Life behind the camera

As the Friday night lights flip on and the crowd buzzes with excitement, all eyes fixate on the players on the field. Fast moving plays and rough tackles hold the attention of the student body in the stands. But down on the field, a select few view the game from a different perspective: through a lens.

The Marcus film crew is a group of students that record each and every play at both the practices and games. Armed with cameras and stationed up in the press box and under the goal posts, the filmers record each play from different angles. The editors then match the plays together so that coaches can later review and analyze the players’ mistakes                          “Within 15 minutes of the kids walking off the field, we can go back and show our football players actual video from practice – the pros and cons, the good and bad,” football coach Robert Waters said. “It gives us the ability to go back and find out whether our kids are understanding what we’re trying to coach them.”

Catching every play from different angles means multiple filmers must attend each practice. The seven girls that make up the group switch off filming the practices, guided by a schedule that is made up at the start of each week. Senior Makenzie Bender said that having different filmers in different places can become hectic.

“Filming a practice is crazy,” Bender said.”[But] we have a set schedule every week so we know what we’re gonna be filming each day.”

If a play isn’t recorded or is recorded incorrectly, then the coaches are unable to completely analyze that day’s footage.

“The hardest part of filming is concentrating,” Senior Mallory Nesbitt said. “You have to get every play. If you miss a play, it’s not the end of the world, but then they don’t get to see what they did that play.”

While mistakes don’t happen often, missing a play can have ramifications for the filmer. If the mistake is their fault, then their salary can be docked. The filmers are each paid for their work, ranging from $450 to $550 each month.

All of the filmers are present at practice on Mondays and Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays the filming schedule rotates.

But according to the filmers, the environment of a game is more exciting than practices. The roar of the crowd, the smell of the turf, the adrenaline of the team. They get to hear the coach’s pre-game speech, see the players’ reactions when the other team scores and get an up close view of the team in action.

“On the field it’s a different game,”  Senior Mallory Nesbitt said. “It’s probably the best thing in the world. It’s a different view of what it’s like in those stands. In the stands you just cheer for your team, [but] when you’re on the field you feel the emotion.”

The press box offers a different view of the game as well. The hub of activity is filled with the opposing team’s filmers and officials, not to mention the crew trying to focus on their tasks.

“The atmosphere of the press box during the game is kind of crazy,” Bender said. “We have the other team’s filmers up there and sometimes TV crews up there, so you get that little buzz.”

These football-filled weeks persist until the end of the season. After the boys have hung up their helmets and filed their shoulder pads away until the spring, the filmers mostly complete office work for the coaches during fourth period.

“After football season winds down it’s kind of like having a study hall,” Bender said.

All of these hours spent together, enduring the dry heat on the field and working together in the coaches’ office create a special type of bond between the seven girls. As seniors, most of the group have spent the past four years together.

“I would compare it to a small family,” Bender said. “We argue all the time, like any family would. What else would you expect from seven girls in an eight by eight office every day? But we get past our differences so we pull it off every week.”

These girls have made a lot of memories over the past four years, but one that stands out to Nesbitt is a playoff game that was held at Cowboys Stadium. Before the game, the girls found a moment to walk out from the dim underground tunnel onto the stiff turf of the field.  With the stands uncharacteristically empty, the larger than life stadium seemed to swallow up the girls.

“I think that was the most amazing thing,” Nesbitt said. “No one was in the stands, no one was on the field. It was just me and my best friends.”

The film crew’s small family can be extended to include the boys on the team . Close relationships with the players and the coaches have sprung from the large amount of time that the filmers spend on the field.

“We have a lot of conversations about life,” Waters said. “We have conversations about where they want to go to school. We have conversations about boy problems.I kind of consider myself a father, a brother and a boss.”

When the girls find downtime between filming, their time is spent bonding with the players. The film crew travels with the boys to all of the football games, so friendships have grown between them.

“They’re really good guys, and I couldn’t imagine working for any other group,” Nesbitt said. “Some of them I’m really close friends with, and they’re like my brothers.”

This connection with the team proves strong each game, either win or lose. If the boys pull out a win, the crew celebrates with them. And if they lose, the girls offer the team a shoulder to lean on.

“When they lose you feel for them because you see all the hard work they put into it,” Nesbitt said. “And when they win, you’re just so happy for them.”

The filmers witness many memorable moments and create their own memories while doing it. But despite all of the fun they have, the girls still have a job to do.

“We have fun,” Waters said.  “But at the same time it’s hard work. These girls are reliable. They show up to work, they show up on time. They have things ready to go. We hold them accountable.”

When the last pass is thrown and the jerseys are packed away next spring, it will be time for the seven seniors to retire their filming careers at Marcus. But for some of the girls, their experience on the football field won’t end there. Both Bender and Nesbitt are considering filming for their colleges of choice.

“I’m looking into filming at OSU and I’ve been talking to the coach there,” Nesbitt said. “I know that I love football and I want to do something with sports.”

But until spring, the filmers still have countless practices and games to film. And although those seven girls don’t wear a helmet or a dirt-stained jersey each Friday, they still represent the game.

“It’s amazing,” Nesbitt said. “There’s nothing I would trade in the world for it. Nothing beats Friday night lights.”