Brenna Eckerson has always had an eye for good stories.
Growing up in Manteo, N.C., Eckerson remembers her first high school job as an usher for Roanoke Island’s “Lost Colony” production and its influence on her passion for storytelling. “Honestly, I just told people where to sit, but I took the job because I’d be near the theater,” she says. After graduating from NC State in 2002 with a degree in mass communications, Eckerson learned to channel her creative energy into screen writing – a skill that’s made her invaluable in the television business.
Prior to joining the Distillery Pictures team as a writer, producer and developer in 2006, Eckerson had already earned post production credits on a number of Discovery Health programs, including “Surviving Sextuplets and Twins,” the show that first shed light on the infamous Gosselin family.
Eckerson says her current project, “Salvage Dawgs” – a documentary-style series starring Robert Kulp and Mike Whiteside, the charismatic co-owners of Virginia-based architectural antique shop Black Dog Salvage – is different than anything she’s ever produced. “In addition to character-based reel,” she says, “this show also falls into the category of object-based reality TV.”
“Salvage Dawgs” gives viewers a colorful glimpse into the business of antique reclamation, repurposing and resale. The show’s stars, Kulp and Whiteside, bid on condemned structures to recover architectural artifacts of America’s past – everything from doors and windows to light fixtures and garden statues. “I love the historical aspect of the homes and buildings,” Eckerson says. “If the guys weren’t doing this work, these pieces would end up in a dump somewhere.”
Eckerson laughs as she describes Kulp and Whiteside. “They’re polar opposites, but they balance each other out nicely,” she says. “Tons of fun, tons of personality.”
With a project like “Salvage Dawgs,” Eckerson’s work is a hybrid of several jobs, including field producer, series producer, and series creator and developer. How are the jobs different? “In some ways, I’m currently wrapped up in all those titles for the show,” she explains. “Field producers usually act – at least in the context of the docu-drama and docu-reality genres – as a director in addition to field producing.”
“Series producers,” Eckerson continues, “oversee an entire series to ensure consistency of tone and character development.” Series creators and developers, by contrast, often work in a more collaborative capacity. “There’s usually a team of us figuring out what the format is going to be,” she says. “We assess each character’s strengths and weaknesses, focus on satisfying the client, and try to decide what the audience wants to see.”
A producer’s role in “Salvage Dawgs” also involves “lots of traveling back-and-forth” from Roanoke, Va., where the show is filmed, to Trailblazer Studios’ production facility in Raleigh, N.C. “I was on all six initial episodes,” Eckerson says. “As far as the information goes, I go out in the field and work with the story and stars, but we’re currently working on the development aspect here at the studio – conducting interviews, holding content meetings, etc.”
One of Eckerson’s favorite aspects of “Salvage Dawgs” is the versatility of its appeal. “The thing I particularly love about this show,” she says, “is that people of all ages and both genders gravitate towards it – some to the construction and deconstruction processes, and others to the creativity and artistry.”
Eckerson shares her pride in the show’s recent promotion to one of the Do-it-Yourself Network’s primetime spots. “We were also just green-lighted for several additional episodes,” she says, “so we we’re really excited.”
Ultimately, Eckerson’s passion for “Salvage Dawgs” derives from her original appreciation of storytelling and context – bridges built between past, present, and future. “It’s carrying on the workmanship of yesteryear into 2013 and beyond.”
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Though Eldrige Cleaver was speaking in Raleigh, he was focused on something broader in scope — a world revolution.
And on this day in 1983, Cleaver appeared on NC State’s campus in Poe Hall to reflect on his time as a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and to call on revolutionaries to fight for a better world.
“I’ve always been curious about people who hate the term ‘revolutionary,’” Cleaver said to his audience, according to the Technician. “All of us are revolutionary.”
Eldridge Cleaver speaking to a crowd in Poe Hall. Photo originally appeared in 1983 issue of the Technician.
Cleaver said that Che Guevara, who was a guerrilla leader in Cuba, was his model for what a revolutionary should be. Communism, Cleaver said, brought about many negative effects he saw in his tours across the world, and it was democracy that was the ideal political system for a country to have. He went on to add that from that vantage point, America was in good hands, but it was the country’s economic system that was divisive and at the root of so many of society’s problems.
Cleaver died in 1998 after a controversial life, chronicled here in a New York Times piece about his life.
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Central America was a region of civil unrest and political turmoil in the 1980s. There was no more potent symbol of that than when Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero was assassinated in 1980.
And it was on this day in 1983 when students at NC State turned their conscience toward that region and held a fast for peace. There they honored Romero, whose assassin was never caught.
The students also read the names of everyone who had died or disappeared in Guatemala, where the government was committing mass genocide, and El Salvador, where the nation was embroiled in civil war.
The event was sponsored by Cooperative Ministry and the NC State Committee for Central America. There was also a Central American film festival held all week in the Walnut Room to raise awareness about the strife in that region.
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A cover of a book written by hoaxter Alan Abel. On it, you can see SINA's solution to world's problems -- a clothed horse.
A story that appeared in The Technician early in March 1963 had all the makings to launch a protest on campus. It spelled out one man’s indignation at an ill he viewed as so perilous to society, he was willing to dedicate the next 10 years of his life and his $400,000 inheritance from his father to remedy it.
As president of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, G. Clifford Prout saw it as his duty to travel the country and clothe every animal, whose birthday suits he saw as leading to the moral decay of the country. The Technician spelled out SINA’s contention “that the immorality of America is caused by the slight skads [sic] of little naked animals running around, flaunting their ‘vital parts.’” So Prout decided to start a chapter of SINA on many college campuses, including NC State, to carry out his charge.
“Be it resolved,” the SINA constitution read, according to The Technician, “that the members of SINA shall devote their time and energy to clothe all naked animals that appear in public, namely horses, cows, dogs, and cats, including any animal that stands higher than four inches and is longer than six inches.”
Prout also proposed a march in Washington, D.C., to protest then-first lady Jackie Kennedy and her daughter, Caroline, riding nude horses. And he offered a contest that called for each participants to write an essay of between 100 and 10,000 words addressing the theme, “Why I Choose to Be a Decent Person.”
But on this day 50 years ago, The Technician admitted that it (like students at several other universities) had been pranked and that SINA and Prout were hoaxes thought up by American prankster Alan Abel. And it turns out that Prout, himself, was played in public appearances by none other than comedy writer, Saturday Night Live alumnus and screenwriter of The Graduate Buck Henry.
“Well it finally happened,” The Technician reported on this day in 1963. “THE TECHNICIAN was played for a fool. …We think it’s a shame. We can’t help but wonder how our cows would look in petticoats.”
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Now that March has rolled around, hardly a day goes by without a favorite memory of NC State’s 1983 national championship run popping up online or in the newspaper. But what is sometimes forgotten is that Jim Valvano’s squad had to win another tournament before even sniffing the NCAAs.
And it was on this day 30 years ago that the Wolfpack beat the heavily favored Virginia Cavaliers, 81-78, to capture its ninth ACC tournament title and an automatic berth in the NCAAs. The Cavs were ranked second nationally at the time.
NC State struggled with Virginia big-man Ralph Sampson, who poured in 24 points. But the Wolfpack had an answer in Thurl Bailey, who dropped 24 points on the Cavs. Sidney Lowe had 18 points in the win and earned the Everett Case Award as the tournament’s MVP.
The victory marked the end of a losing streak to the University of Virginia for the Pack and something much worse for the Cavs’ center. “For the Pack it was a dream come true as it stopped a seven-game UVa winning streak over State,” read an article in the Technician. “For Virginia and Ralph Sampson, it was the last hurrah fallen short as Sampson completed his fourth year at Virginia without an ACC title.”
But of greater importance was the NCAA tournament berth that the win secured for the Pack, since it gave way to one of the most magical runs by any team in the big tourney. But no one, including Valvano, felt certain a national title would come to Raleigh.
“As far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned, I am concerned because we play a different style from what will be played in the tournament,” Valvano said after the ACC title win. “We are used to using the three-point shot quite a bit and have a good 30-second defense. We will have to adjust our defensive and offensive concepts this week in our preparation.”
