What We Watch: John Gerbig, Producer and Director

John Gerbig is a producer and director at Wisconsin Public Television. John’s days involve collaborating with colleagues at WPT, as well as with partners from statewide organizations. For the March issue of our member program guide, Airwaves, we caught up with John to learn more about his top public television picks.

Interested in receiving Airwaves in your mailbox? The Airwaves program guide is mailed to supporters who contribute $35 or more to Wisconsin Public Television. Learn more about WPT membership at support.wpt.org.

Can you tell me a little about what your work is like on a daily basis?
Sometimes I’ll spend the entire day in my office working on budgets and schedules, or logging footage and writing scripts.  The next day, I may be scouting a new location for an upcoming production, or sitting in the control room directing a multi-camera shoot. And the following day, I might be out on the road with a videographer gathering footage or collaborating with an editor on the final cut for a project I’ve been working on for weeks. 

More often than not, however, my days consist of a combination of activities and involve working with a number of very talented people here at WPT, as well as within the various organizations we partner with, including the Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA), the Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Overture Center for the Arts and the UW Varsity Band, to name just a few. 

UW Varsity Band Spring Concert

What is your favorite part of your job at WPT?
What I like most about my job is the variety.  Over the past 20+ years, I’ve produced and/or directed concerts (The Final Forte, UW Varsity Band Spring Concert, State Honors Concerts), political events (State of the State Address, Governor’s Inauguration), news & public affairs programs (Here & Now, various debates), kids programming (Get Up and Go! Day), cultural events (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration, Wisconsin Remembers 9/11) and sports (UW Badgers football, basketball and hockey). 

But it’s not just the variety of programs – it’s also the variety of roles I get to play on many of these productions:  producer, director, editor, writer, videographer.  I feel extremely fortunate to be able to work on such a diverse array of productions and to have the opportunity to interact with so many of my colleagues in the course of taking these various projects from initial concept all the way through to broadcast.  Seeing a production come together, and knowing that you helped design, create and shape it – and had a lot of fun doing so – is extremely rewarding and satisfying.

If you had to pick, what are your favorite PBS shows – and why?
I really like Live From the Artists Den.  In addition to being a great-looking program with very high production values, I think it does a wonderful job of showcasing and integrating the venues into the performance.  The fact that the locations they feature are typically not your traditional concert halls or arenas just serves to reinforce the notion that the performance you’re seeing is special and unique.  And that, in turn, provides the perfect context for incorporating interviews with the artists into the production. It just all works together really well.

And what are your must-watch WPT shows?
Again, I really enjoy WPT’s great variety of music productions, from specials such as Percussion at Birch Creek to series like 30-Minute Music Hour.  There are many extremely talented artists in Wisconsin, and making their performances available to a statewide audience is something I think we do very well.  I especially enjoy the programs that are part of our Young Performers Initiative. Celebrating the extraordinary achievements of gifted musicians such as those featured in Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte serves not only to recognize their talent, passion and dedication, but also highlights the essential role the arts play in all our lives, as well as the critical importance of arts education to the youngest members of our communities.

Watch “Wisconsin Young Artists Compete: The Final Forte” 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 on-air and online. For more information, visit wpt.org/final-forte.

Finally, what’s your favorite thing about public television?
My favorite aspects of public television – whether it’s nationally-broadcast PBS programs or locally-produced shows here on WPT – are quality, variety and positive messaging.  Be it dramas, documentaries, concerts, specials, you name it. Across the board, public television presents quality programs, with consistently high production values, first-rate acting and writing, and stellar shooting and editing. 

And there really is something for everyone – from innovative children’s programming to award-winning science and arts-related series and some of the most acclaimed historical dramas and narratives on television.  And unlike many programs you find elsewhere, which seem to revel in and reward negative traits like greed, ego, conceit and selfishness, public television tends to concentrate on the positives in our world – the best of what we are and what we can be.

So whatever your age and whatever your interests, you can always find something worth watching on public television.

Victorious Blog, Season 2: The Luxury of Conscience

This is part of the Victorious Blog series. Click here to read the series.

Sadly, “The Luxury of Conscience” is already the second-to-last episode of the season. Time flies when you’re watching Victoria!

In this episode, we saw Victoria and Albert face their worst nightmare as parents. Plus, Peel took on the ultimate battle in Parliament, and we unexpectedly said goodbye to some of our favorite characters. (Again.)

If you’ve already watched Sunday’s episode, you can read the recap below. If you still need to catch up, watch the full episode online anytime here. And don’t forget that you can use WPT Passport to  go all the way back to the beginning!

Continue reading Victorious Blog, Season 2: The Luxury of Conscience

Victorious Blog, Season 2: The King Over the Water

This is part of the Victorious Blog series. Click here to read the series.

Who’s ready for a trip to Scotland? *Raises hand*

Gorgeous scenery, lively dances, bagpipes … This episode was a virtual vacation. And let’s not forget the romance! We’re talking upwards of three romantic subplots.

If you’re ready to relive the latest episode, continue reading below. But if you have yet to watch The King Over the Water, you can watch the full episode here first.

