‘Kelce’ Filmmakers Inform a True Philadelphia Story in Amazon’s High Doc

Don Argott and Sheena Joyce of 9.14 Footage focus on their careers as Philadelphia filmmakers, the place the Kelce household holds in Eagles followers’ hearts, and the evolving story of the most-watched Amazon documentary of all time.

By Matt Skoufalos | October 13, 2023

Don Argott (third from left, again) and Sheena Joyce (fourth from left, entrance) on the KELCE premiere in Philadelphia. Credit score: Amazon Studios.

Again in 2002, filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena Joyce of 9.14 Footage turned heads with ROCK SCHOOL, their award-winning documentary concerning the Paul Inexperienced College of Rock in Philadelphia.

They adopted that with the acclaimed The Artwork of the Steal, which particulars the battle for management of the Barnes Basis, and quite a lot of tasks ranging in topics from creator Kurt Vonnegut, auto maker John DeLorean, and Batman creator Invoice Finger, to rock icon Ronnie James Dio and Motown producer Phil Spector.

Their newest collaboration, KELCE, simply turned the most-watched documentary within the historical past of Amazon Studios, in keeping with Deadline. It chronicles the story of Philadelphia Eagles middle Jason Kelce and his household as he contemplates retirement en path to an unprecedented showdown towards his brother, Travis, and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs in Tremendous Bowl LVII.

We spoke with Argott and Joyce about how the venture got here to life, their connections to its subject material and the town of Philadelphia, and the way the Kelce household manages to be relatable even because it’s thrust into the (inter)nationwide highlight. This interview has been edited and condensed from that dialog.

NJ PEN: How did you get hooked up to this venture? How far again did the planning begin?

DON ARGOTT: [Philadelphia Film Society Executive Director] Andy Greenblatt reached out and mentioned, “Jason Kelce’s seeking to do a documentary about retirement, and he’s on the lookout for filmmakers.” This was two seasons in the past, throughout their 9-and-8 season.

We weren’t full-blown making the film at this level. We have been testing the waters, filming, and the thought was, we have been going to observe his transition out of soccer and into the subsequent chapter of his life. Jason being the clever, considerate man that he’s, mentioned, “I’m staring down the barrel of this. It’s going to get actual; I’d higher put together myself.”

Clearly, after that [2021] season, he determined to maintain taking part in.

NJ PEN: So when he didn’t retire…

ARGOTT: Okay, let’s hold capturing. What was nice about it was how natural the method was.

We have been simply attending to know one another on this timeframe. After the previous season that we had filmed, we already had developed a shorthand. Jason was very snug with us.

NJ PEN: Kylie Kelce, Jason’s spouse, options prominently within the movie. He’s within the media on a regular basis. How did she deal with being on digital camera?

ARGOTT: Kylie was very hesitant to be concerned in any respect. However we made the case that the household’s so essential to [the story].

SHEENA JOYCE: We had been filming for a 12 months at that time, so we had constructed some belief. We have been each mothers; we have been each Irish dancers once we have been rising up. We simply had rather a lot in frequent, and hit it off. And we hung out with Donna and Ed and Travis earlier than that magical season.

I additionally suppose Don and me being a pair was useful for Jason and Kylie to narrate to; how arduous it’s to be a working guardian with jobs that require numerous journey, or high-stress conditions. They’re each working dad and mom, making an attempt to be as concerned as they will of their children’ lives whereas making an attempt to make a residing.

The pressures you’re feeling to have cut up obligations undoubtedly linked us. We might have these off-camera conversations about being mothers and being dads, and the way arduous it’s to stability.

The KELCE documentary exhibits how Jason and Kylie Kelce stability the pressures of stardom and household. Credit score: Amazon Studios.

NJ PEN: You began off making a movie a couple of skilled athlete considering retirement. Then the household you’re following round turns into a central popular culture focus because the 2022 season performs out. Second after second, that entire factor received greater and larger as you have been following it. 

JOYCE: The unimaginable season that the Eagles had; getting him and his brother into the playoffs. Beginning the New Heights podcast; then the podcast hits primary on Apple. Getting pregnant, having Kylie pregnant on the Tremendous Bowl, child Bennett — we received all of it.

ARGOTT: And the unique premise continues to be there!

NJ PEN: For positive, it’s nonetheless there. You’re watching somebody on the highest degree of his occupation confront the conclusion that he’s mortgaging his future — his well being, his thoughts, his physique, time along with his children — for the possibility to nonetheless do the factor he’s nice at. And he’s plain-spoken concerning the feelings round that selection.

