In the summer of 1997 I was thrilled to be awarded a programming internship at WGBY 57, Western Massachusett’s PBS affiliate. Only 2 college students are selected each year and the other recipient was a young man from Yale whose name I have since forgotten (I remember his face vividly though). To fund my way I received sponsorship from Smith’s Praxis program and the International Student Office.
To say that my time at PBS was a dream come true would not do the experience justice. Not only did I act as an assistant to two of the station’s senior producers, I was allowed to dabble in almost every facet of television production, got to compile and edit several pieces for on-air broadcast, got to touch the still relatively unused AVID video editing equipment and designed the station’s first website!
My main mentors during my time there were Dan Hunt and Mary Makley. Highlights of the experience include doing costume design research and sketches for “Her Place In History” and being an extra in the work of the same name (pickin’ cotton y’all!). I also performed field work and interviewed collectors and enthusiasts during the shooting for Indian Motorcycle Memories.
Check out the Indian Motorcycle Memories homepage for great stories and images!
Spending time with visiting producer Rick Sebak was also amazing, as was touring the abandoned remains of Mountain Park with him as he researched old amusement parks of the US for what would become his documentary “Great Old Amusement Parks“. He was as jovial and quirky in real life as he comes across in his works. He gave me a copy of “Stuff That’s Gone“, the press kit for “Pennsylvania Diners and Other Roadside Restaurants“, his email address and corresponded with me for a quite a while. His advice and support was much appreciated and just indicative of the generally warm, encouraging and supportive atmosphere I experienced while part of the PBS family.
Twice a week, after dark, I also got to work the chyron, teleprompter and phones for “Doctors on Call” a weekly call-in TV programme.
My WGBY internship was an amazing experience and it really complemented my self-designed major which explored the intersection between Film and Sociology, titled “Society and the Moving Image”. On a morning I would see the comments that were faxed in over night by viewers. Half would accuse the station of being cowardly corporate sell-outs, the other half would call us commie leftists. That pretty much became my standard for when you know you’re doing something right 🙂 Also, burned into my mind was the giant M&M chocolate dispenser… MMMMMMM and witty repartee with their in-house graphic designer Nitin Mukul whose now gone on to even bigger things. 🙂
My time in Springfield was also great for my own self-discovery. It was my first time living off campus and navigating a budget/transport etc. on my own. I traveled to, and explored Boston, and attended a Suede concert (dream come true!) after which I roamed the streets with random goths. It was also when I began my love affair with cooking and food culture, a tale I elaborate on in more detail in this interview 🙂
Close to my departure I was given a Pernell doll which I still have. For those who don’t know Pernell is the name of the infamous PBS logo head! He’s adorable!
I also left with a lot of Sesame Street gear, a greater passion for social responsibility in media and memories I’ll always cherish 🙂 Even better, when I passed through Massachusetts two years later, I casually flipped to the station and lo and behold one of my pieces was airing!
That feeling was indescribable 🙂