Press Release: 15 July 2022

HARDER THAN YOU THINK and INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE announce RISING PHOENIX rights extension through to LA 2028 – rights cover Paris 2024, Milan-Cortina 2026 and LA in 2028

RISING PHOENIX: TOKYO (w/t) teaser released and discussions begin on global distribution

Team behind RISING PHOENIX launch global search for disabled director to helm feature film planned for Paris 2024

HARDER THAN YOU THINK, the company behind the critically acclaimed and Emmy award winning documentary
Rising Phoenix and the Equal Too: Podcast series, have extended their exclusive partnership with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), giving the creative and campaigning company the film documentary and TV series rights to tell the Paralympic story through the Paris 2024, Milan 2026 and LA 2028 Paralympics.  

The rights awarded to HARDER THAN YOU THINK through to 2028 cover:

  • RISING PHOENIX film, documentary and TV series
  • Globally exclusive to AVOD, SVOD and TVOD
  • Unique filming access, including field of play
  • Access to the IPC archives (historical and modern day)

The Paralympics are now the third largest sporting event in the world, having seen its cumulative audience more than double in the last decade. It is expected that by LA2028, the games will have a cumulative global audience of close to 5bn. (Source: International Paralympic Committee)

The extension of this partnership underlines the desire of the International Paralympic Committee to tell their story in new creative ways to an even larger global audience at a time when interest in sports and social issues documentary and storytelling is booming.

As part of the partnership, the team also announced today a major new three part television feature documentary series documenting the journeys of Paralympians from the start of the pandemic in early 2020 to the delayed Tokyo Paralympics which took place last summer. The teaser for the three part series can be seen publicly for the first time here.

This series, with a working title of Rising Phoenix: Tokyo, has been directed by Mat Whitecross, co-directed by Bim Ajadi, produced by John Battsek of Ventureland and Exec Produced by Jack Thorne. It follows 12 athletes from 11 countries and provides a unique insight into one of the most extraordinary sporting events in history. Around 25% of those who worked on the production identify as disabled. HARDER THAN YOU THINK are now in talks with potential global distributors. 

To follow Tokyo, the RISING PHOENIX team have begun work on a documentary feature film to be released to coincide with the start of the Paris 2024 Paralympics. The company has begun a global search for a disabled director to lead the team for the project and has set a production target of 50% of the production team working on the project to identify as disabled. 

Greg Nugent, Founder and President of HARDER THAN YOU THINK,  said:

“It is an honour to be asked to tell the story of the Paralympics. We are extremely proud of what we have achieved to date with RISING PHOENIX. The rights extension now gives us an extraordinary opportunity to think about the story all the way to LA, which we all hope will be a transformative Games for not just the sport but also global attitudes to disability.”

Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee, shares Greg’s enthusiasm for the future and what the Rising Phoenix project can help to achieve for the Paralympic movement:

“I said at the time of the release of the Rising Phoenix movie that it would be a game changer for the Paralympic movement and that has certainly proved to be the case. Rising Phoenix is growing the Paralympics, bringing in new audiences and in doing so changing minds and attitudes. This is a “Drive to survive” for the world’s most transformational event.” 

Mat Whitecross, the Director of the Rising Phoenix: Tokyo series, was privileged to work on the Tokyo series and can’t wait to show the world the story that he has been documenting:

“I was first approached to make a show about the Paralympics just before the first lockdown in 2020. Our intention was to follow a dozen athletes from around the world on their road to the 2020 Tokyo Games.. We soon realised it would be impossible for us or Paralympians to travel – and when the Games themselves were delayed by a year, it seemed the project was dead in the water. We had made contact with para athletes worldwide from as far afield as Iraq, Norway, Canada, Namibia – all with unique and remarkable stories.

“Over the course of the next year and a half, we followed these formidable athletes through all the highs and lows and all the way to Tokyo. It is one of the great privileges of my filmmaking career to have spent time with these incredible people – and to be able to tell their story to a wider audience.” 

Jack Thorne, TV writer and champion for the representation of people with disabilities as well as an Executive Producer on the Rising Phoenix: Tokyo project (w/t), said:

“The ambition of this project is what attracted me to it. Real change is needed in the television and film industry to become more representative of people with disabilities, both on screen and off screen. HARDER THAN YOU THINK and the Rising Phoenix Project understand this need for change as can be seen by the subjects they are championing and the opportunities they are giving to disabled talent. I am delighted to be working with them on the Tokyo project.”

Tatyana McFadden, 20 x US Paralympic medallist and Board Member of HARDER THAN YOU THINK, is also incredibly excited about the potential of the decade ahead and what this will mean for the wider movement:

“As a Producer of the Emmy award winning Rising Phoenix movie and Board member of Harder Than You Think, I am very excited about the future of the Paralympic Movement.  Through film, we can raise awareness and change attitudes.  As we count down to my home games in LA in 2028, we are excited about the potential for transformational changes and I am excited to be working with HTYT as we invest in documenting this journey.” 

Sophie Morgan, a Television Presenter for the Paralympics on Channel 4, an interviewee for the 3 part Tokyo Series and the Host of the Equal Too Podcast series, said:

“I was honoured to have the opportunity to work with Harder Than You Think on the Tokyo project and the Equal Too Podcast series where 62% of the production team were disabled. We learnt a lot about the progress needed to achieve disabled equality and it was truly enlightening. It is fantastic to see that the company is continuing its work to change the way the world thinks about disability through telling the Paralympic story through to 2028. I am looking forward to seeing what comes next.” 


Notes to Editors 

  • HARDER THAN YOU THINK was created by Greg Nugent in 2018 with a mission to creatively connect the big issues to citizens globally. It is an IP led company positioning itself in the intersection of art, education, & global progress.
  • The Chair of HARDER THAN YOU THINK is Lord Tony Hall CBE, the former Director General of the BBC.
  • RISING PHOENIX, the feature length film, was released globally in the summer of 2020 on Netflix. It was widely acclaimed, won two sports Emmys and was called by the Daily Telegraph a “wonderful, beautifully produced, fiercely inspiring film to tide us over till the next Paralympics”.
  • HARDER THAN YOU THINK co-produced a 6 part podcast series in the summer of 2021 with Procter & Gamble Studios. The series was designed to shine a light on the biggest challenges faced by the disabled community and start a conversation about what is needed to drive equality.
  • HARDER THAN YOU THINK opened up its second mission on climate change entitled Earth To Cop in 2021. HARDER THAN YOU THINK produced and directed the opening ceremony of COP26 in Glasgow and produced the Official Opening Ceremony film that was played to the world’s leaders. A third mission will also be announced publicly in the coming months.
  • HARDER THAN YOU THINK will launch its third mission, a new mental health initiative, in the Summer of 2022.
  • For media enquiries, contact: Calum Campbell at