Adjust they did.
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A campus landmark that students have called home for decades — the Talley Student Center — is undergoing an extreme makeover.
Construction is underway on the new Talley Student Center, a $120-million project that will transform the aging building into what planners are calling “the crossroads of central campus.”
The Talley project is a renovation and an expansion made necessary by NC State’s growth and the building’s deteriorating conditions. Since the center was built in 1972, the student population of NC State has more than doubled to its current level of 34,000, making the facility too small to meet the increasing number of students.
The old building also suffered from numerous infrastructure problems including limited electrical power, plumbing problems, inefficient heating and cooling systems and elevator failures. The existing building also has no sprinklers for fire protection, says Tim Hogan, operations director for University Student Centers.
But that will all change when the new student center opens in 2014.
Students — and visiting alums who drop in — will find an “open and welcoming” student center with abundant glass across the exterior offering a sweeping view of campus, Hogan says.
Those who want a bite to eat can check out the Pavilions Food Court. It will offer freshly made pizza, burritos and more vegan and vegetarian options than ever before. A variety of international cuisine will also be available in the dining area, and those pulling a late night can stop for a burger in the new Talley diner. They can perk up the next morning with coffee at Starbucks or Port City Java in the student center.
Talley will also be modernized to allow for Wi-Fi access throughout the building, and a two-story grand ballroom and meeting spaces will be equipped with audiovisual technology for presentations of up to 1,000 people.
Student organizations and several university services will also call Talley home, including student government, the Union Activities Board, student Senate, Student Union Administration and Facilities Management.
Quiet nooks and recreational spaces will be built into the new Talley – all part of the design to give it a living room feel. Large screen TVs will allow for group viewing on Wolfpack game days as well, says Jennifer Gilmore, spokeswoman for Campus Enterprises. And plans call for an elevated walkway across the train tracks to connect north and south campus.
Talley replaced NC State’s first student center — called the Student Union — which was built in 1952 and located in what is now the Erdahl-Cloyd wing of D.H. Hill Library.
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Amidst the turmoil of total war, low student enrollment and the occasional draft calls that defined colleges in the war years, NC State did not forget its Jewish population during World War II.
On this day in 1943, the newly commissioned Hillel Counselorship hosted its first public meeting. The meeting featured a film about the plight of Jews living and suffering in Hitler’s Germany.
The organization was established by Col. John Harrelson, the dean of administration, and Rabbi Harold L. Gelfman to provide a place for Jewish students and faculty to worship and gather once a week for the sake of community, according to an account in the Technician.
The Counselorship event also hosted a speaker, Israel Weinstein, director of the Jewish Welfare Board, who had lived in Hawaii and witnessed the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
The film and public meeting was the second event the Hillel Counselorship hosted. On March 5, the first worship service was held.
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Few moments in NC State’s history have been as divisive as the fight over the university’s name that took place in the mid-1960s. Supporters of the consolidated system, including its head Bill Friday, wanted the name to be the University of North Carolina-Raleigh, and students and professors believed North Carolina State College’s unique identity be preserved.
But no voice was more vocal in opposing the name change than the university’s alumni. And on this day in 1963, State College alumni attended an open hearing held by the N.C. Senate and House education committees on a bill that incorporated the use of “North Carolina State, the University of North Carolina at Raleigh.” Though the name was seen as a compromise, alumni suggested the name was just as offensive.
R.W. Graber was one of those alumni who chose to be heard that March afternoon, according to an article in The Technician. And he suggested that the UNC system was trying to “swallow” up NC State, which he pointed out was often an afterthought with insults like “Cow College” being thrown its way. “But beef is pretty tough,” Graber said in the hearing, “and UNC would have a hard time digesting State.”
The fight and the protests ensued for two more years until 1965, when the university was named North Carolina State University at Raleigh, the formal name it goes by today.
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Raleigh composer Jason Graves was seeking exotic noisemakers to add to his soundtrack for “Tomb Raider,” the new Lara Croft computer game. It turned out he only had to go right down the street, to the workshop of industrial sculptor Matt McConnell, which is in the same Raleigh neighborhood as Graves’ home studio.
