Freelance cinematographer who covers the Chiefs got his start at Pitt State 

As a child in the Highland Park neighborhood of Topeka, basketball was a way for Adrian Herrera and his friends to steer clear of drugs, gangs, and guns. It became his first love. His second: film. 

He came to Pitt State to pursue both, and a national award for a basketball documentary provided a springboard for his career. 

Today, Herrera is a successful freelance cinematographer, with credits including features highlighting the Kansas City Chiefs and players Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes. 

“This is where my passion led me,” he said. “I take pictures from our shoots and show my parents and my brothers, and it’s pretty unbelievable.”  

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Adrian Herrara (right) at Arrowhead Stadium — courtesy photo

"I was hooked"

"Growing up, basketball was my life from an early age,” Herrera said. “My goal was to win a state championship and get a college scholarship.” 

He also loved creating: He made his first film at age 13 — a Michael Jordan highlight edited with downloaded free software. 

“I spent all night on it,” he said. “It was the first time something went from my brain to the screen, and I was hooked.” 

In high school, he was part of the Highland Park Scots team under legendary Coach Ken Darting, helping them get to the State Championship not once, but twice. 

As a first-generation college student, he came to Pitt State as a Communication major and a student-athlete in basketball, becoming a two-year letterwinner. 

He took all the broadcasting classes he could, including ones that would change his life: TV Producing and Directing and Documentary Filmmaking with Professor Troy Comeau. 

“Creative filmmaking was my passion — storytelling as opposed to live broadcasting, and I figured to learn that you’d have to go to the East coast or West coast,” Herrera said. "I was excited to get what I needed at Pitt State." 

He and a friend produced a weekly campus skit comedy show inspired by Key and Peele. 

“That was for me like my mini film school — the campus TV station played it, people started recognizing it, it taught me so much. A highlight reel helped me land my first job.” 

"We Not Me” 

When Herrera graduated in 2012, he immediately started a Master’s degree while his wife Sharynna finished her Education degree, but a nightmare loomed: writing a thesis. Someone mentioned a video as an option, and Herrera chose what he knew best: Coach Darting and Highland Park basketball. 

“Coach D took kids off the street, basically saved their lives by using discipline and respect — he was all about class," Herrera said. “We won the right way. His story was a Coach Carter story, and I lived it so choosing that as a subject was meaningful.” 

He embarked on a year-long journey to research and document the coach and the program. Out of 12 seasons, Darting led Highland Park to seven state appearances, winning four Class 5A championships. Herrera’s end product, “We Not Me,” followed the team’s run toward another state title in Darting’s last season. 

When Herrera won a national filmmaking award, his future path became even more clear. 

“For me that was the final thing that was like OK, this is what I’m best at, this is what I love, why not go for that to do for a living,” he said. 

The next several years would find him working as an in-house filmmaker for a small ad agency, where he learned to become more professional and to use higher-end equipment, and as an in-house filmmaker for a health information technology company. 

Getting let go when that company changed its structure put Herrera’s back against the wall: it was “now or never” when it came to doing what he truly wanted to do. 

“I pushed forward, had a garage sale to fund my first piece of equipment, built my website, created a logo, didn’t sleep, and two weeks later I hit the ground running with my own freelance cinematography company,” he said. “My whole mindset was I can live with failing, but I can’t live with not trying.” 

He focused on building relationships, earning credibility, and soon gained momentum. 

Today, he sometimes has to pinch himself: He’s doing work for a production company that has relationships with the NFL Network, ESPN, the Big 10 Network, and more. 

“I’ve become the go-to cinematographer for them,” he said, “and I’m loving it. They fly me to wherever they need me.” 

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Adrian Herrara and his wife, Sharynna (BS Education '15) — courtesy photo

"It's amazing” 

“I wanted to do what I love,” he said, “and I’m blessed because this is it.” 

He’s gotten to direct a commercial for the Chiefs at their training facility. To direct photography for a Patrick Mahomes feature on ESPN and a Travis Kelce feature on Fox Sports. And for “24 Hours to Countdown with the Chiefs” for NFL Films, he got to spend time in the locker room, equipment room, and on the field. 

“I’m standing there as Mahomes was giving his pre-game speech, there’s the smoke, we go out the tunnel with them, I’m on the field pre-game chasing the film crew chasing Travis Kelce — it was the most physical job I’ve ever done — and we all just look at each other like ‘Bro, can you believe this?!’ It’s amazing.” 

With each Chiefs win, Herrera finds himself with more work. 

“Last year we did pre-Super Bowl content, and we’re hoping to do that again this week,” he said. 

Adrian with Mahomes

Passion projects

He also makes time for passion projects that are meaningful and impactful.

In 2020, his short film “The Heartbeat of Kansas City,” featuring the inspiring story of Grindhouse Basketball founder Marcus Walker, was one of 50 out 940 films globally to receive the “People’s Choice Award” in a film challenge. 

In 2021, he co-directed photography for ESPN’s “I Run with Maud: A Promise. A Movement,” narrated by NFL great Warrick Dunn, focused on the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery by three white men and its impact; As the jury selection for the trial began, Black distance runners nationwide pledged to “Run with Maud” all the way to the 50th NYC Marathon. 

In 2023, he debuted as both a screenwriter and director on a short film called Meal Ticket. It will premier this summer. And, he began mentoring up-and-coming cinematographers with The Cinematography Lounge in hopes of inspiring the next generation. 

“I never take it for granted, this job,” he said. “This is a cool thing I’m going to be able to tell my grandkids about.”

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Adrian Herrara at a Chiefs commercial shoot — courtesy photo

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Communication degree