ESSENCE Network: ‘Little Ballers’ Director On Making Dollars from Your Ideas

October 22, 2020

Crystal McCrary McGuire Profile


Crystal McCrary got her start as a lawyer before turning to television and film with shows on Centric and writing three books. While spending time with her three children and husband, inspiration for a new project took over when she noticed the passion in her young son and his basketball team. She broke out her camera and began capturing their journey, which turned into a feature-length documentary on youth basketball with interviews from NBA all-stars, including Tyson Chandler, Steve Nash and Carmelo Anthony (now airing on Nick Sports). See how she turns her ideas into big business.

Name: Crystal McCrary

Title: President and CEO CM Productions

Location: New York City

Hometown: Detroit

The gig: About four years ago my son Cole began playing basketball on a serious level. I was a team mom with him and his teammates, who came from different walks of life but had become brothers on and off the court. I was inspired and fascinated by their passion for the game at just 11 years old. The filmmaker in me decided to turn the camera on and explore what basketball meant to them and their families and Little Ballers was born. I made the film independently with the help of my executive producers Amar’e Stoudemire and Lupe Fiasco. The film resonated with a number of networks. Ultimately the Nickelodeon/Nick Sports family made the perfect home for this story.

The journey: I knew storytelling was my passion in third grade when I could write wildly imaginative stories before I knew how to really read. I would write dozens of pages and draw pictures to accompany my stories. I was an entertainment lawyer in New York before following my own creative passion.

Surviving the entertainment industry: The content-creation business is incredibly competitive. You have to be passionately relentless, disciplined, thick-skinned and believe in your creative vision above all others. Be prepared to show that you can complete your vision. A lot of people have great ideas but to set yourself apart from the pack, you have to bring the idea to life.

 Her biggest lesson learned: To not take things personally in this business. When I realized a network rejecting a series idea, not getting a phone call or e-mail back, or film funding falling through from investors, was not a personal affront to me or my creativity, I was able to move forward in my career with less drama, that I had been creating in my head. Once I took on the attitude of “this must not be the right home for my vision,” my journey became clearer.

Her best advice: My husband told me, “You have to always allow a person their dignity.” I try to live by that in all of my business and professional relationships. 

Her downtime: I manage to run through Central Park, which relaxes me. I’ve run two New York marathons with my childhood girlfriend, Veronica Webb. That was a real victory!

Her tech confession: I am a little ashamed to say that I am technologically challenged. I still have a Blackberry and my iPhone. I still have an AOL account. My kids make fun of me all the time about this.

Her power style accessory: My wedding band. I never leave home without it.

Her work/life tip: Make sure your home is happy first by any means necessary and then set goals and deadlines career wise. Do not stop until you have fulfilled the goal.

Her theme song: “Working Day and Night” by Michael Jackson