Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda: Diary of a Production Assistant
We were all silent as Nik took his first steps on the wire in attempt to cross the Grand Canyon. It was amazing how fast the week had past; just seven days ago we arrived in Flagstaff ready to help prepare for the production of the show that would air live on the Discovery Channel. We were all hired as production assistants and spent the week helping in anyway we could, from running errands to being stand-ins for rehearsals. Now that we’re at the end of our adventure, we wanted to share our experiences with you of what it was like to be a production assistant for a major production.
“My experience being part of the Nik Wallenda Skywire production team was nothing short of amazing. As the co-owner of D-Mak Productions, my expertise really lies in customer relations and sales and marketing, but it’s always really exciting for me when I have the chance to be part of the production team when applicable, whether it’s helping with scripting, line producing, or being a production assistant, which I had the good fortune of being on this particular shoot. I was able to work with Emmy Award winning producers and directors such as Phil Alongi and Ron de Moraes which was incredible. Not to mention the production itself, Nik Wallenda being the first person to walk a tight rope across the Grand Canyon, which will be an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Add that to the fact that I was able to share this experience with our summer interns, Matt, Victoria, Wesley, and Adrianna, and to learn more about them on a personal level was definitely an added bonus on to itself. I’m looking forward to the opportunity of our production company doing more work with NBCUniversal and the Discovery Channel in the future.” ~Joe Forte
“‘Production Assistant for NBCUniversal and Discovery Channel’ was the title of my first job. I have had internships before, but this was my first paying job and it was in the field I wanted to go in, so I didn’t want to mess it up. I always heard that production assistants are the lowest on the totem pole and I soon found out that this was true. However, as the week went on, I was trusted with more responsibilities and went from merely asking everyone if they needed help to manning the credential table by myself for 16 hours a day and facilitating crew transportation. On this job at the Grand Canyon, I learned so much and made many connections that will hopefully help me get further in my career. Altogether, this was an amazing experience that I will never forget.” ~Victoria Geske
I’d never been to the Grand Canyon, nor had the opportunity to work on an actual production site before, so to help out with NBC’s media coverage for Nik Wallenda was a chance I couldn’t pass up. Being immersed in such a fast-paced environment where every single person has a part in order to get the same job done, it’s hard to downplay the role of even us lowly production assistants. In fact, I learned much more and the experience was much more enriching, being able to help in small ways with so many departments. Not only was I the water boy, I was also Nik’s stand-in, a videographer, subtitle maker, carpenter, and credentialist. There was no greater feeling for me to know that whenever a small twitter tweet popped across the corner of the screen, familiar b-roll footage premiered in between commercials, or that nobody passed out of heat exhaustion, I could honestly say to myself, “This was me.” ~Wesley de la Rosa
“I was one of 10 NBC Production Assistants and member of a large staff working to ensure the show ran smoothly from start to finish. My days began at 5:30 a.m. and ended as late as 11:00 p.m. To say I did a lot of running around the set would be an understatement. Producers and various higher-ups assigned me with various menial tasks, from delivering copies of the show’s rundown to serving as a stand-in for 5’3’’ Today Show host Natalie Morales during the rehearsal. Though I do not intend to enter the field of broadcast news, it was unique to experience the mass of work (and intense stress) that occurs behind the scenes of a live production, all while representing the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
And hey, free Discovery Channel swag.” ~Adrianna Ovnicek
“Working as Production Assistant for NBCUniversal / Discovery Channel’s shoot Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda was an amazing experience to say the least. Although being a PA is extremely below the line of the creative fields, I met some very cool people including the live producer, Phil Alongi, and also the director of the show, Ron de Moraes and his assistant Eve Adair. I was assigned to being Ron and Eve’s personal assistant but day-by-day I discovered that they were pretty self-sufficient. I was grateful to have come in contact with some of the executives of the show. I also got the chance to sit down with weatherman Jim Cantore at lunch and chat about random things like skiing/snowboarding. Two days before Nik walked the wire, Discovery’s digital team arrived. They were in charge of the online stream of the event. Another production assistant and I were asked to film some B-Roll montages and edit them into one-minute packages for the digital team. I was excited to do this because I was given a chance to be creative in this professional environment and I was told that our footage was aired during the online stream. This experience was a gift overall. I am grateful that I got to be apart of this production and I’m excited for what the future brings.” ~Matt Lee