Interdepartmental Collaboration Results in Striking — and Fiscally Responsible — Overhaul of Television Studio

Aug. 11, 2011

When Brooklyn College's 2010 newscast was named regional winner in the Society for Professional Journalists contest and took second place in the nation, Emmy Award winner Barbara Nevins Taylor, the course instructor and an investigative reporter for Fox News in New York, got an idea.

Taylor wanted to know whether the set where the Summer Broadcast News Institute — the monthlong capstone class for broadcast journalism undergraduates in the Television and Radio Department — is regularly taped could be "spiffied up" without burning a lot of money in these fiscally challenging times.

Upon learning that the Theater Department's M.F.A. program has a design and technical concentration under Victor "Kip" Marsh, Taylor reached out to him.

"We had been exploring design for film and television in my advanced design course," said Marsh, who is now chairman of the department. "I immediately thought of Pei-Wen Huang, a student who had shown an interest and aptitude in that form of entertainment design."

"The biggest challenge was the budget," Huang said, noting that it certainly wasn't the only obstacle. She was going to be away during the construction phase, and the entire project was going to take place toward the end of the spring semester, when the college was busy gearing up for commencement.

Huang offered a simple black-and-white design that, with the right lighting, allowed for an easy change of background colors.

"Everybody loved its simplicity," said Jeanine Corbet, manager of operations in the Department of Television and Radio, who confirmed that very few new things were needed to put it together.

After meeting with Huang, Rob Weinstein, studio operations engineer, opted to build it using material that needed to be resurfaced, repainted and repurposed. Assisted by second-year television and radio M.F.A. student Flemming Laursen, he finished it before summer classes started in early June. The only missing piece was the signage, generally a costly element in all designs, which had to be commissioned.

To keep it all in the community, Taylor called a local outfit, Sign Select, which happened to be owned by Brooklyn College alumni Eli Bendersky '98 and Emil Kogan '97, who agreed to do it for a substantial discount.

"I teach my students about the importance of collaboration in their production of stories, and this is a perfect example of how talented people can come together to create exciting work," Taylor said.

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