Continue reading Victorious Blog, Season 2: The King Over the Water

Five Questions With “Wisconsin Life” Team Member Ryan Ward

Ryan Ward is a producer, editor and videographer for Wisconsin Public Television’s Wisconsin Life project.  A native of Indiana, he moved to the Badger State six years ago and has been a part of Wisconsin Life from the start.  I got a chance to sit down with Ryan and learn more about his experiences with the project – and to get to know the man behind the camera. Continue reading Five Questions With “Wisconsin Life” Team Member Ryan Ward

Guest Post from WPT Education: How I Became a Game Designer

John Dollar

As an education specialist at WPT, and a former teacher at Sauk Prairie High School, I’m always excited to discover new ways that we can collaborate with teachers to make education come alive for students of all ages.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to the amazing Nikki Lutzke, who teaches fourth grade in southern Wisconsin’s Parkview School District. She and some of her fellow teachers recently joined some of the brightest local minds in history and game design to create something special – something that we know teachers and students all across Wisconsin will love.

Read on for Nikki’s thoughts on her new side gig in video game design – and enjoy!

Continue reading Guest Post from WPT Education: How I Became a Game Designer

Victorious Blog, Season 2: Faith, Hope & Charity

This is part of the Victorious Blog series. Click here to read the series.

OK, Daisy Goodwin. I’m wise to your technique, now.  You sandwich low-drama episodes in between the dramatic ones to give us a little respite. And we appreciate it.

But this week was pretty intense. Potato famine! A brooding Ernest! Tension downstairs! But mostly potato famine.  Heartbreaking… but necessary. And Victoria – both the show, and the Queen – handled it with grace.

Continue reading below to recap the episode. Spoiler alerts abound!

Miss “Faith, Hope & Charity” on TV? Watch Victoria on demand, anytime, on our website by clicking here

Continue reading Victorious Blog, Season 2: Faith, Hope & Charity

Celebrate African-American History Month with WPT!

A female college graduate smiles in a still from "Tell Them We Are Rising" Any day is a great day to recognize the many contributions that African-Americans have made to American history and culture. But February offers special opportunities to celebrate  and recognize African-Americans, both famous and not-so-famous, who have made a difference.

Read on for a selection of upcoming programs airing on WPT – and don’t forget our many offerings available anytime online.

Continue reading Celebrate African-American History Month with WPT!

Victorious Blog, Season 2: Entente Cordiale

This is part of the Victorious Blog series. Click here to read the series.

Previously on Victoria: Everything went horribly wrong and we vowed to not let them toy with our emotions again. But we came back to watch more, didn’t we? Of course we did.

If you missed “Entente Cordiale,” you can watch Victoria on-demand, anytime on our website by clicking here.  Continue below to relive this week’s episode. (Spoiler alert!)

Continue reading Victorious Blog, Season 2: Entente Cordiale

Behind the Scenes with WPT at the 2018 State of the State Address

Behind the scenes of Wisconsin Public Television preparing for the live broadcast of the State of the State Address on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018 at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Every year the governor delivers a State of the State Address to the citizens of Wisconsin from the State Assembly chambers and, since as far back as 1979, Wisconsin Public Television has broadcast this speech as a public service.

Producer Joel Waldinger

This year’s broadcast went live at 3 p.m. on Jan. 24, but planning for the event began back in late November and early December when the producer of the event’s broadcast, Joel Waldinger, met with Capitol officials and representatives from the Governor’s office discussing logistics for capturing the speech for television.

Crew members stand in as cameras and lights are put into position in the parlor next to the Assembly chambers.

On the day of the event, the WPT production crew gathered at the station at 8 a.m. to load up the live truck and travel to the State Capitol.

The Wisconsin Public Television broadcast crew meets in the parlor, next to the Assembly chambers, before getting into position for the live broadcast.

Part of the set up includes loading in five cameras. Three of the cameras are in the Assembly chambers for the speech and two in the parlor next to the chambers where hosts, Frederica Freyberg and Shawn Johnson, sit.

WPR’s Shawn Johnson and WPT’s Frederica Freyberg get set up for the live broadcast.
A camera operator performs tech checks before the live broadcast.

Once the cameras are in place, cords with the camera feed are connected to the live truck outside.

Remote productions supervisor Russ Awe connects the feed from inside the State Capitol to the live truck.

Lights, audio, prompters, graphics and a slew of the other production elements must be put in place, adjusted and readjusted before the crew considers everything ready to go.

Director Ben White stands in during set up where the Assembly Minority Leader will sit for his response following the governor’s address.
Kurt Kaspar adjusts the lights in the parlor.

Gov. Walker touched on a number of topics including health care, taxes, jobs and education.

The Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, delivered a five-minute response immediately following the address.  To watch the address and the minority response, visit our website or check us out on Facebook.

Victorious Blog, Season 2: Warp and Weft/The Sins of the Father

This is part of the Victorious Blog series. Click here to read the series.

I have always recommended Victoria on Masterpiece, but the first part of this episode had me seriously reconsidering if that recommendation would cast a dark cloud over viewers’ Sunday evenings. “Emotionally devastating” is the only way I can describe “Warp and Weft.” Luckily, part 2, “The Sins of the Father,” swooped in to pick us up of the floor.

As always, if you have some catching up to do, you can watch past episodes of Victoria on-demand on our website by clicking here. If you’re caught up and ready to recap episode 2, your weekly dose of Victoria gossip can be found below.

Continue reading Victorious Blog, Season 2: Warp and Weft/The Sins of the Father