasses and pajama bottoms to his interview.
Hehir said he utilized media to entertain those he interviewed, just like his mom would amuse him in church with toys and Cheerios.
Hehir later spoke about his role models and gave students some advice for moving forward.
Hehir said his inspirations include Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino, as well asthe docuseries “The Defiant Ones.”
Humility is a virtue Hehir stressed.
Hehir said humility is “knowing that you don’t know anything and accepting that you don’t know anything.”
“You’re going in, and you’re just eager to learn and just be a sponge,” Hehir said.
Hehir also said you need to take chances and embrace different possibilities.
“Say yes to every opportunity,” Hehir said. “Always say yes, because you never know.”
Hehir said it’s important to embrace the fear of failure and work hard.
“The universe is not kind to people who are not always scraping,” Hehir said.
John Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society, hosted the webinar.
The event was part of Penn State’s Journalism Speakers Forum, which hosts discussions with journalists, photographers and other media professionals for students to interact with.
Affleck asked Hehir the age-old question towards the end of the program: “Who is the Greatest of All Time – Lebron James or Michael Jordan?”
Hehir said that although James is the complete package, “Michael Jordan is, was, and will always be the greatest.”