My Favorites by Joe Favorito

Football and Films

paul-camarataAny football fan knows the amazing work that NFL Films has done over the years. From their behind-the-scenes access to their far-reaching musical scores, the Mt. Laurel New Jersey production arm of the NFL has won countless awards, yet is still constantly looking to innovate. This December they have created a new series called “The Timeline,” which is airing weekly on the NFL Network. The series looks at events that football fans may know a little bit about, and brings in a much deeper, and unique dive. One which will have even more appeal in the Northeast is “Jersey Guys,” which debuts December 8. Narrated by Jon Bon Jovi, the special looks at the history of the New York Giants and how they actually crossed the physical and political boundaries to get to the Meadowlands.

We talked to Paul Camarata, an upstate New York native and Senior Producer at NFL Films, about this project and what’s it’s like to have a career in sports media.

How did you get your start in production?
I grew up wanting to be a sportswriter. From when I was a kid to when I was an English major in college, I wrote in school, for work, and for fun. When I began to look for jobs after college, I was fortunate that NFL Films was hiring new associate producers and was placing a great emphasis on candidates’ writing samples. I got an offer based on the written work I submitted in my application, and then received a new education in production once I started at Films.

What’s the biggest challenge with turning around projects these days?
For me, every documentary project provides the challenge of trying to connect with something that’s already within the audience — their existing feelings for a particular football team, for instance — and also bringing them something that they haven’t seen or heard. The goal is get viewers to relate to the work from their own experiences but also take something new from it.

What project thus far are you most proud of and why?
For several reasons, I’ve never been more proud of a project than I was of a nine-part digital series that I co-created, called NFL FILMS DRAWN. To my knowledge, it’s the first animated series that NFL Films has ever produced. It was generated by re-discovering classics, and never-before-seen material from our film vault and finding a new way to present it, so it provided the creative satisfaction of “making something new from something old.” It was the product of an incredibly talented and dedicated team, made up of members from both within and outside of NFL Films. It received the recognition of an Emmy nomination and most of all, it was making cartoons, so it was plain old fun.  Here’s a gallery of the pieces:

Jersey Guys will be of big interest to fans in this area. What are some of the things Giants fans will be surprised to see?
Because of the amazing history they’ve written by winning 4 Lombardi Trophies since 1986, I think people forget — or if they’re young, they don’t realize — just how jarring and dramatic it was in the early 70s when the fabled New York Football Giants announced they were leaving Yankee Stadium for the New Jersey Meadowlands.  Their move sparked more backstabbing and political infighting than a Game of Thrones episode.  It was a chapter of football history that we’d never explored in depth, and once we did, we were astonished and delighted with how the characters and stories from that chapter came to life.

You come from an Italian family in upstate New York. How did that upbringing influence your career?
In more ways than I can count!  My parents and MANY of my relatives spoke English and Italian. This expanded the spectrum of written and spoken language to which I was exposed from the start.  My sister was a piano player and opera singer, so I grew up hearing more music than I ever could have by simply listening to the radio. My entire family is full of great storytellers who, like the members of any family that are influenced by an immigrant experience, were constantly authoring incredible stories with how they lived their lives.  Some of it was part of an oral history that was passed down to me, some I saw firsthand.  All of it provided an unparalleled foundation for me to become a film maker, though of course, I didn’t realize that’s what was happening at the time.

Who have been the biggest influencers in your career?
 Growing up:  My parents.  At Films:  Bob Ryan, one of the first NFL Films producers, going back to the 1960s.  He created the nickname “America’s Team” for the Dallas Cowboys in 1978 and has been one of my mentors since I started in 2002.


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