We’re all familiar with television from an audience’s perspective, instinctively knowing what we like and what we don’t like when it comes to the shows we watch. Perhaps we’ve even watched some of our favorites and thought that we could do an admirable job of producing similar content. Though such ideas are commonplace, success in the highly competitive world of television production is exceedingly rare, dependent on a host of factors such as sponsorship, audience taste, and on-set limitations. In order to explore the fascinating world of television production further, we looked to the career of Bennett Graebner, an executive producer behind such popular shows as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (TVGuide). Read on for a look at what makes him so effective in his chosen line of work.
Let’s first take a look at the producer’s personal history to gain a sense of where he’s been in his long-running career in film and television. Attending Vassar College for his undergraduate degree in English, Bennett Graebner graduated Phi Beta Kappa, long known as the US’s most prestigious academic honor society. The producer would go on to attend film school at the University of Southern California. There he would receive his MFA from the university’s school of cinematic arts, an institution with a storied history of its own.
After his formal education, the producer worked in a variety of different areas in the entertainment industry. As is often the case in the production world, he worked various jobs in the role of production assistant before ascending to higher positions along the production track. With an eye for framing and lighting, the film professional also took on numerous projects as a cinematographer and as a grip, both critical positions for shaping the look of film and television content.
Impact of varied roles
One aspect of a person’s career that can help lead to success in any industry is having a firm understanding of the roles performed by the various members of one’s team. This understanding is often most strong in those that have actually performed those roles themselves. As seen above, this is an area in which the producer stands out. Having worked in roles all along the production hierarchy, he is able to fully understand the various tasks that are necessary to make his team function. Beyond that, he is also able to understand how to assign an appropriate workload to his staff in the pursuit of their shared goal. Without such an understanding, any collaborative effort will struggle as team members become overburdened by unrealistic expectations.
While the experience exhibited by the producer in various production roles is critical to his ability to deliver, it is also not uncommon for a high-level producer to have this type of background. His work in various other on-set roles is less common, however, and is something that gives him a leg up when working under the stringent deadlines and constraints common in the television industry. This is, in part, due to the ways in which a production team must rely on on-set professionals to create a television show. If any part of a production unit is not set up for success, the whole show can suffer. With his experience in the camera and electrical department comes the ability for the producer to more fully understand what is needed in order to deliver the best possible content.
Value of film school
The question of whether or not to attend film school is hotly contested in the field of entertainment. Though there are many examples of film professionals who have found success without this type of education, there is also plenty of compelling evidence that it can help increase one’s chances for success. Contributing to this conversation, the accomplishments of Bennett Graebner serve to underscore what can result from attending institutions of higher education that are focused on cinematic arts.
Many of the benefits that the producer received from his time at film school flow from the structured environment in which students are able to explore a field that can, at times, appear overwhelming. Under the watchful eye and advisement of experienced professors, film students are able to experiment with a range of different skill sets. Through that practice, students not only develop new abilities but also form close bonds with those who will one day be their colleagues in the entertainment industry. Access to a distinguished network of alumni is also helpful once students graduate and enter the workforce.
Since much of the success achieved by Bennett Graebner is in the field of reality television, it may be tempting for those not familiar with this line of work to consider it wholly different than other areas of production. In fact, reality television is much more similar to other forms of entertainment than some might think. While show formats in this realm deviate from a traditional structure containing fictional characters and plots, an understanding of what compels audiences in other formats is critical to imbuing reality television with that same level of intrigue.
To that end, we find that the producer’s understanding of story and structure is key to his ability to guide his production efforts. Though reality television is centered around real people and events, it is still important to create shows that have a beginning, middle, and end along with compelling narrative arcs throughout. Lacking these components, which are hallmarks of what makes for an interesting story, any producer’s work would fall short of its goals.
While it can be alluring as an audience member to watch an episode of television and think that we have all the necessary skills to create compelling content, in actuality, the task requires more expertise than many realize. It is a rare mix of technical ability, professional experience, and interpersonal skills that makes for a successful television producer. The above details of the career of Bennett Graebner can be an informative look at just how varied that skill set really is. For those who do want to pursue a career in television production, the work of the well-known producer can be a great case study from which to model one’s own efforts for the greatest chance of success.