LOS ANGELES — Natalie Portman never imagined she would be the owner of a women’s soccer team. And when she tried, she was told by many people her team would be a failure. But now that she has done it, she claims it is her most extraordinary experience.
HBO is releasing a three-part docuseries on May 16 called “Angel City,” answering that question. The series details Angel City’s inaugural season, exploring the joys and disappointments of the club’s launch. Cinematographer Arlene Nelson directed it, while Portman was one of the executive producers.
When Nelson was growing up, she ran track, becoming the New York State Running Long Jump Champion for consecutive years. And by reaching this feat, she was invited to compete in the Junior Olympics. There, she learned the importance of sports outside the in-competition action: its unique connection with culture, politics, gender identity, and more.
Now, Nelson aims to explore these connections through some of her work. In “Angel City,” she highlights the work of Angel City’s co-founders, gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, venture capitalist Kara Nortman, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and Portman.
The ownership group those four started became the largest female ownership group in professional sports by adding 14 former United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) players and many others.
They built Angel City from the ground up, beating the odds along the way. When they were told they would not fill their stadium, they sold out their home opener at BMO Stadium. Through their founding values, the co-founders raised the standard. They provided protection to athletes while expanding the fanbase of women’s soccer, becoming one of the most prominent women’s soccer clubs.
Nelson looks for “protagonists who are unapologetic and passionate” in her films, and the Angel City co-founders are just that; they broke barriers as they grew women’s soccer.
“Julie [Uhrman] had a mantra, which was lead with vision and mission-aligned… And that mantra really kept them on a track of feeling like there’s a bigger picture here,” Nelson said. “While we have a challenging task at hand, there’s a bigger picture here. And the bigger picture is we need all boats to rise. And it’s that conviction that is so attractive, and I think just inspiring to everyone around them.”
Nelson and her team had “unprecedented” access to the team. They filmed in the locker room, meetings, and more.
Covering a team, season, and more in three hours is no easy feat, though. The creators of the series condensed 90 hours of footage and were forced to leave some stories out. Nelson admitted she wished she could have included more individual players’ stories but kept the focus on the collective group.
Nonetheless, “Angel City” highlights the uniqueness of Angel City’s impact on women’s soccer, giving a glimpse at what lies ahead for the sport: prosperity. And it started with the work of Angel City’s “unapologetic and passionate” co-founders.
Part One of “Angel City,” “Brick by Brick,” premiers on May 16 at 6 p.m. pacific standard time (PST), showing how Angel City’s co-founders came together from different industries to change women’s soccer.
Part Two and Part Three will release at the same time on May 17 and May 18, respectively.