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From Emerson to Julian Edelman: Director of Patriots receiver’s ‘100%’ documentary talks career path, filming process

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Tom Brady. Snoop Dogg. Danny Amendola. Mark Wahlberg. Deion Sanders. Guy Fieri. Michael Strahan. Erin Andrews. Michael Rapoport. Bill Burr. Dave Portnoy.

At first glance, this list may seem like a random cast of characters with minimal things in common, if any at all. But, when you look deeper, they all have one common thread: Julian Edelman.

That thread is what those behind the documentary entitled “100%: Julian Edelman” are hoping they can shed a light on when the film premieres June 28 on Showtime.

The story of this documentary seems obvious to those who have followed the Patriots receiver’s career thus far, with the last few years of Edelman’s life serving as something similar to a ride at Six Flags or Disney World.

However, while some rollercoasters feature Superman or Harry Potter, Edelman’s twists and turns include a season-ending knee injury and a suspension for a failed drug test, the ending couldn’t get much sweeter: a new addition to his championship ring collection and a Super Bowl MVP trophy to go along with it.

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Before that rollercoaster began, a different journey got on the tracks back in 2013, when Kyler Schelling, the director of “100%: Julian Edelman,” first started working alongside the star Patriots receiver.

Much like Edelman, Schelling wasn’t supposed to be in the spot he currently holds. An Emerson College alum, Schelling originally began his collegiate days at Virginia Tech, pursuing a career as an engineer.

But, just as Edelman found out that a quarterback spot in the NFL wasn’t in the cards, Schelling found a different calling, transferring to Emerson to pursue a filmmaking career.

Engineering was kind of the typical thing, and I wanted to tap into the more creative space,” Schelling said. “Emerson was just kind of there. It was close, it had the right communications, I wanted to get into film. I wanted to do the whole thing and it just kind of clicked.”

Like most things in the sports world, both Edelman and Schelling’s adventures weren’t on purpose. Edelman transitioned from his role as a collegiate quarterback to a special teams star for the Patriots, ending up as Tom Brady’s right-hand man and number-one receiver.

Meanwhile, Schelling built up his own reputation in the sports world, working with the likes of Steph Curry, David Ortiz, Charlie McAvoy and, of course, Edelman.

“I’ve kind of worked this little niche of sports cinema for myself, and it was kind of on accident,” Schelling said. “It was not intentional. I never really wanted to do sports in film, but I got hooked up early right out of college with SuperDigital and Assaf Swissa and Julian Edelman, and it just kind of started happening.”

Before Schelling knew it, the decision was made for him on what career path to follow.

“I realized that I was getting a lot of higher-profile work within the sports video, sports film world, so I was just like, ‘Let’s lean into it,'” Schelling said. “Would I rather work on a short film that no one sees that’s not sports, or would I rather work on a commercial with Steph Curry?”

Throughout his early work, Schelling built up a relationship with Edelman, forming a bond that led to numerous viral videos with Edelman’s “Burger Tyme” series, a “Smoothie Tyme” series, along with a spoof of “Cops” called “Pats” with Amendola.

“I’ve done most of my work with Julian, because we’ve kind of come up together,” Schelling said. “He’s great to work with because he is interested in entertainment, interested in acting a little, he’s kind of plugged in on that stuff. All these web videos and this little stuff we used to do with Julian back in the day, I view it like Malcolm Gladwell, “10,000 Hours,” it’s like that. You’re just grinding it out, 10,000 hours, and hopefully this movie we’re doing now is the capstone to what we learned in that six-year period.”

Throughout the journey, both Edelman and Schelling have had their learning experiences. However, Schelling said the NFL Network’s documentary highlighting Edelman and Amendola’s adventures in Mexico in 2017 was a major catalyst for the “100%” creative process.

That was a great project, and we liked the output, but we kind of felt like there were some limitations behind the NFL shield,” Schelling said. “We just couldn’t do things quite the way we wanted to do it.”

