McKinley Stauffer Haas, a senior majoring in theatre and media arts and minoring in communications, came to BYU on an acting scholarship but later realized her passion was rooted in telling stories, not just acting.
This realization came during her LDS mission in Armenia. “I love the people of Armenia and realized they didn’t have the opportunity or audience to tell their story,” Haas said. “I want to be one of those people who goes to places to find people who don’t have the means to get their message out to the world. Being the liaison between them and the rest of the world is what inspired me to pursue media arts.”
Once she heard about the BYU film program, Haas changed her emphasis and decided to minor in communications in order to brush up her writing skills while also learning how to tell stories visually. She had never done anything with videography but Haas increased her experience through classes as well as her job as a student producer at BYUtv’s national shows: “BYU Sports Nation” and “Countdown to Kickoff”.
A family friend from her home ward in Connecticut approached Haas after hearing she was in the film program. As an employee of the NFL, he encouraged Haas to apply to the NFL Films internship since she focused on telling sports documentary stories.
“When I found out I had been accepted, I remember feeling so happy and peaceful. I thoroughly enjoy the sports documentary world, but I wouldn’t say it’s my passion. My experience at BYUtv fit what they wanted at NFL Films. Whether or not I want to stay in sports forever is not the question. I want to build the best resume that I can and a company like NFL Films, with 126 Emmys, is a great way to do that.”
Haas’ internship took place from May to August at the NFL Films headquarters in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She was assigned to the documentary series “A Football Life”. She mainly worked on two episodes: one about John Madden, a former coach for the Oakland Raiders and John Randle, a former player for the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.
“On a day-to-day basis, I would meet with different producers or show heads who were working on ‘A Football Life’ and help them with whatever they needed,” said Haas. “Whether they needed me to find a certain clip, watch interviews and take notes, or go on camera shoots as a production assistant.”
Haas said some of her experiences were glamorous, like meeting rapper and actor Ice Cube, while other days were spent staring at a computer screen watching hours of football games trying to find one play that could potentially make the episode.
During her three months, Haas said the two biggest lessons concerned creative freedom and networking. “You don’t always have the creative freedom you want. The NFL gives you a lot of leeway but there are other times when they tug you back. It was a very important for me to learn how to work for a big name and how to represent them in the way they wanted.
“I also learned about the deeper meaning of networking. For me, this meant becoming friends with my co-workers. I really felt that they were my co-workers, they didn’t treat me like an intern, they always welcomed me and wanted me to learn, grow and get a job. My work and how I performed gave them reasons to help me find jobs.”
One of the biggest connections Haas made began with a small gesture. Haas was reading a past pitch written by one of the producers of ‘A Football Life’. “It was one of the most well written pitches I’ve ever read in my life and I thought ‘I need to meet the man who wrote this’. I decided to go into his office and meet him,” said Haas. “I had heard he was intimidating but very friendly once you got to know him, though doing so was difficult. Despite hearing that, I decided I would go in, introduce myself and compliment him on what I had read.”
Haas went into his office and thanked and complimented him on his pitch. She told him she would love to just sit and talk with him sometime. She also offered to help him in anyway that he needed. Haas said he was very nice and accepted.
“I later found out he was one of the top executive producers at NFL Films. I honestly had no idea. I was just trying to be genuinely nice to someone whose work I had admired. It turned out I had really impressed him. From then on he used me as his personal research assistant and intern for the rest of the summer. I got to work on things that no one else got to work on as an intern because he trusted me. It seems like a small thing, but it turned out to be something bigger than I ever expected.”
Haas’ experience at NFL Films opened up a lot of professional opportunities after graduation. Two weeks before the end of her internship, she interviewed with NBC for the 2018 Winter Olympics and was hired on the spot as a production associate.
“It was cool to see that internships can turn into full time jobs. You should look at your internship as a gateway to the professional world. There’s such a bad stigma about jobs in the film world. I kindly want to say that I think that’s absolutely wrong. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices about what you want to do to get to where you ultimately want to go,” Haas said.
Haas aspires to make full-length documentaries that will be presented at Sundance film festival. “That’s my dream. However, I know I don’t have the skill set, the money or any means to do that right out of college. I just have to work my way up. I believe students need to be willing to see that sometimes they might not get the exact internship they want, but it can be used as ladder steps to get where they want to be. NFL Films taught me things I love in the industry and some things I don’t want to do. It’s taught me what I have to do to get where I want to be.”
Check out these videos created by Haas and published on the NFL Films official Instagram page: