When students first arrived for their television journalism workshop this past spring, they had no idea the class would be producing a pilot.
Instead of producing television news segments during the workshop, former scholar-in-residence Alan Wright had his class make a pilot for a New York version of a show he produced in Ireland during the 1980s. The concept of the show is to promote small business and boost economies.
The class produced “Mind Your Own Business,” then Wright brought the pilot to local stations, hoping it would be bought and produced. The show was purchased by central New York PBS affiliate WCNY in May and began airing Sunday.
This season on “Mind Your Own Business,” 27 small businesses located in central New York are competing to win $50,000.
Each of the nine episodes profiles three young businesses, in locations like Ithaca and Syracuse, whose owners make one-minute pitches to convince a panel of three judges why their company should be chosen to go on to compete in the final three.
Each of the competing businesses must be 2 to 5 years old and earn less than $1 million a year. Tough Pups and Pampered Princesses, a shop located on State Street that sells fashion and accessories for dogs, is one of the contestants.
Kaylee Collins ’06 worked on the pilot in class and then joined the production crew as a field producer when the show was commissioned.
“I was interested in [the class] because … this class actually gave me a chance to use my journalism skills that I had previously learned for something other than a news story,” Collins said.
Wright, the show’s producer, said he wanted “Mind Your Own Business” to be produced mostly by students and recent graduates. As part of the purchase contract, the Ithaca team produced the in-the-field profiles for each business, while WCNY crews filmed the in-studio pitches.
“The vast bulk of the production, which has been going on now for four months … is absolutely dominated by Park students,” Wright said.
The Web site, opening graphics and music were also created by students while the show was in its early stages. Students also had to find a host. A video of Tanya Hutchins ’89 came up in their search, and Wright said he immediately thought she was perfect.
Wright said no one in the class had any idea Hutchins was an alumna when they first contacted her.
“She e-mailed me back saying, ‘So how many other Ithaca alumni did you approach?’ I had no idea, none of us had any idea, she was [an] Ithaca alumni … it was pure coincidence,” Wright said.
Hutchins, who worked in news after she graduated but has since left the business, said she was excited to work on a project that could have such a positive impact on the area and to work with the college again.
“It’s wonderful that [students] have the opportunity to work on a professional program,” Hutchins said. “It’s a great experience and that’s the reason I went to Ithaca College, because of experience like that.”
If “Mind Your Own Business” does well this season, Wright said he plans to expand it to other regions of New York and eventually to other states. He said he would like to continue giving production opportunities to recent graduates and said he hopes that it will help them with their careers.
“What would give me the greatest pleasure … is if in two or three years time some of the people who have been working with me, you know, the Park graduates, say, ‘You know what Alan, thank you very much for letting us work with you but we’re going to set up our own independent production company now in competition to you.’ I would view that as a success,” Wright said.