Shattered Glass Director Andrea Buccilla
Shattered Glass Director Andrea Buccilla. Image via Andrea Buccilla's website

Q&A: Discussing ‘Shattered Glass: A WNBPA Story’ With Director Andrea Buccilla

As the WNBA continues to grow, there will be more opportunities for league and player stories to be told. One example is the documentary ‘Shattered Glass: A WNBPA Story,’ which was released on Tubi on Jan. 31. The documentary gives a rare, all-access look into the lives of WNBA superstars and MVPs Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones of the New York Liberty and Nneka Ogwumike of the Seattle Storm. 

 The Local W’s Ella Morrissey spoke with Andrea Buccilla, the director of ‘Shattered Glass: A WNBPA Story,’ to learn more about the inspiration behind the documentary and how the film was made. Buccilla also provided some insight into her directorial decisions and some fun off-camera moments. 

Ella Morrissey: There are many women’s sports stories currently being told or waiting to be told, so what made you want to tell a story about the WNBA and some of its players in particular? 

Andrea Buccilla: It’s a great question because I hadn’t been following the W in recent years but as a kid, I followed it a lot. I was nine when the W started, I remembered all those names that obviously I wrote about in an opening monologue that Holly Rowe read for us. But when I thought about what story to tell now, obviously you want to tell a beautiful story and a purposeful story, but you also want to make sure it’s timely because that’s going to bring more eyeballs to the women that you’re talking about. The W’s surge of late is really timely and I knew that would hopefully help us get the word out that we had made the film. So it was honestly as simple as that. Choosing the players was a way to think more about that but choosing the W was sort of like duh.

Then obviously my executive producer Jessica McCourt who works at MALKA had a relationship with Terri Carmichael Jackson at the WNBPA so that’s how we had that connection. Terri trusting us to tell the story was the other big piece of that, maybe even more so than picking the WNBA, it was that human connection with Terri. If someone is going to tee you up like that and say you can get the access, you pick the players, I’ll make sure that you can tell the story that you want to, that’s such a gift that isn’t always going to happen in the documentary filmmaking world.

EM: What did the casting look like? Why did you choose to focus on Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Nneka Ogwumike in the film? 

AB: Yeah, it’s funny because when we began development and chose the players, they were all on three different teams. And then we were like, man, are we going to get grief for the fact that we picked two Liberty players, but we didn’t base on teams or markets necessarily. We wanted to pick archetypes that represented the whole W. You can’t feature more than three players without having to pay all 144. 

Obviously that blows up a budget really quickly. So okay, let’s think about the archetypes within the league that we think are important for an audience whether they know about the W or not to learn about, so you have to pick a mother. That’s such an important part of a woman’s story and a female athlete story. So Stewie [Stewart] was our mother archetype. She’s obviously a superstar which helps and Puma’s involvement was a big part of that as well. They funded the film and Stewie being a Puma athlete, there were so many synergies there.

I also wanted to have a hustler and it’s changing but there are so many professional women in the W who are incredibly gifted as athletes and who have been successful on the court and who people don’t know enough about. JJ [Jonquel Jones] had a tweet that kind of went viral a couple of years ago, and she said seats are disappearing from the table as we speak as a Black Lesbian woman and as a Bahamian, so she’s that hustler. She’s an MVP. She’s been to the Finals and yet brand deals don’t really exist for her. She’s been hustling her whole life and moved to the states as a kid. So if you want a hustler archetype, she’s not the only one but she was a great one for us to have access to.

Then you can’t do a WNBPA story without Nneka. In terms of archetypes, she was our advocate because outside of just the W, she’s an advocate for so many things. She’s an advocate for women, for Nigerian Americans, for athletes. She’s obviously such a brilliant woman that we knew that all of her sound bites would drive the narrative forward.

EM: When Jonquel and Breanna joined the Liberty, did you have to change the angle of the film from what you first planned?

AB: It made it trickier because we have so many storylines. That was one of the biggest challenges in directing the film and then with documentaries you print a transcript and you organize a paper edit that becomes visual. One of the storylines was supposed to be the 2023 season and we still did a bit of that, but it became tricky when you had two players on one team and one on another. Obviously, the Liberty’s run was historic and the Sparks didn’t make the playoffs. So, when it came down to the final stages of editing and we were like what stories need to rise to the top and which ones can we actually kind of lose, the season-long story was one. We thought the Aces-Liberty numbers and showing those clips from those Finals and the heartbreaking end just for sports fans was important but making it a key story arc throughout ended up dissolving pretty quickly. 

EM Can you share any fun behind-the-scenes moments you shared with any of the players? 

AB: It was very intentional to cover their lives and not just their basketball careers. Lindsay Gibbs, the other journalist we had has a quote that I love, and she said “you can’t expect fans to start from scratch, you have to know something about these humans.” So from the jump, it was always a human story. We were actually going to shoot it during the off-season and just couldn’t get funding. And I thought just as a filmmaker and as a fan of women’s sports that it was important to show who they are as businesswomen. Yes, they’re superstars, but they are mothers, they are sisters, they are wives, they’re all of these things and I hope that came through. Hopefully the film got some long overdue respect from people who didn’t know who these women were and also at the same time for people who are already fans of the W to know a little bit more about these women they were already fans of. 

Everything with JJ [Jonquel Jones] is a blast. She is just like a self-described island girl, she’s so welcoming, she’s so laid back.

Our whole time in Texas with Nneka was cool because she lives in L.A., it’s all very fancy and sophisticated and all these things but you go back home to Texas, and you see she’s also a Texas girl.

During All-Star Weekend, I got to see Stewie and Marta and Nneka dressed to the nines along with everybody else. And that’s when it really clicked for me, like these women are superstars, they live celebrity lifestyles. Nneka and I had deep conversations about this and I think it’s important for people to understand that, because the narrative for so long has been the WNBA is failing and brands don’t want to put good money after something they perceive to be failing. If we can show that these women actually do have brand investment, that they do live these aspirational lifestyles, that they are superstars, that actually brings more people who are interested in investing. So when I saw that reality in Vegas [for the All-Star Game], sold out Michelob Ultra Arena, I was like, man this is part of the story for sure.

EM: What’s next in this story? The WNBPA has decisions to make in 2024 with the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Do you envision making more documentaries and telling more stories about the WNBA? 

AB: Terri Carmichael Jackson has said this is just part one. We need to talk about what she envisions part two being and of course the CBA opt-out, whether they do or whether they don’t, would be a natural next step. I don’t know if it would be a feature-length film.

I would love to cover some lesser-known players. I think people need to understand that getting drafted in the first round of the WNBA draft does not guarantee you a spot on a roster. As a sports fan, that is sad and compelling to me. So if you think of a ‘Hard Knocks’ style of show, you get these women coming out of college, they get drafted and then you start following their journey, that would be compelling to me. Also some retired player stories, I think that would be a bit darker film to tell because there are no pensions, some of these women don’t know where their next paychecks are coming from and they founded this league. So I think giving them a spotlight and hearing their human stories would be really cool as well.