Media School hosts CBS Sports’ ‘We Need to Talk’ taping

Floor director gives instructions to 'We Need to Talk' hosts

Senior Michael Tilka gives instructions to “We Need to Talk” hosts (left to right) Sarah Kustok, Tina Cervasio, Lisa Leslie and Summer Sanders. (Aino Rahkonen | The Media School)

“Standby!” Michael Tilka shouts to the 30+ audience members in the Beckley Studio.

His fingers count down: five, four, three, two, one. He points at the talent and moves behind the camera, and the show begins.

It’s a familiar scene for Tilka, who has floor-managed plenty of productions in the Beckley Studio before. But Friday’s show was different from the student productions he routinely works on — it was a live-to-tape broadcast of a nationally televised show featuring celebrity talent.

IU hosted “We Need to Talk,” a monthly CBS Sports talk show featuring 12 rotating female hosts, Friday, as the first stop on its university tour. Just like any television production, each taping requires a team behind the scenes. Media School students filled those roles.

“I think this opportunity is so crucial for students,” said Tilka, a senior studying sports media. “There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom, but this experience helps you prepare to take on the real world.”

Team Members work control room during CBS  Event

Team members from The Media School, CBS and IU Radio-Television Services work in the control room during the taping. (James Brosher | IU Studios)

The episode, which aired that evening, was hosted by Emmy-winning reporter and analyst Tina Cervasio, WNBA All-Star Lisa Leslie, four-time Olympic swimming gold medalist and sports correspondent Summer Sanders, and the first-ever solo female NBA analyst, Sarah Kustok. They were joined by NFL Hall of Fame journalist Lesley Visser.

Student volunteers, like Tilka, volunteered on the production crew. Their roles included floor managing, running teleprompter, working with the operations department and controlling the studio cameras.

“We’ve got professionals coming in from CBS, and they’re bringing the studio environment into the learning environment,” said Mike Gray, technical broadcast facilities manager at IU. “By working inside the control room, students are able to see the flow of an actual television show.”

The live taping served as a “campus takeover,” said “We Need to Talk” producer Amy Salmanson. The episode included studio interviews with Olympic gold medalist swimmer Lilly King, BS’19, and football coach Tom Allen, as well as a pre-recorded interview with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, BS’81.

The taping was just one of a full day of CBS-hosted activities, including mentorship sessions; storytelling lectures featuring Visser, “Hoosiers” creator Angelo Pizzo, BA’71, and marketing executives Paige Westin and Kim Barrett of Facebook and MKTG, respectively; and a “Joy of Cooking” demonstration.

CBS Sports Director Suzanne Smith mentors students

Lead CBS sports director Suzanne Smith talks to students about her career during a mentorship session Friday morning. “I have a passion for sports,” the six-time Emmy Award winner told them. (Alex Deryn | The Media School)

The goal of the university tour, Salmanson said, is to give college students an opportunity to network within the world of media and see what careers are suitable for them.

“When you go to apply for an internship or a job, you need to show that you have experience,” Salmanson said. “It’s important to (CBS) to continue to educate students and young people who are interested in getting into media about all of the different paths that they can take.”

Any experience is good experience for a future job. Just ask senior Dustin Curl, who worked as a utility member for the show.

“This opportunity lets students try out every position, whether that’s camera, video replay or teleprompter,” said Curl, who is studying sports media. “IU gives you so much experience and offers so many opportunities for professional work with professionals.”