A lucky 41 TV production majors traveled to Nashville, Tenn., Monday to tour the Country Music Television facility, meet with production personnel and interact in several tapings.
The working relationship between Murray State and CMT began when the University won the CMT Country College Town Sweepstakes competition and the station filmed an episode of “CMT Hot 20 Countdown” here last fall. It was then that Kelli Reiff, associated producer at CMT, asked Jeremy McKeel if he would be interested in taking students to attend other recordings and to tour their facility.
McKeel, manager of University Digital Media Services, invited students in three upper level TV production classes to sign up for the trip, and then opened it up to lower level classes after that.
McKeel and Chris Haynes, TV operations manager of MSUTV11, took the students to Nashville early Monday morning. The group attended three “Hot 20” tapings, participated as audience members, saw behind-the-scenes production and toured the building.
In addition to the technical educational opportunities, they had a Q & A session with a CMT executive producer, news reporter and station personality.
“It gave them the opportunity to witness a national production firsthand,” Haynes said. “They have a quite a bit of exposure to local and corporate video production, but the entertainment industry is whole other animal they don’t get a lot of exposure to here in Murray.”
Collette Anderson, junior from Bloomington, Ill., found the experience to be extremely beneficial to her development in her major.
“They taped three three-hour long shows in just three hours,” she said. “That was a big learning experience for me because I’m still learning how to edit and film and I can barely edit a minute of video footage in two hours, so (CMT) filming three three-hour shows in three hours was mind-blowing to me. I still have a lot to learn.”
McKeel, Haynes and Anderson all agreed that a lot of learning took place in a short amount of time. The CMT personnel not only talked about their current jobs, but also how they got their beginnings in the industry.
“My favorite part was the Q & A, because I believed it helped students understand the need to be proactive in attaining jobs and internships,” Haynes said. “The personal stories that the producers and hosts shared about their early experiences in the industry helped to communicate that.”
CMT staff made the experience both professionally beneficial and an upbeat, positive experience for all parties. Celebrity guest host, Brett Eldredge, handed out roses to a few Murray State women, Anderson being one of them.
“Getting the rose from Brett was so awesome,” she said. “As soon as he said he was going to be handing out roses to some of the girls in the audience, I shoved my way through the crowd of people. When it was time in the script to give them out he went down the line and handed one to each girl and when he finally got to me I’m pretty sure I accidentally stole it out of some girl’s hand. I still have the rose sitting on my desk in my room. I’m definitely not throwing it away even though it’s dead now.”
The trip was another opportunity for networking for students.
Two Murray State students have worked at CMT in the past year, Halle Pinkham and Paige Hoffmeister.
Hoffmeister is currently working in the radio department, according to Haynes.
“I think it was an eye-opening experience for all of us that went because we saw that this field is really competitive, and in order to stand out to get your ‘dream job’ you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there and always do your best,” Anderson said.
The possibility of more trips to CMT for TV productions is not out of the question, according to McKeel.
“We’d love to do it, again,” he said. “Needless to say, there are some cost and logistics issues to transporting 50 people to Nashville. We were very fortunate that Dean Tim Todd supported this venture, with some contribution from the students. We’ll definitely look for opportunities to do something similar in the future.”
Story by Kayla MacAllister, Staff writer