Earlier this year, former New Orleans Saint Kyle Prater decided to shift his sights from playing in the NFL to starting a film production company. Chasing Greatness Productions produces videos that showcase “greatness” in many different forms. Whether it’s sports, fashion, bodybuilding, or cutting hair, Prater dynamically captures perseverance and ambition in a variety of professions. His motto: “Let us capture your greatness while you keep chasing it.”
After playing college football for the University of Southern California and Northwestern University, the Chicago-born wide receiver was signed as a free agent by the Saints in 2015, but was released due to injuries in 2016. In addition to videography, Chasing Greatness offers photography services and seasonal training for up-and-coming wide receivers.
We caught up with the athlete, photographer, and filmmaker to talk about his vision for Chasing Greatness, growing up in the Windy City, and President Trump’s feud with the NFL.
“I took the same work ethic that got me to the NFL and incorporated it into what would become Chasing Greatness Productions.”
Format: Hi Kyle, how did you go from playing in the NFL to starting a film production company?
Kyle Prater: I played for the New Orleans Saints on and off from 2015 to 2016. I was injured for a while, and when I got released from Injured Reserve as a free agent, I was trying to figure out what to do next. I wanted to keep training and stay ready, but in the meantime I was interested in starting something that would last way longer than football. So I invested in a camera and played around with photography and videography.
When I got feedback from a few people who said that I had an eye for film and should take it seriously, I started transitioning to that lifestyle. I took the same work ethic that got me to the NFL and incorporated it into what would become Chasing Greatness Productions.
This project has given me a piece of serenity, but also a way of using my story to inspire others. I try to really use my platform, which is the NFL. I definitely had my fair share of trials and tribulations to get there—I think that’s why I started this company. I came out of high school the number one wide receiver in America, and there was a lot of hoopla behind me. I didn’t let all the noise make me cocky, but at seventeen years old it’s hard to deal with that kind of pressure. I ended up overworking myself and getting hurt because I was trying to live up to the world’s expectations of me as opposed to living up to my own.
I’ve had five surgeries and dealt with a knee injury, foot injury, concussion, and lacerated kidney. It wasn’t easy to overcome all that. At times I wanted to give up. I contemplated a lot of different things, but I had family support that kept me grounded, and was able to will my way forward. That’s what Chasing Greatness is really about. Before it was a production company it was a creed.
Did you have an interest in filmmaking growing up?
I took Television Production with Mrs. Abdullah at Proviso West High School. I didn’t think I’d go into filmmaking, but I was always enamored with what goes into making films—from soundtracks, to composing scores, to creating a feel. Because it was something that I loved doing, when the time came and I had some money from playing football, I wanted to see where film production could take me.
How do you go about capturing a client’s greatness on screen?
Before I start working on a project, I sit down with the client and talk about what they want to accomplish. I try to understand their greatness and the aspects they want me to portray to the audience. At the same time, everybody I work with trusts me enough to let me go ahead and put my swag on it. Once we start shooting, I know exactly what I’m looking for. I’ll be setting up a certain shot and I already know what I’m doing in post-production. I see the finished product.
What’s the difference between making something like the Nadia Egharevba model visual and, say, your #StayWoke video?
The one thing I don’t want people to do is put me in a box and say, “He plays football, so all his videos are going to be about sports.” I don’t want to be seen as producing a single genre of films. The model video with Nadia and the #StayWoke video are two completely different kinds of projects. I want people to know that I can go out and shoot a model—and I can make a film about some of the biggest issues currently facing America, and specifically Chicago, which requires a totally different tone and vibe.
“When you’re trying to get a point across and really stand for something, it’s going to be controversial.”
What was the genesis of the #StayWoke video?
As you know, America is dealing with a lot of issues right now. That’s been true for a long time, but now we see it much more easily through mobile digital technology and social media. I grew up on the same Chicago streets where the violence is happening today, and I saw it then too. I wanted to make a picture that addresses it. When you’re trying to get a point across and really stand for something, it’s going to be controversial.
Like with the current debate around the American flag—I support all of that. The people who object to the flag are not disrespecting our country, they’re not even protesting the flag itself. They’re using the flag as a vessel to create awareness and protest issues like police brutality against African Americans. So the #StayWoke film was in that realm. I tried to shine a light on some of what’s going on because there needs to be a change.
How did you meet the young man that you interview at the end of the video?
He’s a senior at Proviso West named Justin, and he’s part of my Chasing Greatness Wide Receiver Academy that I run over the summer. Justin grew up in the streets of Chicago. When he told me his story, I knew it was something that I wanted to get on camera and share with people. His story can really inspire others because he made it out of all that. There are lots of other kids who are still dealing with it.
Is there anything that stands out about people in Chicago compared to other places?
We’re very resilient. But sometimes we get a bad rap because of the violence in this city. I know you see it around the world—another shooting in Chicago. That’s all true, but there’s so much good here too. I’ve done a lot of community work, and when I get out here and see these kids, the only thing they need is guidance. That’s it. A lot of them are growing up in one-parent homes and falling victim to the streets because they don’t have anyone to fall back on. I was blessed to have both my parents growing up, so I try to get out there and be a father figure or brother. They just need to talk to somebody that can relate and be a part of their lives.
“We’re just trying to create unity and equality. Trump’s creating a divide, and we don’t need that.”
What do you think about what’s been going on with the NFL and Donald Trump recently?
Honestly, I think the President should just put his phone down and focus on some important things like Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria, and Hurricane Harvey. There’s so much he needs to be focusing on that he’s ignoring. He worries about all the wrong things. The guys in the NFL are peacefully protesting for a good cause. We’re just trying to create unity and equality. Trump’s creating a divide, and we don’t need that.
At twenty-five years old, you’ve already achieved a lot of greatness. What are your plans for the future?
I’ve got a long way to go. I want Chasing Greatness to provide a much wider variety of services. Eventually, I want to fill an entire building and become an agency as well a production company. Like anything that you dream of, I write it all down and plan to get it done. You just have to keep working. I still want to play in the NFL, but I’m not putting my heart and soul into it at the moment. That’s why I’m putting so much energy into these projects.
What kind of productions do you have on the horizon?
Right now I’m working on a documentary about myself called Shifting Gears, which I’m directing and producing. I’m promoting it on social media, and releasing it on my website in mid-October. NU Sports at Northwestern University did a documentary on me while I was there, which was great, but I want this one to really show the grind and dialogue in the most creative way possible. I’m really excited about it.