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Documenting the life of ‘The Normal One’

The Anfield Wrap produces podcasts, live shows, and articles about Liverpool Football Club. In recent months, it has released a five-part documentary about the club’s manager, Jurgen Klopp. Jenny Priestley meets director/producer Fuad Hasan to find out the score

From the moment he introduced himself as “The Normal One” at a press conference in October 2015, Liverpool FC fans have taken Jurgen Norbert Klopp to their hearts. In the intervening seven years, he’s given them plenty to cheer about. Under Klopp the team has won every possible trophy, including its first League title in 30 years. It’s often said that Liverpool and Klopp have a special relationship. His politics match that of the city, as does his dry wit.

Described as “essential listening for Liverpool fans”, The Anfield Wrap has been covering Liverpool’s highs and lows since 2011. The podcast has grown to 200,000 weekly downloads in over 200 countries, and their live events have sold out venues in the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, and the USA.

In December 2022, The Anfield Wrap released the first in a five-part documentary series looking at the life of Klopp. Each of the five episodes focuses on a different part of the manager’s life: The Challenge, The Blueprint, The Journey, The Summit and The Legacy. Originally released via The Anfield Wrap’s app, they are now available to watch for free on YouTube.

The challenge

The decision to make the documentary was taken around a year ago when director Fuad Hasan was discussing ideas for content with The Anfield Wrap team. “We were thinking about the FIFA World Cup and how that would be a problem for us as our focus is on Liverpool,” he explains. “I was looking back at other Jurgen Klopp projects and they never really went in-depth in terms of him as a person and his time in Germany. I’d read the two biographies on him as well, and I realised the really interesting stories were around his formative years and time in Germany, especially in Mainz, and his upbringing.”

After securing funding from German beer company Erdinger, the decision was taken to produce a documentary series, which would allow Hasan to focus on Klopp’s early life and talk to some of the people that he worked with on his journey to Anfield. “The idea was always to talk to people that you might not have heard of, but they are known in the football world and would help attract people’s attention to watch it. I wrote a really brief paragraph just sort of summarising the idea, which was basically, if Jurgen Klopp had to make a documentary about himself, how would he do it?”

The journey

The Anfield Wrap has made films before, but not quite on this scale. To add to the pressure, it is Hasan’s debut behind the camera for the company (although he did make films at university). He worked on the project alongside three colleagues, dealing with research, contacting interviews and planning the shoots and trips to Germany. In total, the team filmed over 40 interviews with everyone from the man who gave Klopp his first job as a manager, at Bundesliga side FSV Mainz 05 to Liverpool FC legend Steven Gerrard and James Milner. Hasan and co travelled to Germany four times to shoot interviews, and also relied on Liverpool fans in America to help out with interviews there.

All of the interviews shot by The Anfield Wrap team were filmed on Sony A7S III cameras. Hasan says the team wanted to be as unobtrusive when filming as possible. “We were trying to infiltrate places that were quite closed off,” he adds. “People were not always open to talking about their experiences with Klopp because he is a very private man. And we never wanted to go too far into that, we just wanted to keep a low profile with everything and and travel light as well.”

The series was edited by Jordan Singleton on an iMac using Adobe Premiere Pro, with graphics and title design created using After Effects. Colour grading was done via Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve.

Travelling to Germany meant that the documentary needed subtitles for some of the interviewees. Hasan worked with Liverpool-based translation company Double Deutsch who helped with translations. However, working in both English and German proved tricky during the editing process. “We’d never worked on anything in a foreign language,” he explains, “so the editing process took a bit of time. Our work experience team helped us put everything into Premiere Pro in subtitle form.”

The film also features archive images of Klopp from his time both playing and managing in Germany. Hasan worked with the team at Imago to gain access to the pictures he needed. “They were so, so brilliant,” he says, “initially the plan was for us to use 70 pictures and they allowed us to boost that to 80. They were just so accommodating. They understood that we are a fan organisation and we didn’t have the resources of a big production company.” 

Video footage was also provided by Mainz and regional TV station SWR. “They really gave it to us at a fraction of the price that they should have,” explains Hasan. “They liked the idea that we were fans, and I think that’s something that’s huge over there, they like helping football fans out. They even digitised some of the footage to send to us, which was really kind because they were so busy. Borussia Dortmund [Klopp’s second club as manager] helped us as well.”

The Summit

Liverpool FC have also helped Hasan and the team with the project, although he admits as Klopp’s story is still on-going, they didn’t want to focus on the Reds too much. The plan was always to release the first three parts and then take a break before the final two premiered. That led to some Liverpool legends getting involved. “The idea was to get a couple more big names to relaunch it. Steven Gerrard had watched the first episodes and was keen to get involved. He was brilliant. Just setting it up with him was so nice. Same with James Milner, we managed to get him for the final two parts. His agent had seen it, so that was very easy to set up. And they were more than happy to be a part of it.”

Since its release on YouTube, part one has had over 200,000 views. As each new episode has been released the audience has continued to grow. The plan is to release the whole thing for free once the 2022/23 season concludes, which Hasan hopes will help reach a bigger audience as fans look to find content while the team is on its summer break. 

The Legacy

Jürgen is Hasan’s debut as a feature-length director/producer and he admits it’s been a huge learning curve. The biggest challenge, he says, was the logistics involved in making the documentary. “We didn’t have a whole production team. It was really just me and one other member of the team that was working on it in the pre-production phase,” he explains.

Fuad Hasan at work on Jürgen

“There was so much to do, planning shoots, organising trips, working with people in different countries was really new to me. The local help we received, from especially Mainz, was incredible. They sorted everything for us in terms of interviews, and really gave us a clearer idea of where we should be going, and who we should be speaking to. 

“Once we got to Germany, things would go wrong, a location would suddenly fall through and I’d have to come up with backup plans very last minute. That is something we are used to because we are quite a run and gun company. But that happening in another country was definitely something new. Even planning from a story point of view, trying to make something into a series was new for all of us. Structuring each episode was a new thing for everyone, and especially me.”

In terms of what he’s most proud of, Hasan says he’s delighted that the team managed to get the project done. “A year ago this felt very far away,” he admits. “There were definitely times in the summer when we doing the filming where it felt like things were just completely falling through. We had bad luck with Covid and interviews dropping out. So I think I’m most proud of the fact that we got 40 interviews. We managed to talk to people who were very comfortable with us.

“There’s a segment on Wolfgang Frank, one of the coaches from when Klopp was at Mainz. He’s passed away now sadly, but his son was so open to talking to us and had that trust that we weren’t going to twist anything because his Dad is a little bit of a divisive character over there, but a huge influence on Klopp. Just having that trust was really sort of warming.”

Now the series is out for people to watch, Hasan is taking something of a well-earned break, although he has got some thoughts about his next project. “We do plan on doing more, the relationship with Erdinger has been brilliant,” he adds. “It’s definitely been really good for us because it’s shown not just to ourselves, but potential partners that we can produce content on this sort of scale. We are slowly raising our production values. I think the plan is to definitely do more of the documentary and longer form content.”

Asked what that might involve, Hasan says he has many ideas. “When we get to the summer we’ll start narrowing down what’s next. We have been thinking about one of Mo Salah.”