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Inside The Making Of 'America's Game,' 'Philly Special' Documentaries

When NFL Films producer Greg Frith finished his long, thorough interview with Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie over the summer about the Eagles' 2017 season, the two shared a hug.

Lurie told Frith that ever since the Eagles' Super Bowl victory, someone had come up to him each day, teary-eyed, and hugged him. But since Lurie had flown in from Martha's Vineyard that day, he had yet to receive his daily hug.

Frith changed that.

"He's going out the door and he turns around and I put my arms out wide and I look at him like, 'Come on … come on,'" Frith said. "And he comes and gives me a big hug, and everybody in the room got a chuckle out of that."

While facetious on the surface, the moment was special for the lifelong Eagles fan assigned with documenting his childhood team's ultimate accomplishment. In fact, there were several pinch-me moments for Frith and Chip Swain, producers of Philly Special: Doug Pederson and the 2017 Eagles, and Chris Barlow, producer of America's Game: 2017 Eagles, as the Philly fans crafted the two documentaries about the Eagles' season that premiere tonight on NFL Network (8 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively).

"It was way more fun than any one we'd ever done," Frith said. "Chip and I have been here 14 years, and it's by far the most enjoyable thing to do to edit a film on your team winning the Super Bowl. It doesn't compare to any of the past ones we've ever done."

"To actually see that happen and know what it meant to the people in this area, it was just a really special feeling," Barlow said.

Frith attended games with his father and grandfather since the 1980s sitting in Section 725 of Veterans Stadium. Barlow grew up in New Jersey and went to Penn, always surrounded by Eagles football. Swain witnessed the Eagles' Super Bowl XXXIX loss in Jacksonville with his brother and was with his brother, father, and three sons when the Eagles won it this season.

When an Eagles Super Bowl film became a possibility, they each wanted to jump right on board.

"Greg and I specifically requested to be working on something to do with the Super Bowl," Swain said. "In my 13 years at NFL Films, I hadn't done anything on the Eagles. I kept them at arm's length on purpose. I wanted to keep my fandom out of it. But we both specifically requested to be part of this postseason run."

Barlow, like Swain and Frith, asked NFL Films VP senior coordinating producer Patrick Kelleher a week before the game if he could work on America's Game if the Eagles won. He had worked on other episodes of the series before including the Patriots' 2016 season.

"I knew I wanted to do America's Game. My three kids wanted me to do America's Game," Barlow said. "It was a labor of love doing that one, so I definitely wanted to."

America's Game is an NFL Films series that has featured interviews from players and coaches of all 52 Super Bowl winning teams who take viewers through that season from their perspectives. Beginning with Super Bowl XLIX, NFL Films made America's Game feature interviews with just players and added a separate coach-centric film with a different title for each team.

Philly Special features interviews with Lurie, head coach Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman, former offensive coordinator Frank Reich, former quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, and others on the coaching staff. Most interviews were done at the Eagles' NovaCare Complex, just 21 miles from the NFL Films headquarters in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

"We lost out on our frequent flyer miles and hotel points," Frith said jokingly. "But we crossed that bridge more than 15 times."

Frith and Swain's interview with Pederson went longer than expected, and he had another appointment to attend. Pederson decided to come back the next day and finish the conversation, knowing how significant the film is to fans. He even made sure to wear the same outfit for continuity.

As fans themselves, Frith and Swain know how much Eagles fans know about their team. Their goal was to find stories they didn't know.

"We kept trying to pry these guys and get them to tell us what was happening behind the scenes in these specific moments," Swain said. "You know all of it on the surface, but then you get to dig a little bit deeper into what's actually happening behind the scenes. I love that stuff. I love learning things that nobody else knew."

America's Game: 2017 Eagles includes interviews with quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, defensive end Brandon Graham, and former running back LeGarrette Blount. It was a unique episode in that Wentz and Foles mark the first time in the series' history that two quarterbacks were interviewed for the piece. Blount also became the first player to be featured in America's Game two years in a row with two different teams.

Barlow said the most rewarding part about making the film was spending a lot of time with players and seeing their emotions as they opened up about the journey.

"You definitely want them to be able to relive all the huge moments," Barlow said. "The flea-flicker against Minnesota, the Philly Special, the Brandon Graham sack, all the big moments have to be in there. But you also want to find hidden nuggets about these players, about these coaches, little things that happened during the season that nobody's heard before that gives them an insight behind the curtain, into a world they never get to go."

America's Game also featured a unique element that is special for Eagles fans. NFL Films composer David Robidoux got permission to use the Eagles' Fight Song Fly Eagles Fly and weaved it in nearly a dozen different arrangements throughout the film, varying in style to convey a range of emotions. It was the first time a team's song was used in an America's Game score.

"We know how beloved that fight song is and what it means to the people in this area and Dave had the idea to get permission to use the theme and incorporate it into a variety of different songs," Barlow said. "It was something really special for this film, and we thought it would mean a lot to the team and to the fans since that's such a prominent song."

Both films focus heavily on the fans of Philadelphia. This Super Bowl title was enormously special for a city with a standout fan base that had never experienced one before. Being fans themselves, Swain, Frith, and Barlow understand the gravity of the films they created and did their best to convey their own emotions to relate with other Eagles fans.

"When you're in the business, a lot of times you lose your fandom because you root more for outcomes or storylines or things of that nature," Frith said. "But I have never lost my passion for the Eagles. I'm a die-hard Eagles fan. The Eagles always come first, the rest of the league comes second."

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