Jason Kelce in a still from Prime Video's "Kelce," directed by Don Argott. Jason Kelce in a still from Prime Video’s “Kelce.” (Amazon.)

The documentary Kelce is out now on Amazon’s Prime Video, covering Philadelphia Eagles’ center Jason Kelce (and his family, including wife Kylie, mother Donna, and brother and NFL rival Travis over the 2022-23 season and over his debates about retiring both ahead of and after that season. It’s directed by Don Argott, and produced through Argott and Sheena M. Joyce’s 9.14 Pictures in conjunction with Vera Y Productions and NFL Films, and presented by Prime Video and Skydance Sports. Argott and Joyce recently spoke to AA via  email: there, Argott said the project was always retirement-debate focused, and actually began in the 2021-22 season.

“When Jason and Connor (Barwin, the Eagles’ director of player development and an executive producer on the film) approached us, they were looking to make a documentary about retiring as a professional athlete, and what does the next half of your life look like. The plan was to follow Jason’s final year and then have him talk to other retired athletes, and try to figure out what life after football would be. ”

“We began filming the 2021-22 season, and got to spend time getting to know his family, his incredible wife, Kylie, and filming their dynamic at home. All the moments most people don’t get to see, especially professional athletes. So, as that season was winding down, Jason decided to come back for another year!”

Argott said that led to a bit of a pivot, but that actually wound up working out well because of the Eagles’ run to a Super Bowl appearance (against Travis Kelce’s Kansas City Chiefs, no less).

“At that point, we were all committed, and everyone wanted to keep moving forward – so we began shooting the 2022-23 season. And, I think most people in the sports world know how that went. But what they don’t know, or haven’t seen, is how it happened behind the scenes. It was an incredible ride that still fells so surreal to me.”

He said there were some challenges with figuring out where to take the film with all those twists, though.

“I’d say that this film took a long time to understand what it was going to be.”

As for Joyce, she said she was on board instantly with the chance to make a film about her beloved Eagles and Kelce.

“As a lifelong Eagles fan, I was obviously going to jump at the chance to make a film with one of the greatest players, certainly the greatest center, ever to play for the Birds.”

The retirement discussions are a huge part of Kelce, and Argott said he felt the opportunity to illustrate that to viewers was important.  He said that was particularly true with Kelce’s eventual decision to come back for 2023.

“It was really intense. To be in the room while someone is internally struggling with that decision, that uncertainty, it was just really powerful. It’s actually one of my favorite scenes in the film, and it was just he and I in the room together.”

Another important focus of Kelce is Jason’s family, from Travis to Kylie to his parents. Joyce said that was always a vital angle for the filmmakers, especially with Kylie, who stole some of the show.

“Kylie is the real hero of the film, and you cannot understand what motives a man like Jason Kelce unless you know his wife,” Joyce said. “It was important to us to give Jason the necessary context, and to give the people who support Jason in his life and career their due.”

Argott said that overall family focus was critical to properly illustrate Jason.

“Without his family, you are only getting a fraction of who he really is. Like any professional athlete, Jason is more than just a football player. His family is a huge part of who he is, and what is important to him. It’s also the thing that makes him relatable. Most people can’t relate to being a pro athlete, but everyone can relate to being in a relationship, doing daily routine, trying to figure it all out.”

An interesting thing with Kelce is how much of a media platform he and Travis now have with their New Heights podcast. That could have potentially posed some problems for the idea of making a documentary on him, with some fans perhaps thinking they’d already heard his perspective. But Argott said that wasn’t the case for this project: New Heights was launched while they were filming, so they got footage on its creation and on how it took off, and he views that as a positive for the film.

“What was really good for us is that he started this podcast when we were filming—so it was really just another thing he was doing outside of football. So it was great to be a fly on the wall, from the first episode, and see what it had grown into—all while we were shooting.”

Joyce said NFL Films and Skydance Sports (who have been working together since last November) were perfect partners here.

“We really cannot stress how lucky we felt to be able to complete this project with such great partners. NFL Films, in particular, were invaluable in terms of access, footage, and general support. It was a true collaboration.”

And Argott said those partnerships were supportive, and led to much more access and gameday footage for 9.14 than they could have got on their own.

“The reality is that we couldn’t have made this film without them. We were very fortunate as an outside production company, to be able to partner. And huge credit to them for seeing that we had something really special, and rather than try to suppress it, they embraced us. To be able to have the power of NFL Films all access on Super Bowl Sunday, was really a gift. While we were with Jason’s family, NFL Films had us covered inside the stadium. It was truly a gift.”

As per Prime Video as a platform, Argott said Amazon was great to work with there, and embraced the project beyond just it fitting with their Thursday Night Football rights.

“There is obvious synergy with Thursday Night Football, and then the planets aligning that the Eagles are the week 2 TNF game this season. But honestly, and more importantly, they completely got the film. It moved them, and they had a real passion for coming on board to share it with a wide audience. As a filmmaker, that’s really all you can ask for.”

Joyce said Prime Video stood out for interest in a non-quarterback project.

“Amazon/Prime Video was not afraid to showcase the talents of someone other than a quarterback in football.  I’m thrilled that we were not only supported in featuring Jason Kelce, but also to highlight the work of such a talented center.”

9.14 Pictures, founded by Joyce and Argott in 2002, has done a lot of different films over the years. They’ve covered people from Phil Spektor through John DeLorean through Kurt Vonnegut and Pentagram singer Bobby Liebling. Joyce said a compelling central subject is key to a successful documentary, and Kelce was a great fit there.

“No matter who or what the subject, our goal is to create a film that feels accessible, with stakes, and someone you want to root for. With Kelce, we truly captured lightning in a bottle with a man like Jason, and the season we witnessed.”

And Argott compared Kelce to Ronnie James Dio, the famed metal singer (and sports fan) they spotlighted in last year’s DIO: Dreamers Never Die.

“What has been really awesome, especially in the past few years, is that we have been able to work on projects that we have had a strong connection to. The last film we did was DIO: Dreamers Never Die, about legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio. We made that film with so much love and admiration, without sugar-coating or whitewashing his story. The fact was, he was just an exceptional human being, who inspires you and makes you feel good. Essentially, it was was our love letter to heavy metal.”

“And then Kelce being the follow up, there was just so many similarities. About how both these men were the underdogs, who no one would give a chance to, that had to work twice as hard to prove themselves, and then the ultimate perseverance it takes to say, ‘**** it, I’m just going to make this happen myself.'”

Argott also said he thinks the film will resonate beyond Eagles’ fans thanks to how interesting and likeable its central subject is. He said that was even notable with comments on the trailer from Dallas Cowboys’ fans.

“We know that this film will resonate in the Philly area, but I truly don’t think you need to be. We all know how tribal and passionate NFL fans are, but Jason is just so ******* lovable! Believe me, I know how many people hate the Eagles, but I have seen so many comments, just on the trailer alone, that say, ‘I’m a Dallas fan, but I love Jason and his brother.’ I mean, if an Eagles’ player can resonate with a Dallas fan, what more can you say?”

And Joyce said she thinks the film’s themes are universal.

“I feel like this is really a love story.  It’s a love story about family, football, a city, and the lengths to which one man will go to be the best.”

Kelce is streaming now on Prime Video. Our full review, by Michael Grant, can be found here.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.