‘Wayman Tisdale Story’ Producer on Emmy Win

Veteran film and TV exec Michael Swanson discusses the documentary on the late NBA great and jazz musician.


(The Root) — This year’s daytime Emmy winners and prime-time Emmy nominations were recently announced, but what many don’t know is that there are different types of Emmys awarded, some of which are regional. Take, for instance, The Wayman Tisdale Story, which won a Midwest Emmy Award for best documentary. The film chronicles the life of Wayman Tisdale, a former NBA power forward, jazz musician and God-loving family man who died in 2009 after a long battle with cancer.

The film was produced by Michael Swanson, who has been a television executive and independent producer for nearly 20 years. He is also the founder of Faith Filmworks, a Los Angeles-based independent production company that has released popular romantic features including 2001’s All About You, an indie classic featuring LisaRaye McCoy, Rockmond Dunbar and Debbie Allen, and its 2007 follow-up All About Us. Both films were written and directed by his wife and high school sweetheart, Christine Swanson. Michael Swanson took a breather from work to chat with The Root about Tisdale and his recent Emmy win.

The Root: What was it that drew you to The Wayman Tisdale Story?

Michael Swanson: I got a call one day from the film’s writer-director, Brian Schodorf, and he told me about this project he was doing on Wayman Tisdale’s life. Then he asked if I would be interested in coming aboard and helping. I had friends who personally knew Wayman, and I’d always heard such cool things about him over the years. Wayman has such a rich and layered story that embodies triumph, perseverance, disappointment and overcoming challenges, yet he still had this unwavering faith in God. I knew his story would connect with audiences and offer hope, perspective and encouragement.

TR: Why do you think the movie resonated with audiences and critics alike?

MS: Well, so many people knew Wayman from his stellar NBA career or from his phenomenal college career at Oklahoma, where he was Player of the Year three times in the Big Eight. He was also on the ’84 Olympic team. So basketball fans everywhere knew and loved Wayman.

Then, after retiring from the NBA, he went back to his first love of playing the bass, creating music, writing songs, and then captured this whole new audience on the contemporary jazz circuit.