An N.F.L. Films cameraman on the sidelines last month
There’s only so much that happens on any given Sunday of the football season, but there is a seemingly insatiable appetite for it on television. So the assignment for N.F.L. Films is “to take the same material and make it entertaining in different ways for different shows, for different styles of fans,” said Ross Ketover, who along with Pat Kelleher is a senior coordinating producer and oversees the 65 producers who slice and dice games for the division. They said they created a thousand hours of new programming last year.
While television networks focus on the live events each week, their division films the games - yes, much is still on actual 16-millimeter film - for an array of future purposes. They are simultaneously documenting the history of the sport, promoting the National Football League and providing an important revenue source.
“I’ve always felt that a camera is an instrument of realism - and a creator of myth,” said Steve Sabol, whose father, Ed, founded what became N.F.L. Films in 1962. All together, the decades of films have given football a mythology that no other American sport has matched.
Some of N.F.L. Films’ footage is woven into films, commercials, and future installments of “Football Follies,” the blooper reels that Johnny Carson helped make famous on “The Tonight Show.” But much of it - like that of Mr. Tebow on Dec. 11 - is turned around much more quickly so it can be shown on TV before next week’s games. The unit has special couriers who rush raw film from stadiums to its building in Mount Laurel, N.J., near Philadelphia, where it is processed. In essence, the shows keep fans entertained on the days when games are not played.