Behind the Scenes: NFL Films Presents Visits NASA

Behind the Scenes, Emily Leitner, Intern Files, NFL Films Presents, Sneak Peek

By Emma Taylor and Demi Ratchford

What does it take to create an NFL Films Presents piece? Emily Leitner shared her experience with us.

While studying for her undergrad at University at Pennsylvania she fell in love with her film classes, and stumbled upon an internship at NFL Films. “It was a passion that I wasn’t aware of until I started doing it” says Leitner, on her film studies path to being an Associate Producer.

Now on her fourth year at NFL Films she found herself pitching, producing, directing, and editing her first piece for NFL Films Presents. In October, Leitner and her crew went to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas to discover the unlikely connection of football and NASA. Leitner directed an interview led by Katie Nolan between Darryl Gaines, the Assistant to Center Director at JSC, and Leland Melvin and Scott Kelly, retired astronauts. The interview focused on their previous football careers and how they transitioned into working with NASA.

Katie Nolan talks with Scott Kelly, Darryl Gaines, and Leland Melvin

Katie Nolan talks with Scott Kelly, Darryl Gaines, and Leland Melvin

Leitner and Director of Photography Dave Malek worked with a local Houston crew, consisting of 3 cameras, 2 production audio mixers, 2 assistant cameras, 1 production assistant and 1 grip truck. Despite it being the first piece she was fully responsible for, Leitner was not intimidated. While on the shoot, Leitner thought to herself “Shoot like an editor”. Prior to arriving in Houston, she had an idea of where the story was going and trusted the crew to capture the shots she needed. When reflecting on the day of the shoot, she said it was a “whirlwind” of people doing their jobs well.

The director did not have to worry about missing any angles or cutaways because she was surrounded by a talented crew. After the interview, Nolan tested out the Partial Gravity Simulator to add a fresh interactive experience to the Presents piece. However, in hindsight Leitner admits, “I wish I had more shots of setting up Katie in the harness, but that’s a part of the learning experience.”

Katie Nolan tries out the Partial Gravity Simulator

Katie Nolan tries out the Partial Gravity Simulator

Another obstacle Leitner did not anticipate was becoming attached to the stories she pitched. Each character had a unique and compelling tie between football and outer space. While editing her piece she realized “You get what you want and more, but you’re not always able to use it all.” One of the hardest things she had to do while editing was cut her piece down from 20 minutes to her allotted time of 10 minutes, a common issue all filmmakers encounter.

NFL Films Associate Producer Emily Leitner inside a mock shuttle

NFL Films Associate Producer Emily Leitner inside a replica shuttle

Overall, Leitner feels extremely positive about her experience-knowing what she wanted to get from the shoot and how to tell the story made for an out of this world production of NFL Films Presents. Her piece is living proof that listening to your gut and pursuing what you’re passionate about is worth it.

Be sure to watch NFL Presents premiere on Tuesday, November, 29th at 6pm EST and Saturday December 10th at 10:30am EST.


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