Our History is Our Mission, and More

It has been called, “the ‘Citizen Kane’ of sports films,” a little piece of cinema that combines sweeping images of stadium pageantry, stirring music, sync-sound footage, and dramatic script lines like, “It starts with a whistle, and ends with a gun,” narrated by the great John Facenda.

It premiered five years after Hall of Famer Ed Sabol’s Blair Motion Picture Company produced their first NFL Championship Game film, and 2 years after his shop was re-christened NFL Films. It was the first full length presentation of what would later be defined as ‘NFL Films-style.’ It is our silver screen foundation, and it’s titled, “They Call it Pro Football.”

Ed Sabol

Every filmmaking motif for which our work is recognized can be traced to that watershed production, which is required viewing for every Films intern class the day it arrives. “We made the film in 1967,” NFL Films President Steve Sabol tells the newbies. “Before then no one was using montages or slow motion. They used old fashioned marching music and the narrators were usually sportscasters. With this film, we changed all that.”

Nearly 45 years later we still draw inspiration from this classic.  As we continue to not only document the game but preserve and perpetuate the memories of all those who have helped make it what it is in 2011, “They Call it Pro Football” remains a phrase that connects us from the Sabols’ vision upon founding NFL Films, to now, when our mission has grown to encompass more than NFL history.  Each day we strive to find, share and capture America’s football stories in fresh and interesting ways.  This blog is our latest vehicle to help you experience pro football, the richly complex “game for the ear and eye.”

The conclusion of “They Call it Pro Football” (1967)

NFL Films Growth

  • In 1962, Ed Sabol, founder of Blair Motion Pictures, bid $3,000 for the film rights to the NFL Championship Game.
  • In 2001, NFL Films  opened its 200,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art film and television production facility.
  • Employees in 1964: 6
  • Employees in 2011: 250
  • Games filmed – 1965 Season: 102
  • Games filmed – 2007 Season: 267
  • Total Games Filmed Since 1962: 9,312
  • 16mm film shot per season: 1000 miles, the distance from Mt. Laurel, NJ to Orlando, FL.
  • Annual Programming: 600 hours of new original football programming plus hundreds of hours of non-football related programming
  • Over 500 Players & Coaches have worn an NFL Films microphone during a game
  • Super Bowl XLII Crew: 132 employees: including 24 cinematography & audio crews
  • NFL Films has filmed almost every major event in sports: the World Series, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals, the USTA U.S. Open, the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders’ Cup, Wimbledon, PGA Championship, the Davis Cup and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

NFL Films Archives – The World’s Largest Sports Film Library contains:

  • Over 100 Million feet of football action stored in over 50,000 cans
  • 1894 Princeton vs. Rutgers – shot by Thomas Edison
  • 1925 Pottsville Maroons
  • 1925 sync sound of the Bears’ Red Grange
  • 1934 Earliest color coverage (All-Stars/Giants game)
  • 1937 Green Bay Packers – the first team highlight film
  • 1939 The NFL’s first League Season Review highlight film
  • 1972 The Immaculate Reception: Steelers Franco Harris- AFC Playoff Game vs. Oakland
  • Every Championship Game since 1933, highlights of every game since 1949
  • AFL game footage from 1960-1969

NFL Films: The Most Honored Filmmaker in Sports

  • 121 Emmys for Cinematography, Writing, Editing, Sound, Sports Series & Specials (40+ Emmys awarded to NFL FILMS President Steve Sabol including the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003).  The first Emmy was won in 1979 for Road To The Super Bowl.
  • Founder Ed Sabol is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011.
  • Since 1995, NFL Films Presents  has won more Emmy awards than any other sports series on television.
  • Since 1974, Road To The Super Bowl  is the longest running and most-honored sports special (35 years, 28 Emmys).
  • NFL Films has featured a “who’s who” of Hollywood stars as narrators, including Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston, Mel Blanc, Orson Wells, Vincent Price, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Alec Baldwin, Bruce Willis, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris and Donald Sutherland.
  • Feature film credits include: Invincible, Jerry Maguire, Rudy, The Waterboy, Everybody’s All-American, Unnecessary Roughness, When Harry Met Sally, Black Sunday, Semi-Tough, Paper Lion, and Brian’s Song.
  • Documentaries: In 2006, NFL Films launched the America’s Game  series, featuring 40, one-hour documentaries profiling each Super Bowl-winning team.  In 2007, the series was awarded an Emmy for  “Outstanding Sports Edited Series.”

NFL Films was the first to:

  • hire a woman executive in the NFL (Inez Aimee)
  • wire coaches & players for sound
  • use ground-level slow motion
  • use 600mm lenses in sports cinematography
  • edit sports films to pop music
  • use reverse angles replays
  • produce “Follies” films
  • score original music for sports films
  • use graphics to analyze game tactics & strategy
  • get unrestricted access to NFL Training Camp, most recently featured in the Emmy Award-winning reality/documentary series Hard Knocks
  • use montage editing in sports
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