Building a TV series
Film production student edits national PBS series
By Jacquie Nelson
Not many college students have their work regularly shown on national television, but Bowling Green State University senior Brendan Neeson can view the fruits of his labors each week on PBS this semester.
Neeson, a film production major, is the latest of BGSU students chosen to edit “American Woodshop,” a series produced by WBGU-TV, the Public Broadcasting System station affiliated with the University. Season 21 of 13 new episodes will premiere early this year on PBS stations. The series is distributed to 171 markets and seen by 5.14 million viewers in 47 states.
Viewers might be surprised to know that, with each new season, a student employee at the station is given the opportunity to edit the national program. This year, Neeson tackled the project — one that consisted of 300 hours of editing.
“It has been my privilege to watch these students earn the opportunity and develop work ethics, professionalism, enthusiasm and commitment.”Neeson said he still finds it hard to believe he has the opportunity to work on a real television show, especially a national one, and appreciates how valuable the experience is. Although he was thrilled to be chosen by WBGU-TV producer Ray Miller to edit the program, at first he was a bit hesitant, worried the task might be too time-consuming and difficult to juggle with his college coursework. In the end, though, Neeson understood the challenge and decided the experience was worth the commitment.
“It is an honor to work with real professionals,” he said, referring to the three-man crew of host and producer Scott Phillips and directors Ray Miller and Scott Kisabeth. “The pace of the production of ‘American Woodshop’ is well planned and executed with little excess footage, making my job much easier. To be honest, they give me too much credit.”
“Easy” may not be the right choice of word when referring to the manpower necessary to create just one 30-minute episode. On average, each episode from beginning to end takes 75-100 man-hours to complete, and a season consists of 13 episodes.
Patience is definitely necessary to edit a national show whose host is as charismatic as Scott Phillips, Neeson said. Phillips is enthusiastic about his woodworking and his passion and energy are exuberant, often causing uneven voice levels and animated movements, all of which make the editing process more challenging — and in the end more rewarding.
Thankfully, Neeson has veteran producer Miller to act as a mentor and teacher during the long editing sessions. Miller enjoys working with all the student producers at the station and understands that the kind of experience they receive is virtually unheard of in any college setting.
“Working with Brendan and the other students allows me the chance to share the knowledge I have acquired over my career, and watching their growth is very rewarding,” Miller said. “It has been my privilege to watch these students earn the opportunity and develop work ethics, professionalism, enthusiasm and commitment.”
The combination of a professional mentor like Miller coupled with a talented host and seasoned engineer, along with an eager student producer like Neeson has produced great results for the upcoming season. In fact, an award may indeed be in the future for this stellar crew.
“Brendan is the best editor I have worked with in 21 years of doing ‘American Woodshop,’ so good that we will have an episode to submit for a national daytime Emmy in 2014,” boasted Phillips.
Neeson recognizes and appreciates how fortunate he has been to attend BGSU and work at WBGU-TV, noting that he has been exposed to the technical side of his major through the hands-on experience gained at the station and the conceptual side through his coursework.
In addition to editing “American Woodshop,” Neeson has worked on BGSU athletics, “Northwest Ohio Journal” and “Scenic Stops” productions. “Scenic Stops” has been the most enjoyable, he said, due to the discovery of new places and the bonds formed with other student workers.
One thing is for sure: Neeson has fully utilized all the opportunities provided to him by the University and WBGU-TV, and because of this he has positioned himself at the “top of his class” and will be very marketable in his field after his May 2014 graduation.