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Reality TV producers discuss the industry with students

Sophomore FTDM major Bobbi Lutes looks over the schedule of the Leaders in Media Conference on Friday. Photo by Maddi Bruton. Dolph Scott (Storage Wars, Deadliest Catch) visited with students who traveled from the University of North Texas to attend. Photo by Maddi Bruton.
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“Storage Wars,” “Pawn Stars” and “Duck Dynasty” were among the many reality TV shows discussed during the Leaders in Media Conference Friday.

University students and visitors gathered in the Bass Conference Center for the event sponsored by the Film-TV-Digital Media department. Those is attendance met with executives and reality TV producers to discuss current trends in the reality industry.

Panelists included TCU graduate Elaine Frontain Bryant, who serves as the senior vice president of non-fiction programming at A&E, producer Dolph Scott and Sean Zeid, the co-head of the alternative department at the Kaplan Stahler Agency.

From discussing how shows are developed, shot and marketed to explaining how they came to work in the industry, the panelists gave their audience the opportunity to see and hear what reality TV entails.

“As someone studying the industry, the conference benefited me by allowing me to hear firsthand how a show goes from a concept to a hit. It's one thing to read an article or textbook, but very different to actually hear from people who created the shows,” Kelly Burns, junior FTDM major, said.

“I'm currently in Business of Media and we have been studying how a show is created, so this conference directly correlated with my schoolwork, which was neat,” she said.

During the conference, Bryant reminded attendees that she, along with her fellow panelists, were also students working to break into the TV industry once.

Sophomore FTDM major Andrea Norby said she found this story encouraging.

“It may be a long road and a tough industry, but [the panelists] are all a testament to what passion and persistence can bring you,” she said.

Norby said, “It was great to hear such insight from the minds of such well-accomplished producers and executives. Knowing the general inner workings of TV is bound to give you an edge in the workplace once you're thrown into it.”

The panelists presented sizzle reels, which Bryant said are used to pitch shows and clips from their series to explain the developing that takes place from the first time a camera crew is sent out in the field till the time a show airs.

Attendees were served a complimentary breakfast and lunch and were given a chance to ask the panelists questions about their work, including what it was like working with the ‘stars’ of their business and the extra hours that go into working behind the scenes to not only get a show running, but to make it a hit.

During a question and answer session, questions were raised about how much of reality TV is truly reality. Bryant and Scott said their job is a matter of balancing reality by making sure they have good stories to tell an audience while still staying truthful.

Reality TV is more than just entertainment, but is also about finding an underlying theme to share with an audience, Bryant said.

Zeid encouraged students to put a camera on someone they think is interesting or have an interesting life and see what happens.

Burns said that the conference made for an overall positive experience.

“The guests were extremely knowledgable and very willing to share their wealth of experience,” she said. “They seemed genuinely excited to meet with and talk to students, which was very refreshing.”

Yvette Wilhite-Hanshaw, director of development for the College of Communication and one of the key organizers of the conference, said she wanted students that attend the event to learn more about the career options that are available to them so they can make more informed decisions.

“It’s hard to make a decision about your career but if you learn from the people who are in it then you can decide what really inspires you or doesn’t interest you at all,” she said.

Bryant is responsible for overseeing shows such as “Storage Wars,” “Shipping Wars” and “Duck Dynasty” for the A&E Network while Scott works out in the field as a producer for shows such as “Deadliest Catch,” “Storage Wars” and “Storage Wars: New York.”

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