Hit cable show comes to River Falls
September 21, 2007
Over the summer half-a-dozen recent River Falls graduates and current students had the opportunity to work a job that some may consider the job of a lifetime.
Ryan Brennan, JJ Hornung, Sarita Meinking, Melissa Murphy, Charlie Sowa and Ryan Stridde spent three-and-a-half weeks this summer working on the set of the HBO series Hard Knocks.
Meinking graduated in May, but all the others are current students.
The show was in town to feature the Kansas City Chiefs football team who hold their annual summer training camp on campus.
The Chiefs have been holding their training camp on campus at the Ramer Field complex since 1991.
Hard Knocks is a weekly, hour-long show with no commercials that gives an inside look to a professional sports organization. This season lasted for five episodes. Half the shows were filmed during summer camp at River Falls and the others were filmed in Kansas City.
This isn’t the first season of Hard Knocks, the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys have also been featured on the show.
NFL Films has had interest in working with the Chiefs for a number of years, and before the timing didn’t seem to be right. But now, it worked and the rest is history, said Associate Director of Public Relations Pete Moris.
Most of the six students received recommendations from professor Evan Johnson to be show assistants. Brennan, Hornung and Sowa were field production assistants, Stridde was the audio production assistant, Murphy was the video tech manager and Meinking was the office production assistant.
Murphy was working her summer job at Menards when Johnson called to see if she would be interested in working for the show.
She recalls the next few days following Johnson’s call wondering what was going to happen next.
“I was on edge for three or four days, and I never heard from anyone,” Murphy said. “I didn’t know if I had to do an interview or send in a resume. Then a man from NFL Films called and asked me if I’d have three and a half free weeks and I said ‘Yes’ and he said, ‘OK, you’re in.’”
Brennan also had to play the waiting game after getting an e-mail from Johnson telling him about the Hard Knocks show.
“He gave NFL Films my info, and I didn’t know what to expect,” Brennan said.
Eventually Brennan heard from the production company and was set to start his job.
Johnson, a Communication Studies and Theater Arts professor, recommended five out of the six students for the summer position.
“They were candidates because they all have solid production experience from their CSTA coursework, combined with great attitudes,” Johnson said. “That combination was exactly what NFL Films was looking for.”
As a Field Production Assistant, Brennan would typically go out with a camera and audio person out on the field. He would bring extra batteries and tapes to make sure the crew would have everything they would need.
“I would help headset players and coaches, and I would listen to what they were saying and take notes on what they were saying,” Brennan said.
While Brennan was out with the players Murphy spent a lot of time indoors working on tapes.
“Every day I would take what was taped at the practices, go to the office in the Crabtree basement and cross convert the tapes and ship them to New Jersey twice a day,” Murphy said. “I also would always do just whatever they needed help getting done.”
While some may worry that a show of this nature could paint a negative picture of a program, Chiefs officials never seemed worried. After the show aired, there was a bunch of reactions from people involved in all aspects of the program.
“They told us right away their intent was to be entertaining,” Moris said. “The reactions that we’ve got from fans, players and coaches has been 99 percent positive.”
Brennan said this experience was indescribable. He said one of his favorite aspects of this whole process was watching the show with his family and being able to tell them that he helped with a certain shot or that he took notes for the storyboard.
Murphy is a marketing communications major and knows this experience is going to be valuable to her future.
“It was a really good experience,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize the opportunities that this University can give you.”
The show’s series finale aired Sept. 10.