Rick Sebak is a television documentary producer, a director, a writer and narrator. He’s created dozens of unique documentaries for Pittsburgh’s WQED Multimedia and several travelogue projects for PBS. Sebak is known as the creator of the ‘scrapbook documentary’ genre with programs like Kennywood Memories, A Hot Dog Program, Breakfast Special, Fred Rogers: America’s Favorite Neighbor. Each project celebrates the nostalgia and history of shared American cultural touchstones.
Five plucky Westminster College students (Doltyn Snedden, Zac Hynus, Connor Hamilton, Dan Swank and Kellen Gursky) are enrolled in the 2016 Documentary Production courses. They are uncovering, researching and cultivating stories in the pre-production stage for documentary projects they will produce this year. They spent a day with Sebak at WQED where this gracious, Emmy-nominated master of the genre offered them insight and advice.
Sebak gave a personal station tour and highlighting WQED’s rich and pioneering history. As they wandered the studios and production facilities, Sebak shared several colorful stories handed down about Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. The tour also included a stop at Classical WQED-FM to meet Artistic Director and Host Jim Cunningham. Cunningham is the voice you’ll hear at the beginning and end of Sebak’s shows.
Sebak also introduced his peers and collaborators in his productions, including videographer/editor Frank Calolero and senior editor Kevin Conrad. They fielded questions about their production process, their editing techniques and even the music behind some of the programs.
The group experienced an extremely intimate and highly personal behind-the-scenes look at Sebak’s work. They also had a chance to pitch their project ideas to him. The students presented their concepts, research elements and pre-production efforts. All five of our young producers received valuable, individual feedback. Sebak is even working with some of the students to match them up with potential interview subjects.
Junior Dan Swank also recruited Sebak to serve as a one-on-one consultant for his documentary, Re-Stripped. It’s a program focused on Pittsburgh’s Strip District and gentrification. Swank has made an excellent choice. in 1996, Sebak produced WQED’s Strip Show, a documentary that showcases and celebrates the Strip District.
All of these students will reconnect with Sebak this fall. He’s accepted an invitation to visit Westminster College to review their post-production rough cuts. They’ll premiere their documentaries in early December at the annual Westminster College Student Documentary Showcase.
You can check out the proposed documentaries from our students with this series of preview videos. Each student producer offers a summary of their upcoming project.
DOLTYN SNEDDEN- Media Arts & Design
DAN SWANK- Broadcasting & Media Production
Zac Hynus- Broadcasting & Media Production
Connor Hamilton- Broadcasting & Media Production
Kellen Gursky- Broadcasting & Media Production