Black Reflections: BET 1980-2010

Memories from 30 years of Black Entertainment Television...

Momma Look At Me, I Work At BET!

Published by: Maxie Collier on 13th Jun 2010 | View all blogs by Maxie Collier

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Some of BET's "Teen Summit" Crew, on set in the early 90's - Me, Elise Perry, James Stubbs, Karen Cromwell, William Harper, Tim Brown, Sylvia Reis, and Dave G. Most of us were in our early - mid 20's. BET helped launch the careers of many young, African-Americans, working behind the scenes in professional television.

By December 1989, my brothers and I had been publishing our magazine, Black Reflections, for more than two years. It hadn't made us any money but it taught us about production and provided an opportunity to conduct our first interviews. One of these interviews was with a rapper named Redhead Kingpin. We interviewed him in the parking lot of Black Entertainment Television (BET), a national cable TV channel based in Washington, DC. It was my first time there at the facility.

After that,  on several occassions, I drove and sat in the McDonald's parking lot next to the building, imagining all that was going on inside.

By this time, I was a student at Howard University, stumbling thru business classes while living and partying at the lovely new co-ed residence, the Howard Towers.  I was pretty much in school for social activities, but yearning for more.

It was during the holiday break, at our father's annual Kwanzaa party,  that I had the good fortune to meet one of my magazine’s subscribers, Dr. Bruce Marshall. As fate would have it, he happened to be the Chief of Engineering for BET!

After plucking Dr. Marshall’s head with a bunch of questions about TV production, I asked him if he could hook me up with an internship at BET. To my surprise and delight, he offered me a part-time job, primarily on the basis of the work I had done with my magazine.

I was twenty-one when I started my gig at BET. My first job was as a part-time teleprompter operator. It was a paper pushing job-- literally. I had to tape script pages together, then rolled them through an old mechnical teleprompter, as it was read by the on air talent.

I’d occasionally have to use my writing skills to make changes on the script. I wore headphones, which allowed me to follow everything going on in the control room, as well as watch the way the talent, camera operators, lighting crew, and sound people moved about in the studio.

I worked a four hour evening shift but only operated the prompter for a one minute news report during each hour. The free time gave me an opportunity to learn TV production on the job by watching the other programs being produced. Taking the same approach I used to learn computers and desktop publishing, I also read all that I could about TV production.

I developed a reputation for asking questions and practicing on the equipment in the studio and control rooms. The producers, talent, technicians and directors at BET shared their experiences with me. A few months later, I was offered a full-time job as a floor director. Much to my academically minded, mother’s dismay, I quit school and took the job.

During that period, there was a resurgence of Hollywood interest in African-American films. In addition to Spike Lee, many other directors such as Robert Townsend (“Hollywood Shuffle”); the Hudlin Brothers (“House Party”, “Bommerang”); Doug McHenry and his partner, the late George Jackson (“New Jack City”); Bill Duke (“A Rage In Harlem”) and John Singleton (“Boy’s In The Hood”) would visit BET to promote their projects. As well as countless other business leaders, writers, recording artists, movie and TV stars.

As a floor director and stage manager, I was responsible for attending to the needs these folks when they were in the studio during rehearsal, during, and immediately following shows. This provided me many chances to ask questions about TV, filmmaking and showbiz. Eventually, I started to believe that I could do it myself. And soon I did... I had found my career.

Comments

1 Comment

  • Razz Hyman
    by Razz Hyman 7 years ago
    These were the good old days.
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