ARGOTT: One of many causes the movie has actually resonated with individuals is how trustworthy and actual it’s. Jason struggling to make that call is likely one of the prime 5 issues I’ve ever filmed.

As filmmakers that’s what you try for: being there in the correct second, capturing every little thing because it’s occurring; trusting somebody who let his guard fully down and is susceptible in that second.

It’s straightforward now to say, “All these items occurred, so it should have been straightforward.” We have been second to second on this movie. What occurs in the event that they get knocked out within the first spherical? What occurs in the event that they lose the NFC championship? Will we nonetheless have a movie? Will we nonetheless have the identical sort of movie?

When you get to that time of, “We’re into the playoffs now,” as a fan, there’s solely two video games to win to get to the Tremendous Bowl. However these video games are every little thing. We’ve got the added strain of, “If we lose this, we’re again to Sq. One,” or have to determine the place the story goes subsequent.

At that second in Chickie’s and Pete’s, [where the Kelce family watches the Chiefs win the AFC Championship]we might not less than exhale a bit bit as a result of the Eagles have been within the Tremendous Bowl. We had that storyline.

NJ PEN: You see in that second all of the love Jason feels for Travis attending to the Tremendous Bowl; how he’s welling up with satisfaction. After which instantly, he throws that change, and adjustments out of his Chiefs sweatshirt as a result of his brother simply turned his opponent. I believe the factor individuals join with a lot concerning the Kelces is how unafraid they’re to embrace these complicated feelings with out shedding sight of their love for each other.

JOYCE: Within the very first sit-down interview we did with Jason, once we thought we have been doing the retirement story, we requested what we thought was a reasonably straightforward, icebreaker, get-to-know-you query.

“What was that Tremendous Bowl parade like? Speak to me about what you have been feeling earlier than that speech.”

Jason received emotional instantly, and began speaking concerning the followers. Individuals who introduced ashes of their family members to the parade; that being a Birds fan was part of that relationship, they usually needed to have that particular person there.

It was an especially considerate and emotional reply from out of the gate. We knew that Jason was as considerate and genuine as you may get, and could be open in telling his story to us.

NJ PEN: Even in case you’re not a sports activities fan, “Hungry canines run quicker!” is an all-time Philadelphia second. The individuals of this metropolis don’t simply respect that Jason Kelce is charismatic; they respect that he will get them, too.

ARGOTT: One of many issues that labored so properly for this venture is that Jason’s story is much like our story. Our entire careers, individuals have requested us why don’t we transfer to New York, or L.A.

Selecting to remain in Philadelphia, the place there isn’t a movie business, saying, “We’re going to remain right here and make it,” despite everybody telling us we will’t do it right here… I nonetheless really feel like I’ve one thing to show. That fireside continues to be burning inside us, similar to it’s with Jason. We perceive what being an underdog is. We perceive “put your head down, and work actually arduous,” as a result of that’s what we’ve needed to do.

Our first movie was Rock College, concerning the Paul Inexperienced Rock Academy Now we’re right here doing the Kelce movie. For this to be our anniversary movie, the primary 20 years of our profession has culminated in our love letter to Philadelphia; to the Eagles.

JOYCE: We’re additionally Birds followers, so we all know what the crew means; we all know what this speech means to the town. These are issues that resonate past soccer.

Travis Kelce (left) holds his new niece, Bennett, who was born shortly after the 2023 Tremendous Bowl. Credit score: Amazon Studios.

NJ PEN: There’s numerous weight on this movie given to the unique premise of understanding life past soccer. The dialog Jason has with retired Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin — “How are you aware when to stroll away?” encapsulates numerous issues: his profession longevity, eager to be there for his household, concussion dangers, taking part in via ache. It’s received depth, however it’s additionally very direct,

ARGOTT: We shot that firepit scene the day after the Damar Hamlin scenario. I felt like that was an excellent alternative. That was a ground-shaking second within the NFL, the place everybody was in uncharted territory, and now we have entry to a participant who’s considering retirement. That was an ideal storyline to make use of as a jumping-off level to debate taking part in within the NFL and all of the unintended penalties.

And all of it was unprompted. It was an trustworthy dialog. [Jason]  is aware of what he’s stepping into. In an setting the place everybody’s received an opinion on everyone else’s life, it’s his determination. He is aware of the dangers.

