2019 was my second year as the Executive Producer of Drake Broadcasting System Relays, and it was just as much of a learning experience as last year. The Drake Broadcasting System (DBS) executive board decided to push DBS in a slightly different direction in terms of the type of content the organization put out and I decided to move DBS Relays in the same direction. This style change, combined with the organizational changes to the way DBS Relays functions as a whole, posed a new set of challenges for me to face.
Drake Relays is a track and field competition with competitors ranging from high school to professional athletes. Drake Broadcasting System provides coverage for the event and used to run live broadcasts on the College Channel. The College Channel doesn’t really exist anymore—at least it is not used at Drake University anymore—but when it was used DBS Relays was the largest student-run broadcast in the United States. Two years ago, when I was a Pre-Production Producer for DBS Relays, was the first time we did not broadcast on the College Channel and that year we began our partnership with USA Track and Field (USATF) and RunnerSpace to live stream Relays. This change provides great opportunities for students to work with professional sports media, but because the partnership is so new the expectations for students has been fluctuating greatly. The unpredictability makes it difficult for the Relays Executive Producer (E.P.) to prepare student workers because we don’t fully know what to expect. However, the crew we had assembled was fantastic and they easily adapted to whatever was thrown their way.
The other biggest external factor I faced was the renovation to the Drake TV studio. Over the previous summer and fall semester the Meredith Hall basement received a makeover that brought us into modern times. I was, and still am, so excited that we have access to upgraded technology (before the remodel we were still using standard definition cameras) and the update will be a huge asset to the Journalism and Mass Communication program, but I had no idea how to use the new systems. I had extremely limited time to learn all the changes and figure out how we could best utilize them, so we had more tech glitches this year than last, but our productions looked infinitely better with the new equipment.
In addition to these external changes, we made a few internal ones, too. The format and tone of the DBS Relays shows this year was a major shift from previous years. The shows used to be formal news broadcasts but this year the shows had a more relaxed, informal, talk-show style. This was an exciting change, and I’m so happy I got to spearhead the video content for Relays, and for DBS as a whole through my position as DBS Video Producer, but it meant the show kind of started from scratch. There were a couple regularly occurring topics from previous years that we were able to reuse, but this year I had to generate a lot of ideas for comedic content, with which I have extremely limited experience. I definitely had help and the Relays production crew came up with ideas, too, but as E.P. I had to make the final call about what would be appropriate for the shows. Because we don’t broadcast the shows anymore, we don’t have any federal restrictions about cursing or content, but I still wanted the shows to be professional. I wanted a final product that people could use as examples of their work and put on their reel without hesitation. Telling people ‘no’ without crushing their creativity or excitement was one of the hardest things I did as DBS Relays E.P. but I was responsible for maintaining the integrity of the production so I had to draw boundaries.
This change went pretty smoothly overall. We worked hard to clearly define each person’s responsibilities and that meant we had minimal communication issues once we started working on Relays. The bigger problem was that even though I had fewer responsibilities as E.P. I still didn’t have as much time as I wanted to dedicate to the position. I was working three other jobs, taking 18 credit hours, and maintaining membership in other campus organizations in addition to being DBS Relays Co-Executive Producer, so I had to rely heavily on my line producers to check content before it went in the line up for a show. This worked out because the DBS Relays 2019 Executive Board was incredible. We had dedicated, hardworking, talented people who I could trust and rely on. These shows would not have happened without the executive board and the production crew and I am so grateful and honored that I had the opportunity to work with them.
Another major change that happened this year was the change in the DBS Relays executive board—this year we had two Executive Producers. When it came time to hire the DBS Relays E.P. we ran into a problem: the people interested in being the E.P. didn’t have enough time to commit to the position. Being the Executive Producer is a lot of work and takes up a lot of time. It can be hard to fill the position because the work doesn’t start until the middle of the semester, even if we hire the E.P. before the start of the semester. Students fill up their schedules early in the semester—an over-commitment issue known as being Drake-busy—and it makes late additions challenging to balance. The solution the DBS Executive Board came up with was to split the Relays Executive Producer position into two Co-Executive Producer positions. One position was focused primarily on putting together the shows and being available to solve problems and get food for the crew during Relays weekend (that was my position) and the other position was focused mainly on administrative type tasks like ordering food, ordering promotional materials, and organizing meetings for the full crew and the executive board.
Overcoming these challenges made my second time being the Executive Producer of DBS Relays a great experience. I was more comfortable in the position because of my previous background and it meant I was able to push the shows in new directions and experiment a bit more with the style. This year, DBS recorded a multi-camera show out of sequence and outdoors, a first for the organization. It was new and challenging but it ended up being my favorite of the three shows we did this year. Being E.P. again improved my communication and delegation skills, stretched my production experience into comedy, and gave me the opportunity to use equipment from this century. I am proud of the work my team and I did and I can’t wait to see what the next executive producer does with DBS Relays 2020.