Marketing & Communications

WBGU prepared alumna for Hollywood success

Sarah Rath '02

After a decade working behind the scenes of several popular television programs, WBGU-TV alumna Sarah Rath '02 is enjoying the first red carpet recognition of one her shows as the associate producer of HBO's The Newsroom.

Rath is in charge of all post-production for The Newsroom, which earned nominations for two Golden Globe Awards for its first season. The show is now in its second season on HBO. Though the show failed to capture the first major awards for which it was eligible during the Golden Globe ceremony Jan. 13, cast and crew are optimistic that additional award nominations will come this year, Rath said.

Rath oversees the arduous process that transforms digital camera footage into the one-hour program viewers enjoy. After teams of video and audio editors sweep the footage, another group of visual editors must perfect the footage by color correcting each of the 24 frames per second of video - which is more than 85,000 frames per episode. And because video-editing software and industry best practices are constantly evolving, Rath is always learning something new about her craft and introducing different techniques to her crew.

"Our department is the one that has to deal with technology changes the most," she said. "There is always a better or newer way to do what we have to do, so we constantly have to change the way it happens. . . .You really have to be ready to go with it."

"I've moved up the ranks quickly, and I think that (WBGU) is a big reason why."Rath has long dreamed of a career in film and television production. She toured BGSU after ruling out the possibility of pursuing a film degree at a university in California due to the cost. Her parents are both alumni and Falcon Flames, and she was already familiar with campus after attending sporting events on campus with her family. But Rath said she was most impressed during her campus tour by WBGU-TV, the PBS affiliate on campus that annually trains and hires dozens of students to work on local productions.

"After seeing PBS, I was like, 'OK, I'm sold.'"

As a telecommunications major, she first had the opportunity to handle a professional video camera outside of a classroom through her involvement in the student-run broadcast news organization, BG-24 News. A friend from the group advocated on her behalf at WBGU, and Rath joined a large staff of students. Rath's work ethic and persistence earned her a chance to try nearly every production job offered to students at the station. Rath became confident whether working on the studio floor running camera and lights, behind the scenes editing video, or up in the control room operating the switcher or directing a production.

Rath believes she owes credit to the mentors she had at WBGU- including producer/director Tom Zapiecki; retired producers/directors Denise Kisabeth, Paul Lopez and Tony Howard; and former producer/director Shawn Brady who trusted her with additional producing responsibilities and "took me under his wing," she said.

Though Rath had a couple practice runs as a Californian before she made the commitment - she spent a year at California State University, Northridge through the national student exchange program and held an internship - breaking into the business was a challenge. She was living with three roommates, initiating other BG alumni to the Hollywood scene by sharing a sleeping spot on her couch, and training to begin a part-time job for a retailer to pay her bills.

Her luck changed when she landed a position as an assistant for a powerful executive producer. After a year, her boss helped to place her with a post-production position on the Drew Carey Show during its final season. From there, she worked for such shows as The Nine, Jack and Bobby, and Eli Stone.

"I don't think I've been lucky enough to be on a show that's lasted more than two years," Rath recalled. "They don't last that long, but long enough to get the next job."

Rath recalls watching several close friends try and fail to break into the business, but said she refuses to discourage others from following her path into television production. Her best advice: don't wait for a job offer to move to Tinsel Town.

"What I tell people now is save as much money as you can, and just get out here. Because nobody is going to hire you if you aren't out here," Rath said. "So many qualified people who are good and who want it are already in LA."

That hasn't stopped Rath. The career path that Rath is committed to could lead to future positions as a co-producer, and ultimately, as an executive producer.

"I'm interested in making ideas happen."

She is confident that her education and training at WBGU helped prepare her for those next steps.

"I've moved up the ranks quickly, and I think that (WBGU) is a big reason why." Rath said. "Reading from a book is one thing, but this business is changing constantly. Learning how to do the basics, like learning audio or that kind of thing, just makes it so much easier to comprehend the bigger picture. It really helps."

 (Posted January 15, 2013 )