He is aware of the impression that taking part in soccer has had on his bodily physique; the surgical procedures, the truth that he can’t function at a excessive degree with out painkillers. He’s 35 years previous and his physique’s like that of a 60-year-old man, to a level. All of that’s weighing on him.

You understand that, on the finish of the day, whether or not it’s soccer or one thing in your private life and profession, these choices are how you reside your life. One of the impactful issues he says in that speech is it’s on him to exit day-after-day and show that he’s price it; that he goes out and earns it. That’s what drives him.

JOYCE: Jason’s work ethic and his authenticity come via on the display screen and in every little thing he does. You see that they’re a household that you just need to root for. And also you perceive Jason’s battle with the choice to retire: “Who am I if not this one factor?”

NJ PEN: A whole lot of the questions within the movie middle on Jason’s and Kylie’s family, however we additionally hear from Donna, Ed, and Travis Kelce, in addition to Kylie’s dad, Ed McDevitt. Inform us a bit concerning the household dynamics you’ve captured within the movie.

JOYCE: There’s a scene the place Jason and Travis are gardening. Travis missed his flight, and ended up coming to stick with his household. Jason had his plans for the day, and Travis was compelled to backyard with him and their dad. We simply caught them giving one another a tough time.

That was earlier than they began the podcast collectively, however that’s a glimpse into why the podcast is so profitable. Their dynamic is so humorous and so actual. They’d have carried out that whether or not there was a podcast or not.

ARGOTT: Similar with Jason and Kylie. We have been in a position to present it the way it actually was with out us forcing the narrative with intelligent cuts to make it humorous.

JOYCE: I didn’t perceive that gamers had to purchase their very own Tremendous Bowl tickets — and the way a lot that price — till Kylie needed to pull the set off on these tickets. When Ellie comes round pushing the child within the buying cart and mentioned, ‘Child desires to go too,’ it’s hysterical.

Jason Kelce recording the New Heights Podcast. Credit score: Amazon Studios.

NJ PEN: After which there’s the interactions between Kylie and her dad, that are equally humorous.

You get the sense that they’ve a transparent understanding of one another.

JOYCE: As Eagles followers, all of us have members of the family we will’t watch the video games with.

Her dad has to observe the video games by himself as a result of his household mentioned they gained’t watch video games with him. After which in her lodge room on the Tremendous Bowl, you see how arduous it’s to get these children going, and he or she’s taking 5 minutes to get herself collectively, and he’s simply gazing her till she kicks him out.

NJ PEN: You’re within the room for these unscripted interactions.

ARGOTT: These are the moments you simply don’t ever get to see. To be within the lodge room after Jason Kelce misplaced the Tremendous Bowl; that scene encapsulates what the movie’s all about.

Successful is nice, however there’s just one winner. That doesn’t imply you’re a loser since you got here second on the most important stage on the planet. It’s celebrating life, and what it means to reside a life and put issues in perspective.

Within the grand scheme of issues, after all the town is hanging onto the hopes of getting a Tremendous Bowl win, however while you don’t get the result you need, that doesn’t imply your life’s over.

In that second, you understand what actually issues is your loved ones, what actually issues is relationships. It might have been an unimaginable story if our foremost character wins and places on the mummer go well with another time. However I believe the movie does a pleasant job of serving to individuals transfer on.

NJ PEN: Proper, everyone seems to be holding out hope for the Rocky ending; that’s simply not the way it performed out.

JOYCE: We have been capturing issues as they occurred. It wasn’t a reflective piece; this was a present-day story. So all of the highs and lows have been in real-time.

It’s coping with some massive points, however there’s additionally numerous pleasure in there. There’s a brand new child lady on the finish. What a second, to have Jason hand her to Travis, and say, “ball safety.”

ARGOTT: If you get big-time athletes concerned in tasks, individuals need to know “How trustworthy are they being? What aren’t they exhibiting us?” There’s a curation that occurs in numerous these issues that’s no person’s fault. However individuals see via bullshit, particularly in a city like Philadelphia. As marketed, that’s who they’re.

NJ PEN: So what’s subsequent for 9.14 Footage?

JOYCE: We’ve received a sequence known as Thick Pores and skin premiering on Sundance & AMC Plus. We observe 4 larger-bodied ladies who’re doing their greatest to de-stigmatize weight problems.

ARGOTT: We’re additionally engaged on a cooking present for IFC: Within the Kitchen with Harry (Hamlin).

NJ PEN: We’ll be on the look-out!

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