NFL Films has just released its annual movie chronicling the Super Bowl champions: “Philadelphia Eagles: Super Bowl LII Champions.”
The film happens to be the swan song for its senior producer. David Plaut spent his 42 year-career creating such films at Mt. Laurel, New Jersey-based NFL Films. He retired just after completing this film.
“It was better late than never,” said Plaut. “What better way to finish out a career than to be able to have your last film be a chronicle of the Eagles Super Bowl championship season?”
Speaking with NewsWorks Tonight host Dave Heller, Plaut detailed the hectic production schedule for the company’s biggest annual project.
“You have to start preparing about four weeks out, when the playoffs are underway,” he said. “A crew of producers is assigned one to the NFC, one to the AFC. And you begin collating the material on the teams that you think are likely to advance.”
When it’s down to just two teams in each conference, Plaut said, producers start arranging the elements they’ve gathered into a narrative. By the day of the conference championships, they’ve put together rough narratives for four different teams.
“And then, the next day, after we know who’s going to the Super Bowl in each conference, you start making a film about it,” he said. “There are some of us daring enough to say, ‘Well, I think that this team is going to win,’ and they start cutting even before that game is played. Sometimes you get burned, sometimes you get lucky.”
By the Friday before the Super Bowl, everything in the film except for the Super Bowl itself is finished.
Other than using it to relive the team’s victory, viewers of the film become privy to what certain key players, coaches, and even referees said during the game.
“We have access to the players and coaches that the networks can’t have because you can’t have state secrets being revealed over the air while the games are being played,” said Plaut. “There’s also the issue of cursing … although Jason Kelce certainly put that to rest with his speech at the Art Museum.”
During the Super Bowl, NFL Films miked up coach Doug Pederson, quarterback Nick Foles, and safety Malcolm Jenkins.
“Sometimes you guess wrong and you get a guy who doesn’t play very well, doesn’t have much of an impact on the game,” said Plaut. “In this case, we hit the trifecta. All three were very instrumental in the Eagles win.”
Plaut started his career in 1976. “The same week Legionnaires’ disease hit the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel,” he said. “So I hope that that was not a harbinger of my career.”
When Plaut started turning football games into compelling stories nearly half a century ago, sports had little competition. Today, it occupies an ever-shrinking slice of viewer share.
“People have more choices,” he said. “And more ways to access that than they ever did.”
Plaut has written four books on baseball, his true sports passion, and said he might write another now that he’s retired from NFL Films.
“We’ll have to see what’s out there,” he said. “Right now, I’m just enjoying the idea of not going to work for the first time since I was 12 years old. It’s kind of a refreshing concept.”
Listen to the audio above to hear the full conversation.