Behind The Scenes

Inside Gruden’s ‘QB Camp’

ESPN feature producer Drew Gallagher made four separate trips from Connecticut to Tampa earlier this year to shoot the Gruden’s QB Camp segments that have been airing on ESPNU and will be featured in an ESPN SportsCenter Special Thursday night (7 p.m. ET). Culling through 25 hours of video, Gallagher creatively developed unique opportunities for the content to be adapted across ESPN platforms.

In the show, Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden conducts film sessions with five of the top quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft. Gallagher offers an inside look into the project:

FR: What goes into each QB Camp shoot?

Gallagher: The process started months ago with our lead NFL draft and MNF producer Jay Rothman, who created the QB Camp concept last year with Jon. He oversees the project with Jon and recruits the quarterbacks to participate in the shoots.

Once the dates were set, we had a local shooter who did most of the set-up at Jon’s office a day before we got to town. I met the players at the airport when they flew in and used a mini HD camera to film their arrival and again the next morning in the car on the way to Jon’s office for some extra elements behind the scenes.

We arrived at Jon’s office around 9 a.m. — he’s probably been there since 4 a.m. — and we sat down and start rolling. We filmed with each player for at least four hours, took a break and then filmed again on the field at the University of South Florida for another hour.

FR: How does this year compare to last year’s shows?

Gallagher: Last year, we had a whole month to prep and edit after shooting. This year we — myself and associate producers Rick Thomas and Greg Fonseca — are doing both shooting and editing simultaneously. Because we went through the experience last year, the whole process is just a little smoother. We knew what to expect.

We added a third camera to the shoot this year that’s tight on Jon and is hidden behind a wall of tapes. It’s an unmanned camera that I control using a remote from the back of the room.

The third camera has really added a lot to the show. Jon’s known for his facial expressions. It’s almost part of his personality. We really needed to have a camera just on him. Sometimes you have a cut-away or a facial expression that’s just pure ‘Chuckie’.”

FR: What makes a successful shoot?

Gallagher: The key to these segments is to interrupt as little as possible. The only time we have to is when we change tapes.

It lets the guys forget the cameras are there. They forget that they’re on TV. It makes them comfortable in an environment they’re used to — a coach-quarterback meeting room. We don’t want them to feel like they need to put on a face or a persona for the camera. We want them to feel like they are just talking to their coach.

After about 10 minutes, the guys start talking X’s and O’s and looking at their film with Jon. That’s where you get the really great fly-on-the-wall kind of access and football insights.

FR: How do you know when you have something great?

Gallagher: Within those four hours of shooting, there are six or seven times when the crew will all look at each other and we just know we have one of those signature moments based on an exchange that happens or something Jon says.

FR: What moment stands out to you this year?

Gallagher: When Jon brought [PGA Tour golfer] John Daly to meet Ryan Mallett. By bringing in an Arkansas alum, who Ryan knows — Daly’s been on the sidelines of a lot of Arkansas games as an alum — [it] seemed like a very smart way to address some of the issues Ryan had been rumored to be dealing with off the field that he will have to face in his professional life.

FR: How does it feel to work on a show that has been so well received?

Gallagher: When I sat in on the first QB Camp a year ago, I knew we had something special. You really can’t give enough credit to Jon. So much of what makes this show great is in his personality and his approach.

The other thing you can’t undersell is the amount of prep work he puts into this. It’s incredible. Our production assistants Trevor Gavin and Jeremy Drummond send him tapes and Jon spends hours prepping and time-coding video for each guy.

He edits his own tape and puts in a specific sequence to address a point he wants to make, almost like he’s storytelling. That takes a lot of time and it’s all him. He probably puts in two days of work on each guy, somewhere close to 20 hours.

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