A Storybook Beginning – My Internship at NFL Films

Behind the Scenes, TCIPF Staff

By: Kaitlin Morris, Producers Department Intern

The film vault houses over 1,000 miles of footage.

NFL Films is a storybook production company from beginning to end.  The name alone invokes glamorous cinematography, boisterous narrations, and original scores of cinematic music that rival even the greatest of Hollywood films. And if your preconceived notions are anything like mine were, then everything you’ve ever imagined it to be is exactly what you’ll get once you step inside of the hallowed doors of this 200,000 square foot film and television production studio in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

To say this building is ginormous would be the ultimate understatement. The facility has two television studios, a movie theatre, a symphony orchestra room, a music recording studio, color grading, editing, and audio suites, in addition to the offices of people who help each production come to life. The film archives, also known as the ‘Frozen Tundra’ for its Minnesota winter-like temperatures, help preserve over 100 million feet of film footage that dates back to the 1800s. What’s even more impressive are the 127 Emmys and counting that Films has racked up, many from its co-founder, the late but legendary, Steve Sabol. I could go on and on about the building with the hundreds of pictures of art and photography lining every wall and hall, but that would be doing this place a disservice.

Fall Interns from the Producers Department, Development Department, and Social Media Department (Pictured from Left to Right First Row: Emily Hybl, Second Row: Katie Yeatts and Payton Conway, Third Row: Sean O’Keefe and Kaitlin Morris, Back Row: Jon Banner and Tommy Farrell)

The truth is, NFL Films is like a second family.  Although founders Ed Sabol and his son Steve are no longer with us, the original DNA that built this company continues to permeate every soundbite, edit, and camera technique.  You can apply to hundreds of film, television, and sports broadcasting internships all over the country, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one as enamoring as the one that operates tri-annually here.  At NFL Films, there’s something for everyone, and everyone is important.  It doesn’t matter what your interests are, because one position or department cannot survive or thrive without the success of the other.

At NFL Films everyone is vital to the company, even the interns. The late Billy Driber was the company’s first intern, back in the late 1970s.  In the 21st century, the program transformed to accept the most experienced students from all over the world.  Dan Haessler, Internship Co-Coordinator, reads thousands of applications that pour in annually, before whittling them down to 10-20 for each internship season. Haessler has seen interns hail from as far as Brazil and Italy, and from community colleges and Ivy League institutions. The program has come a long way over the past forty years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the all-hands-on-deck approach that will pad even the sparsest of resumes. As Todd Schmidt, former Internship Coordinator relays, the NFL has a history of utilizing young talent, honing their ideas, and training them to be the next generation of storytellers. Once you get both feet in the door, the possibilities are endless. Interns have had the opportunity to travel, work NFL games, assist on film shoots, write and edit for shows and social media, and even work at the Super Bowl.

I applied to more than fifty internships in Los Angeles, with hopes of getting my foot in the door like thousands of other aspiring Television Writers. But because of my previous internship experience with the Baltimore Ravens, I knew that NFL Films would give me the best opportunity to strengthen my portfolio as a filmmaker and my credibility as a screenwriter. At Films, I have been fortunate enough to write standups for NFL Blitz, a Video-On-Demand show. It has been one of my most rewarding experiences to date. Writing clever, well-researched bits that introduce game highlights has given me a chance to see my writing come to life on three separate occasions: during the writing process, during the filming process, and on television. As an intern in Hollywood, writing for television is extremely rare, if not impossible. But at NFL Films in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, new creative voices are welcomed and celebrated.

“NFL Matchup” intern Tommy Farrell was recently hired by 21st Century FOX as an Executive News Producer for Chasing News with Bill Spadea airing on FOX5NY, FOX29Philly, and MY9NJ.

It’s been just over three months for the current intern class at NFL Films, and we have learned a tremendous amount since we first started. Not only have we learned technical skills that will equip us as industry professionals, but we have also learned intangible lessons that will undoubtedly make us wiser as we continue to pursue a career in film. Even with all of the skills we have amassed collectively, nothing beats the access we have to millions of hours of footage or receiving training from more than sixty Emmy-Award winning producers.  The benefits of opportunites like those within this internship are immeasurable. I don’t know what the future holds for myself or any of the other interns, but I do find comfort in knowing that NFL Films has a history of hiring interns back for seasonal and full-time employment. Former interns have gone on to work for other prestigious companies including ESPN, FOX Sports, CBS, Showtime, HBO, NBC Sports, and Warner Brothers to name a few. No matter where your career may take you, just know that this is only the beginning.



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