Staff from Discovery Channel’s Emmy Award-winning show Deadliest Catch spoke to students and faculty on Thursday about the work that goes into reality TV and what it takes to break into the competitive TV industry. The presentation took place in the Bright Family Screening Room and was hosted by Avid Technology as part of the Avid Lecture Series.
Deadliest Catch poses unique challenges to its production staff because of the nature of its content. The show follows the actual events that take place on six Alaskan king crab fishing boats on the Bering Sea. The perilous 30-foot waves, freezing temperatures, and heavy equipment make Alaskan king crab fishing one of the most dangerous jobs in America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Josh Earl, the show’s supervising editor and Bob Bronow, the show’s re-recording artist, described how two producers are stationed on each fishing boat, with three cameras each. The producers have to deal with the fact that the fishermen’s main priority is to make a living, not to make things easy for the people making Catch. This creates a challenge for Bronow, who is in charge of the audio portion of each episode. It is impossible for the producers on the boats to bring boom microphones aboard, so the main sound Bronow relies on is whatever the cameras pick up.
“Those 30-foot waves on the Bering Sea make it hard to hear what people are saying or what’s going on sometimes,” said Bronow. “We have to make the audio good no matter what the surrounding sound is.”
Earl explained how his job involves sorting through hours of footage and picking out parts that will form a story line. He said he reviews 300 to 400 minutes of footage for each episode and cuts it down to about 45 minutes. “It’s just hunkering down and watching a huge load of footage: finding a beginning, middle, and end, and making it viewable,” Earl said.
Bronow and Earl screened a sequence for the audience from a sixth-season episode of Catch. Earl explained it was a pivotal episode because it showed the final moments in fisherman Captain Phil Harris’s life. Earl said that while editing footage of Harris, he found footage shot simultaneously by another camera of a huge storm that was wreaking havoc on the boats on the Bering Sea. The final episode cuts between Harris and his heartbroken son and the huge waves pouring over men on the fishing boat. Johnny Cash’s “Redemption Day” played in the background.
Bronow praised the Visual and Media Arts Department and the equipment available to Emerson students. He said “knowing the equipment” is crucial. “I don’t want to teach somebody the basics,” he said. Both men emphasized the importance of assistants who are willing to put in as much time as it takes to get the work done. Earl added that people who want to work in the TV production industry should not only be hardworking, but also be easy to get along with.
“If you have an ego, you’re not going to be working with us. You’re in a small space doing this work, so you have to like the people you’re working with.”