So, when Edelman’s season ended before the 2017 regular season even started and networks began asking Schelling and Swissa about filming Edelman’s recovery, a light bulb went off in both of their heads.

“We were both kind of like, ‘You know what? We saw what happened when we were with an entity. Let’s just do it ourselves,'” Schelling said.

The group began filming in September 2017, with filming officially wrapping in March 2019. However, Schelling said numerous events led to delays and doubts about the film’s future.

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“It was supposed to be released before the [2018] season started, and then it got delayed,” Schelling said. “Then we didn’t shoot for a while, so maybe this thing was for nothing, maybe it was a waste. Then, Julian got suspended, and we thought we’d definitely have to shut the project down. Then, we were like, ‘Well, maybe that makes the project better.’”

“Every moment, there seemed to be some sort of detraction, quickly followed by, ‘Actually, this is more of an opportunity,'” Schelling said. “We probably had 15 of those moments until I’m sitting in the stadium in Atlanta and I’m hearing he’s MVP and I’m like, ‘We just sold our movie. I think we have an ending now.’”

The film features a wide variety of interviews from the laundry list of celebrities mentioned earlier, with only one person on the “dream list” not agreeing to appear. However, as a disclaimer, the offer wasn’t even extended to begin with.

There’s only one person who was on the dream list that we couldn’t actually get that I would never even ask the question: Coach Belichick,” Schelling said. “I would never even bring it up. He’s on the list, but only if he walked in and we happened to have the camera and like, ‘Yeah, let’s do this!’ But I’ve never actually asked to have that happen.”

One other name didn’t make the cut, but not for a lack of effort.

“We were going to get Harry Kane, the soccer player for Tottenham, to do it, and he said yes,” Schelling said. “We just couldn’t get a camera to London in time to do it.”

In total, the film features 17 interviews with an incredibly unique cast, yet Schelling said the team wasn’t worried about any celebrity not properly fitting into Edelman’s story.

“We went in, not like, ‘How does Snoop Dogg fit in this story?’ But like, ‘How do we make Snoop Dogg fit in this story?’” Schelling said. “We use our bigger celebrities in a way that’s beyond an interview. There’s a very deliberate application of a lot of our celebrities.”

All in all, Schelling and his team put together a 73-minute final product, battling through tough times in Edelman’s career and continuing a relationship built six years ago. However, the process didn’t come without its difficulties, with a friend having to ask another about a career-altering injury, and a legacy-impacting suspension.

“That sheen of, ‘I’m putting on a show because there’s a camera here’ is kind of off, so you can get some amazing content,” Schelling said. “But you can also get some of the, ‘Turn the f—ing camera off, I’m done.’ It’s kind of like harnessing lightning. If you can grab it, you can get some amazing stuff, but if you do it wrong, you can get electrocuted.”

Schelling said he’s proud of what “100%: Julian Edelman” turned into, and can officially set his sights on the film’s public premiere on June 28. As an added bonus, Schelling knows the time and effort his own team put into the project back in 2017 was well worth the wait.

“I think we were able to do a good job,” Schelling said. “We tapped into something that, if ESPN came through, they weren’t going to be able to get to the place we were able to get to.”

While a lot of time was spent on the long-form feature for Showtime, Schelling said Edelman and the team won’t be ditching what brought them to the big stage as they build up a new venture called Coast Productions.

Schelling said the group will continue on with their short-form viral videos, along with some television projects and numerous other genres of scripted content in the works.

“There’s an interesting deal coming through that’s going to allow us to make a lot more of the Burger Tyme, Smoothie Tyme, cop-style videos coming soon,” Schelling said. “We’re not closing the door [on long-form storytelling], we are talking to some people about potentially doing another kind of thing in the same kind of vein. But, our ambition is to kind of tell scripted stories.”

A sense of irony comes into play when thinking about Edelman and Schelling’s journeys alongside their future plans: While both hope to dive into more scripted content in the future, no one could have ever written scripts similar to their own two life stories.

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