Benjamin Whalen ’15 is learning the technical ins and outs of live television production at his summer internship—and putting smiles on the faces of terminally ill children as he does it.
Whalen is an intern at Seacrest Studios at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where the young patients participate in live shows that air on the hospital’s closed-circuit TV channel—everything from a kids version of Wheel of Fortune to a cooking show to a sports call-in program and a countdown of the hottest songs of the day.
“It really raises their whole outlook,” Whalen said.
Each day the child patients—and their siblings—are welcome to the hospital’s TV studio to participate in the show being produced that day.
“Some kids had no idea what we were doing at first, but now we see them almost every day,” Whalen said. “We have certain kids who come down all the time. We’ll also get a lot of their siblings, because, with a brother or sister in the hospital all day, they can feel a bit neglected. The whole family can participate, so it’s great for the parents too. They’re generally grateful for having a break from watching their kids.”
Seacrest Studios is founded by TV personality Ryan Seacrest, who has launched similar children’s hospital TV studios in Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta through his Ryan Seacrest Foundation.
Whalen said some patients are too sick to join the other children in studio, but they can call in from their rooms and be heard on the air. The station also broadcasts a live magic show and Bingo game.
“When you’re shooting video that’s not live, you could do it all with one camera, but for live TV you need multiple cameras to get all the different subjects,” he said, adding that the hospital uses three or four cameras per show.
Whalen, a brother in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, said he also learned how to work with a green screen and assists in creating daily content for the shows.
“I had looked at other internships for this summer, and many of them were producing short films,” Whalen said. “But I’m happy with this one because it’s interesting and it has an element of community service to it.”