Mountaineer cinematographer in the lens of NFL Films


Courtesy of Cade Bettinger

Junior electronic media/broadcasting major Will Allen with his camera at App State football’s game versus Coastal Carolina Nov. 3, 2022.

Sam Vanolinda, Reporter

As the football program has risen over the past 10 years at App State, becoming one of the most successful Groups of Five teams in the nation, so has the video team that creates content for App State Athletics.

In 2021, Max Renfro’s uniform reveals caught the eye of the American public, receiving millions of views through various social media platforms, and in 2022, another Mountaineer cinematographer is in the spotlight, Will Allen.

A junior electronic media/broadcasting major, Allen was student director of creative media for App State football during the 2022 season. He oversaw the creative process of the three-time SAVVY award-winning video team, helping produce and direct uniform reveals and hype videos alike.

Allen’s efforts in Boone have caught the attention of the NFL, and now he finds himself flying out on Sundays and shooting games for NFL Films around the country. Allen has one goal when it comes to his work for the NFL:

“A Super Bowl with NFL Films, that’s the top of the top,” Allen said. “You get a Super Bowl with them, you are doing something right.”

Allen is one of 92-94 shooters across the country that does work for NFL Films. 

“It’s an honor to shoot for them,” Allen said. “Some of the best football cinematographers alive work for them. To be roped into that category is breathtaking and was a dream from the very beginning.”

Allen’s road to being an App State cinematographer started with family inspiration. 

“My brother went to App from ‘12 to ‘16,” Allen said. “He was one of the fans with the striped overalls, facepaint, the whole nine yards; he would always be in the videos because App State likes to capture the fan environment.”

Watching his brother appear in those videos inspired Allen to make some of his own.

“I went to a high school that was really good at football. I asked our athletic department ‘Can I make these videos?’ showing them App State’s,” Allen said. “I started on a little iPhone 6 and a GoPro 2, and I haven’t put it down since.”

A couple of years later, Allen found himself on the sidelines of App State football games, sprinting around trying to produce the best shots possible. One of his most popular videos came from the last-second Hail Mary against Troy Sept. 17.

The ESPN+ angle of the second “Miracle on the Mountain,” was not of the highest quality, with the camera being zoomed out because of how high the pass was. Allen, however, was able to capture a clear angle of the pass from the endzone in which the touchdown was scored and the celebrations ensued. 

Will Allen trails Christian McCaffrey out of the tunnel before the Carolina Panthers’ matchup with the Arizona Cardinals Oct. 2, 2022. (Courtesy of Chanelle Smith-Walker)

Allen called this shot, paired with the wrap-up compilation video he made of the entire weekend, including College GameDay in Boone, up there with the best in his career so far.

App State Nation agreed, with the video of the Hail Mary receiving 10,751 likes and 194,400 views on Twitter.

“That whole day was mind-boggling,” Allen said. “From waking up at 7 a.m. to go shoot GameDay and being around Luke Combs, and then the game happens and ends on a .01% play that we accomplished; the play came right at me, and it was one of the craziest things I’ve ever shot.”

Allen took over the reins from Renfro, who recently graduated from App State, another Mountaineer who has done work for the NFL in the past year, shooting for the NFL Draft and NFL Honors in 2021.

During their time together with the App State video team, Renfro noticed Allen’s camera skills becoming better and better. He said Allen used to text him for advice, but now he tells him “I think you have surpassed me, I don’t know if I can offer you advice anymore.” 

Renfro recently announced he now works full-time for the Carolina Panthers as a digital video producer and is proud of his fellow App State cinematographer for also working with the NFL.

“It’s extraordinary that he is working for NFL Films at such a young age,” Renfro said. “People don’t get how prestigious working for NFL Films is; it’s cream of the crop, top 1% of the 1%, the very tip of the iceberg of the best shooters in the world. The fact that he is doing it while still in school is incredible.”

Fellow App State football video team member Palmer Noyes is another talented video producer in Boone. He shoots games for App State Athletics and helped out Allen during the football season. 

Noyes attributes the quality of the App State video team to the standard that has been set by the people before him.

“Max, Vince, Coop, Jade and all the other guys before us have created amazing content for us,” Noyes said. “It’s raised the bar so high, sometimes unattainable, but it pushes us to strive toward that level of quality while also implementing each of our styles into our work.”

Personal style is something that defines a cinematographer’s work, and Allen is known for a couple of traits within his videos. One is the tight spiral shot, which follows the ball up close, capturing the spiral on a long pass play.

“I try to tell the story of the game through my shots,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, I want someone to look through all my raw files without editing and understand the story of the game. I’m capturing flags on the ground if there’s a lot of flags, if fans are upset, throwing beer cans, I try not to have to edit my footage or add narration to explain what’s happening. A goal of mine is to tell a story every time I click record.” 

Just like the players at a football game, Allen makes sure to stretch and get pumped up by listening to music in his pre-shooting routine. He also got to watch the video the team made from the previous week with all the players before they went out to play, which he called “satisfying.”

Allen attributes the success of the video production team to the standard set in the past and hopes App State videographers in the future will have the same willingness to learn that he had.

“It’s the attitude of wanting to learn that creates such a good environment,” Allen said.

In wake of his successes elsewhere, Allen has stepped down from App State football to work fully as a freelance cinematographer. 

He will continue to try to move up the NFL Films ladder to follow his dream of shooting a Super Bowl in the future.

“Right now I’m the youngest kid on NFL Films roster; I’m the college kid, I have no street cred there, so every week I have to prove why I should be getting the game next week,” Allen said. “I want to keep shooting football all my life. I’m in love with shooting football.”