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September 2007
An Interview with Producer Sean Rankine

An Interview with Producer Sean Rankine

By Wilson Morales

October 1, 2007

With as many reality series these days on TV, you have to wonder whether or not you will be asked or want to participate in any of them. With “American Idol”, “The Hills”, “Amazing Race”, and a few others, there’s an audience out there that wants to see the lives of others unfold on the small screen. BET has recently got into the genre by producing the lives of a few students from different colleges. Producer Sean Rankine, who previous productions have been “College Hill 3,” “Road Rules,” “Real World,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Making the Band” and “Flavor of Love.”, now has his latest one to hit the DVD market is BET’s College Hill: Virginia State University. He recently spoke to blackfilm.com about his responsibilities in putting together a reality series together without trying to cross the line.

What did you want to do differently on this series from the other series you have produced?

Sean Rankine: The whole purpose of College Hill is to give our audience a look into the lives of students that are going through the ups, the downs, the good times and the difficulties of collegiate life. I think that this series has come a long way in showing a true depiction of our cast member's experiences.

What are some of the challenges you go through when putting a reality series together?

Sean Rankine: As with any television series, there will always be challenges, but that is the fun of it. There are so many variables when doing a show like this: from where will the cast live, to what school will be featured this season, to what will the cast do once they move into the house, where does the cast want to go to dinner, etc.? The list goes on and on. It can really keep you on your toes.

What's the sell of having someone taped 24/7?

Sean Rankine: The main thing about documenting someone 24/7 is that at some point, you will see that person for who they really are. What I mean by that is, sometimes people apply for a show like this with an agenda and pre-formulated "character." In this environment, you can only maintain that facade for so long. The "real" you will eventually emerge. To be honest, after a while, you forget the camera is there and you go about your life as normal. The cool thing is that no matter what you are doing, when you are being yourself, it will resonate with someone in our audience and they will identify with the cast member that they are watching. We are able to share the good and bad times that our cast has with our viewers. I hope we succeed in entertaining our audience as well and getting a message across when the time is right.

How did you come to choose VSU as a location for taping?

Sean Rankine: VSU was selected through a nationwide search and they were amazing. The VSU administration and students were fantastic to us. The school was welcoming and gave us unprecedented access to the campus (activities, classrooms, recreation areas, sports, etc.). As a matter of fact, I still keep in touch with various VSU staff members, including Mr. Dial, the Chief of Staff.

What should we look out for on the DVD?

Sean Rankine: This DVD is full of great footage that the viewers got to see and more. They will experience comedic out takes that didn't make it to TV and clips that were too hot for broadcast This DVD will offer further insight into who these cast members are. All in all, it's a must have for any College Hill fan.

How much involvement does BET have with what you want to do with the show?

Sean Rankine: BET is involved in multiple facets of the production, from school selection and casting to the final episode. They are in partnership with Tracey Edmonds and Edmonds Entertainment to produce the series.

Is there a point you won't cross for the sake of ratings?

Sean Rankine: What is important to remember is that this is a documentary style show. We record the students as they live their lives. We may assist them with places to go, but it stops there. They are adults that are living away from home (some for the first time) and things are bound to tip the scale on the side of "crazy" from time to time. It's like that at most colleges and universities. Come on, we all remember the dorms on a weekend night. These students just have camera's capturing it. We are making television, but we will not place anyone in harm's way to gain viewership. If an incident of a serious magnitude was to occur, our production team would address such an instance accordingly. There is a line.

What's next for you?

Sean Rankine: I recently served as Executive Producer on our inaugural season on our spin off series, College Hill Interns in Chicago that is coming out October 23rd. I'm really excited about it. It was the first show that I produced under my production company Risen Phoenix Entertainment in conjunction with Tracey Edmonds and Edmonds Entertainment. Currently, I'm in preproduction for College Hill 5. From there it's back to MTV to direct another season of Making the Band 4. It's a busy time for me.

How far do you want to go in producing reality series?

Sean Rankine: I want to ride this wave where it takes me. I love my job and I am blessed to be where I am. It's been an amazing 8 years since starting as a production assistant at Bunim Murray Productions on The Real World and Road Rules.  I could never have imagined the places I would get to go and the people that I have been fortunate enough to surround myself with. In the near future, I would like to have more of my own projects on the air under my production company, Risen Phoenix Entertainment. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to say that while I was in this reality game, I did some projects that people Tivo'd, remembered, enjoyed, and talked about the next day.


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