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NDtv offers student-produced programming

John Cameron | Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Just a few channels away from CNN, Fox News and Disney sits channel 53 — NDtv — the only student-run broadcasting station serving Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.

The station broadcasts 24/7 and runs almost exclusively student-produced material, with the exception of movie nights about twice a month, said senior Brenna Williams, executive director for the channel.

“We have eight shows being produced this semester,” Williams said. “We’ve probably had about 20 produced in our history. Our longest running shows are ‘Late Night ND,’ our sketch comedy show, and ‘Office Hours,’ our interview show. ‘Late Night’ is in its 14th season, I believe, and ‘Office Hours’ is in its eighth.”

Other NDtv regulars include “Dining In,” a cooking show hosted by Saint Mary’s seniors Samantha Tulisiak and Bridget Meade, and produced by fellow Saint Mary’s senior Stephanie Cherpak.

Cherpak said the show caters to students cooking on a budget.

“[The show] focuses on presenting inexpensive, quick and easy recipes to students,” she said. “In the past we have themed our seasons with themes such as … ‘Common Dorm Foods,’ with recipes based off coffee, peanut butter, Ramen noodles, pretzels and beer.”

Cherpak also produces “NDtv Abroad: Italy,” the newest installment in the channel’s recurring abroad series. The series has previously followed the experiences of Saint Mary’s students while studying at the College’s abroad programs in Ireland and London.

“Episodes include a tour of Rome, a weekend retreat in Assisi, day trips to Ostia Antica and Tivoli, various events in Vatican City and much more,” Cherpak said. “The show was filmed during the Spring 2010 Semester but will air on NDtv this fall.”

In addition to unscripted programming, NDtv broadcasts a number of scripted shows, including “The Writer’s Room,” a 30-minute sitcom produced by senior Pat Toland. Toland said the plot was not far from reality but the style draws from popular sitcoms.

“[The show is] about a group of friends trying to put together a sketch show for NDtv,” he said. “Season one was all about getting our fictional show picked up by the network, and this season will be about how we handle the pressures of actually making a TV show. My friends have described ‘The Writer’s Room’ as a mix between ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ and I’d throw in a little ‘30 Rock’ influence as well.”

Students looking to air their own content must apply for approval from Williams before proceeding with script writing, filming at NDtv’s studio space in Washington Hall, editing and exporting the programming for broadcast.

While the process is extensive, Williams said students looking to participate are not obligated to make a major time commitment, and participation fluctuates throughout the year.

“The number of students participating varies constantly,” she said. “I think there’s this misconception about NDtv, that you have to start at the beginning of the year and you are locked in no matter what. While we welcome and encourage people to be involved all year, NDtv is as much or as little time as you can handle.”

Williams said the station offers an opportunity for any students interested in broadcasting to learn about the process in a fun casual setting. She said the channel welcomes students from all majors, not just those majoring in Film, Television and Theater (FTT.)

“I think that’s another misconception people have about NDtv, that it’s only for FTT majors. That’s not true at all. More of our staff are non-FTT than are FTT,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to learn in a low-pressure, high-fun environment everything they want to know about camera operation, editing, live broadcasts and everything else that goes into getting a show on the air.”

While the channel consists of programming put on by students from a variety of majors, Williams said it’s especially helpful for FTT majors looking to apply what they are learning in a less academic environment.

“For FTT majors, it’s a great place to supplement what they’re learning in the classroom and to get really creative without having to worry about getting a grade on their work,” she said.

Cherpak, a double major in mass communication and religious studies with a minor in film studies, hopes to apply her education to a career in specialized film production.

“In an ideal world, I would find a job doing film production for a religious organization,” she said. “I really enjoy the production end of the communication industry and would love to be able to pair that with the knowledge I have gained in my religious studies courses.”

Toland, a marketing and television double major, also hopes to work in television professionally.

“I’m definitely looking to be involved in television in some capacity,” he said. “Ideally I would like to work in scheduling or creative development at a broadcast or cable network.”

Williams, who joined NDtv at the beginning of her freshman year, praises the station for developing her interest in broadcasting.

“As a freshman … NDtv just seemed like a great place to test the waters to see if broadcasting was something I was really interested in,” she said. “Turns out, it was. It’s all about learning and feeling things out at your own pace. You can really find passion for something you never would have tried before.”