Written by Guest Writer: Kara Burnham
It was the first Thanksgiving dinner that was not spent with my family. Instead, I was packed into a small room with 30 co-workers eating Thanksgiving buffet style. After filling up on turkey and stuffing, I had to head back outside. The wind was whipping, there was a mix of rain and snow falling and I couldn’t have been happier. I was on the field for the Bengals-Jets game as an intern for NFL Films.
I discovered and applied for the fall internship at NFL Films in June, everything was done online. I found out later that out of 400 applications only 90 even received interviews, and of that 90 only 30 would get internships. I was one of the lucky 30.
On my first day we had a full tour of the massive three story NFL Films building. I remember thinking there was no way I would be able to find my way around the building without a tour guide. After a few weeks of exploring with fellow interns in our free time, and using the many photos hung on the walls as street signs (turn left at Jerry Rice for Project Management), I was able to figure it out.
Most days, I worked under NFL Network producer Adam Berger on features scheduled to air on NFL Network’s Game Day Morning. My supervisor would confirm a player or coach interview by Monday or Tuesday, fly out and conduct the interview Wednesday or Thursday, then have 1-2 days to produce a final product ready for air. It was a great learning experience because I was involved in a project from start to finish, and often under a tight deadline.
My responsibilities included reading a feature’s script and finding appropriate clips from NFL Films’ extensive tape library. For example, one week we did a feature on Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid and star quarterback Michael Vick. I was given a list of clips to find including shots of Vick as a Falcon, Reid and former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb together, McNabb and Vick together, etc. We’d prepare as best we could, but often after an interview was completed the script would change and we’d need to search for additional clips.
It was a very comfortable working environment where my input and suggestions were appreciated and I really felt like I was contributing to all of the projects I worked on. It was an amazing feeling to watch Game Day Morning every Sunday with my parents, and say, “I picked that clip to be included in that piece,” or “I found that radio call!”. It was very rewarding, but the most amazing part of my internship was yet to come.
I was asked to work on the field for the Bengals-Jets game on Thanksgiving Day. In striped orange and black attire, I spotted Chad Ochocinco, one of the first Bengals on the field warming up. I scanned for his side-kick Terrell Owens, but he wasn’t out of the locker room yet. As I headed down to the other end of the field, Mark Sanchez was warming up his arm with one of the coaches. LaDainian Tomlinson was in the end-zone stretching. I passed by the NFL Network booth where I spotted Deion Sanders, Steve Mariucci, Marshall Faulk, and sideline reporter Alex Flanagan. These are all people I look up to professionally, yet I wasn’t nervous, instead an excited feeling came over me. For many girls, I suppose, this could be compared to being surrounded by your favorite movie stars. For me, these are my movie stars and celebrities. These are the people I aspire to be like one day and I was there on the same field, working the same game with them. It was a “pinch me” moment.
There isn’t a time in my life where I can remember being surrounded by so much star power, but I wasn’t there as a fan. I had a job to do. I continued making my way around the field multiple times asking the NFL Films cameramen if they needed more hand warmers, extra batteries, pens, or extra tapes. Every time I passed a security guard I thought they were going to kick me off the field, but I politely flashed my field credentials, offered a smile and was on my way. I was on the Jets sideline as each starter was introduced through a smoky tunnel, music playing, fans screaming. You can feel the stadium vibrating under your feet it’s so loud. It‘s a wonder any of the players actually hear anything over the course of a game.
In December I was lucky enough to help out at another game, but this was not just any game. I was asked to work the Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game in Baltimore, for first place in the AFC North. Talk about a rivalry!
For this game my task was different, I was assigned to help out a specific cameraman. He joked with me before the game saying, “I hope you’re ready to run today”, I found out quickly he wasn’t joking. Aside from my 10 minute dinner, consisting of a pretzel and 2 cookies in the press area at halftime, I didn’t stop moving once. When a big play happened at the opposite end of the field my cameraman would jump up and start running. I grabbed the backpack with his equipment and followed behind. It was exhausting yet exhilarating. I loved it. It was such an amazing learning experience.
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The six months of my internship passed by in a flash. Not to be cliché, but time really does fly when you’re having fun. It was great to learn how much goes into the work done at NFL Films. A month could be spent working on a piece that would be edited down to 2 minutes. To the employees of NFL Films, it’s not all about football. It’s more about the art of making movies. It is easy to see why the company has earned over 100 Emmys for their work. Everyone working at NFL Films has a real passion for what they are doing.
During my NFL Films internship I learned things that can’t be taught in a classroom, and gained invaluable experiences. I was able to become close friends with unique people from all over the country, that without this internship, I would not have met. For anyone interested in the production of sports documentaries, sports television, or even movie making in general, I would highly suggest applying for an internship with NFL Films…and don’t forget your running shoes!
Kara Burnham is a recent graduate of Montclair State University currently on the lookout for a sports production job. Eventually, Kara wants to find her way back to the sidelines as a reporter for a major sports network.
Kara comes from an athletic family where sports has always been a big part of life. Her father played for the Philadelphia Eagles, both of her brothers played Division 1 Football and her sister played College Basketball. Kara was no slouch either, playing both Basketball and Volleyball at Montclair State.