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.”