- Titletown High -How The Creator Of 'Titletown High' Found Valdosta & The Controversy Surrounding It
Every good reality TV show needs a controversial main character who isn't afraid to let it all out, and for Titletown High creator Jason Sciavicco, that muse has been Coach Rush Propst.
Sciavicco first met Propst when Sciavicco was just 24, after selling his first show, Two-A-Days, to MTV. That series followed the lives of teens at Hoover High School, another small and passionate football town in Alabama. Sciavicco tells The Dipp in a phone interview, "It became MTV's number one series at the time. It just took off, and [Propst] became a household name. I don't think you could probably name another high school football coach besides Rush Propst." The creator adds, "He just became kind of larger than life. [We] kept in touch ever since."
Read on for our Q&A with Sciavicco about the filming process, what he really makes of the Valdosta High School football scandal, and his plans for a Season 2.
You worked with Propst before on MTV's Two-A-Days. How did you meet him?
When we did the series for MTV before, they had flown us to 10 different schools to go pick what school would be the best. Hoover High was like the fourth or fifth school that I went to, and it was crazy. I showed up, and they had a police escort at the airport, took me to a lunch, walked in with a bunch of their boosters, athletic director, and Coach Propst. When I met him, within the first three minutes, I was like, "This is our guy."
Is that how Valdosta got on your radar?
Through doing that show, Rush and I had a relationship, and that show always held a special place for me cause it catapulted my career. I'm not ashamed to say I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you if it wasn't for that show. At some point when the time was right, I wanted the opportunity to be able to do it again...
So, when Valdosta hired Rush, a friend of mine sent me a text saying, "Hey, did you see Rush just got hired by Valdosta?" A light bulb went off. I'm like, this is the time. This is it. You take a guy like Rush Propst, and you bring them to Valdosta, the winningest high school football program in the world. Third winning team on any level, only behind the University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame. Then it's Valdosta High School.
How did the town react to you filming?
I think they were ecstatic. The community welcomed us with open arms, and we were able to film a lot of things throughout town at local businesses. When you go to a town like Valdosta, one that normally doesn't get the spotlight, and the biggest thing they're known for is for the high school football team... when you give them the opportunity to showcase who they are in their town, not only domestically in the United States, but across the world, I think they saw it as a tremendous opportunity. If you were to talk to them now, they'd be proud of the series.
What do you make of the controversy surrounding Propst? It was sort of a subplot in the series, why was that?
The truth is, it happened well after the season but it affected the team so much, we felt like we had to work it back into our storyline. When we went back, I remember there being some instances with Rush where I'm like, "Hey, wait a minute, this seems a little odd." I took a mental note, and then when all this happened, I was like, "This guy has been claiming this." We have footage to show that this was something that didn't just come up out of the blue.
So we went back and looked through all of our footage, and we were able to show the audience this is how it transpired. ... [Rush] knows he did wrong with some things, and he still allowed cameras to capture those moments. When have you ever seen a coach able to go into his house, sit around the supper table, and tell his family [he did something wrong], which devastated them.
Did Coach have any input about what you could and could not show?
Zero. He didn't have any say in the editing. He didn't even see the series until the public saw the series, when it was premiered... I'll tell you this, to go a step further, he never once told us to shut a camera off. We were in closed door meetings. We were in meetings with him and parents, him and other coaches, him and players.
He didn't say, "Hey, give us a moment" or nothing like that. With Rush, he is unashamed about how he runs his program. He's proud about it, and he doesn't think there's anything to hide. He was always willing to let us record anything.
Is there anything that didn’t make it into the series that you wish you had time or space for?
There's a lot more. We shot over 2,000 hours of footage and that got whittled down to, what is it, four hours? Do the math there, and I think it's like less than 1% of what we shot. That's the way I produce a lot of these series. That's the only way to really do it and tell a fair, balanced story. You have to shoot everything and then you figure out what to use.
We could have gone much deeper into the controversy. Obviously, we had a lot more footage, but we felt like for our audience what we gave them was good. You know, as a producer, you always want to leave them wanting more.
Speaking of more, are there any plans for a Season 2 yet?
Obviously we've been having internal discussions about a Season 2, just like any series when it airs. Netflix has been a great partner with us. ... When the time is right, and we get enough of that data, obviously we'll be able to make a better decision then.
Hypothetically, would it stay in Valdosta, or do you think it would be a different school or something?
I think there's so much interest there, but I think the type of series we do, you could franchise it. You could do Titletown High in Texas. You could do Titletown High in Philly. You can do Titletown High in California.
That's the great thing about the series, that we want to set up such a good foundation. That's why finding the right school to kick it off was so important.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.