Jen Spell ‘22 has spent the past year as a Production Assistant with NFL Films. Spell, who double-majored in Sport Management and Kinesiology, realized that the NFL Films position stood out as she searched for a job.
“Come graduation time, I did a blanket search to cast the net as wide as possible. I looked for production jobs in areas where I wanted to live in and with companies I wanted to work for,” Spell said. “I was looking on the NFL’s job board specifically and saw the production assistant role at NFL Films. Because I was new to the field and was looking for somewhere that would teach me the foundation while also giving me opportunities to do work, I sent an application in.”
However, Spell did not initially plan on pursuing a career in the sports industry when she first stepped onto Rice’s campus as a freshman. According to Spell, it wasn’t until she met with Professor in the Practice Tom Stallings that she ventured into the sports industry.
“I give so much credit to Professor Stallings,” Spell said. “He kind of recruited me into the Sport Management major. Looking back now, I could not be more grateful for that because it changed the course of my life. He immediately helped me find a job in production and continued to support me every step of the way.”
Once Stallings introduced her to the major and industry, Spell completed internships with Gow Media, Watt Pictures, and Remsol Media.
“I learned a lot at Remsol Media about being a good writer, both a journalistic writer and a creative writer, and had the opportunity to do both,” Spell said. “So, when I came to NFL Films, I noticed right out of the gate that while I was making up the gap of learning all of the editing skills, I was a very strong writer, and I got to really lean on that skill as I continued to develop my other ones.”
As a production assistant at NFL Films, every day looks slightly different for Spell. However, Spell says she starts her week by working on the Emmy-winning Inside the NFL show.
“There’s a show on Mondays that I’m usually working on called Inside the NFL where every producer and production assistant comes in at 6am every Monday, and we look at all the footage that was shot from all the games over the weekend,” Spell said. “I go through all the footage for those games and cut them in a more cinematic way for a highlight reel of that game that tells the story of it. You use radio pieces, video pieces, script lines, and music, and you basically have six hours to turn around a cut. Then, that show will air on Tuesday.”
Once the work is completed for the NFL shows earlier in the week, Spell then works on more long-term projects. One of the long-term projects she worked on was the documentary football TV series Hard Knocks.
“Over the summer, I was working on Hard Knocks training camp with the Detroit Lions,” Spell said. “They logged and taped around 700 hours of footage a week. When that video becomes available, we have to log all of that so the editors can start working on it the next day.”
Another long-term project that Spell can now discuss is the new docuseries on Netflix called Quarterback, in which viewers get a behind-the-scenes look at NFL quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, and Marcus Mariota. Spell held various responsibilities in completing the docuseries.
“My primary roles were logging footage of everything that came in from shoots, every wire that came in from a game, all their extra training or work that they were putting in,” Spell said. “I was in charge of doing the outside research for Kirk Cousins, so that was looking for any radio shows that talk about him, any new shows that talk about him, and helping with that footage acquisition and bringing it in-house. I also edited content for the show that I’m hoping will make the show, but we’ll see when it airs.”
By working on these projects, Spell has access to countless sound and video clips captured on and off the NFL sidelines that the public never sees or hears. According to Spell, one of her favorite parts of the job is getting an exclusive look behind the scenes in the NFL.
“I love to go down to the sidelines every week where we log our wires and sound cameras,” Spell said. “So, there’s a lot that the general public never sees that I get to see and things that I know that haven’t even been released to the press yet, so that’s always very exciting.”
As Spell reflects upon the whirlwind of a ride that the NFL season has been during her first year at NFL Films, she is grateful to have been a part of such a great team.
“I always feel like I am being guided by people who are the best at what they do, and there is truly a storytelling aspect here and just a care and attention to detail that is unmatched,” Spell said. “I really love the opportunity to work with people who care so much about their craft and are also so good at it. It’s really been a privilege working with great people.”
With the NFL season now over, Spell has gathered experience seeing how sports television shows are run and executed. While her future remains to be seen, she envisions herself becoming the director of her own television show.
“I hope that one day that I will be working in this office as a director or producer of Hard Knocks and other shows,” Spell said. “Another great part of my experience here has been the ability to pitch things. I’ve written a couple of pitches up over my time at NFL Films, and I would love to be able to see those come to fruition.”
Reed Myers, a senior from Paradise Valley, Arizona, is double-majoring in Sport Management and Psychology.