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Friday Night Lights Realism

Published October 4, 2006 in Television
By Fred Topel | Image property of ABC.
Friday Night Lights Friday Night Lights

One of football fans’ favorite things about the film Friday Night Lights was the realism with which it portrayed football games. With handheld cameras out on the field and intimate details of massive hits, the movie put you inside the game. With the TV series Friday Night Lights, executive producer Brian Grazer hopes for the same level of reality.

Grazer, Berg and Cast Talk Friday Night Lights Realism

“The one thing that I don't know if Pete [Berg] wants to say, but I think that Pete had an extremely unique cinematic and filmic point of view as to how he was going to particle-ize the environment of Odessa Texas and it was expressed really well in the movie,” said Grazer. “I think what he did was he brought that to the TV series and his sensibility along with it and that created the format for the subsequent episodes. But I really think having lived with this thing for so long and experimenting with other different directors’ point of view, I think it was his specific vision that was injected into the movie and still remains consistent in this TV series, so a lot of it I think is his sensibility.”

Berg directed the pilot episode, so the techniques he employed laid the groundwork for other directors to follow. “It’s all about casting and camera angles,” Berg said. “I think it’s first and foremost a commitment to being authentic that has to come from whoever’s directing, whoever’s shooting it and whoever’s editing it in particular. I think once that commitment’s there it’s just perhaps spending a couple of hours longer in an editing room or on a football field with cameras shooting than you might like to or you might think that you need to. But everyone involved is a real fan of the sport and has that commitment to working extra hard to capture the reality of it.”

Even the actors notice a different level of reality to their dialogue scenes. “It’s all about an amazing camera crew, that’s for sure,” said Connie Britton. “We have a camera crew that there is never a camera that’s still. They move around all the time. Those cameras tell the story. We’ve been sort of doing the Pete Berg mantra down here trying to maintain the sense of reality and almost improvisation of these scenes. Everybody is committed to that. Even when I was talking about with the camera angles, these camera people are improvising every shot we do and it really creates a unique show.”

Kyle Chandler, who plays coach Eric Taylor, feels like he’s working in real life and the cameras just happen to catch him. “That process that allows us to work like that, we were pretty much by ourselves out there in the field. I didn’t know where the cameras were when we do those scenes, so it allows us as actors to become just that much more personal out there. It’s a lot of fun to do that.”

Friday Night Lights airs Tuesdays at 8PM on NBC.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of ABC.

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