“The first time he called, he didn’t know I was a block away,” McConnell says with a laugh. “‘I think I can see your front door from my house,’ he said. So he’d come down here and grab metal, tools, pipes, glass, carry it all back up to his studio and play around with it.”
Over time, they became collaborators as McConnell designed and built a one-of-a-kind musical sculpture to fit the game’s rough edges visually as well as aurally. It took a year for McConnell to perfect the “Tomb Raider” instrument, an eight-foot-high sculpture that looks like a ceremonial artifact.
“It was an amazing process, putting together something that fit the look and feel of the game and also worked musically,” says McConnell, a 1994 graduate of the College of Design. “One of our first considerations was whether or not to have the sculpture reflect Lara Croft physically. But her character is so iconic that I decided it should focus more on the environment and other characters.”
The instrument’s off-kilter pings and tones are all over the soundtrack, adding layers of nuanced tension to Graves’ orchestration. Having done its work, the piece is now on permanent display in the lobby of Crystal Dynamics, the California-based game developer behind “Tomb Raider.”
“This was a challenge that really pushed me to a new language,” says McConnell. “Most of my work tends to be very clean and systematic, but the environment of this game was determined by scavengers using scraps to construct shantytowns. It was very different from anything I’ve ever done. The whole experience was eye-opening.”
– David Menconi
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In the eastern reaches of North Carolina, where the coast weaves in and out to form secluded coves and communities, live the people of the Core Sound. These people, and their lives in commercial fishing, have been the subject of study by William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English Walt Wolfram and video producer Neal Hutcheson, both of NC State.
Wolfram and Hutcheson, who have produced five documentaries showcasing the diversity of accents, dialect and culture of North Carolina communities across the state, have reunited to create their sixth documentary and the second one about the people of the Core Sound as part of The North Carolina Language and Life Project.
The new documentary, “Core.Sounders,” premieres March 14 at the N.C. Museum of History in downtown Raleigh. The film covers the economic struggles the fishing communities face. “There are lots of cultural issues (down east) and one of the important ones in this region is the commercial fishing,” says Wolfram. “It’s not only the language (or dialect) we’re interested in, but it’s also the traditions. The documentary will talk about culture, the challenges of development and also the fishing industry.”
People in the Core Sound have a long, rich history of fishing, and Wolfram and Hutcheson want this documentary to showcase that. “People have made a living for generations and now it’s changing and competing with (a lot of things),” says Wolfram. “The fishing industry is not nearly as viable, people can’t make a living. It’s not simply about fishing it’s an entire lifestyle.
Part of displaying that lifestyle for Wolfram and Hutcheson is through the events surrounding the premiere. “One of the things that will sort of show the community context is following the film, a panel of people from Core Sound will be there, including some of the people in the film,” says Wolfram. “We hope that the whole theme from hors d’oeuvres to panel to production will present community in a context that premieres usually don’t do.”
The premiere of this documentary marks the end of a lot of hard work and weeks spent working to put this film together. Hutcheson, a 1992 NC State grad, took several trips to the Core Sound and stayed with the people to get the story right and the full effect of what’s happening.
“One of the important dimensions of this film is the community has been involved in this, which is unusual,” says Hutcheson. “We have input from professionals and input from the community. We have spent years there … it’s a very vested project.”
The Core Sound people were the subject five years ago of Hutcheson and Wolfram’s documentary, “The Carolina Brogue.” That feature focused on the unique accents that have developed in the Core Sound because of its history of isolation from surrounding communities.
Hutcheson says his new film could influence North Carolina legislation in a positive way. “I think it has the potential to help,” says Hutcheson. “We’ve captured these people quite accurately and legislation is currently dealing with complicated issues: zoning, development, water quality and fishing regulation. It’s done in an abstract way without understanding who they are.”
Hutcheson knows how much it could mean to the Core Sound people to have their story told. “The people down there have been working to get attention and have a voice and have often been ignored,” says Hutcheson. “We want to help and contribute to the conversation. If this (documentary) helps get attention they need, then I’ll be very happy.”
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