Young producer makes his mark on reality TV

Dec. 10, 2012
Longmeadow native Clark McCarthy-Miller (center) has worked as a freelance producer on such reality television hits as TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus Eight," and is currently working on DIY Network's "Salvage Dawgs" (pictured here).
Photo courtesy of Christa Stephens
By Katelyn Gendron

LONGMEADOW — They say you've got to work hard for the money but sometimes you've got to offer yourself as free labor to get your foot in the door and that's just what Longmeadow native Clark McCarthy-Miller did.

The 27-year-old graduate of Longmeadow High School '03 and alumnus of Flagler College '08 in Florida, moved to Philadelphia, Penn., after completing college to pursue a career in the television industry. He has since worked on such hits as TLC's "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" and is now a producer of "Salvage Dawgs" on the DIY Network.

"The first two jobs I worked on for free. It was 12-hour days just to network and work my butt off to impress [people]," McCarthy-Miller recalled of his humble beginnings as a production assistant in Philadelphia. "It's grunt work, getting coffee and setting up."

Two years of "grunt work" paid off in 2010 when he received a call to work on "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" as well as other opportunities directing commercials with NFL Films and several others.

"I worked on that [show] for a full year and then the divorce happened and the show just blew up," McCarthy-Miller recalled, adding that he has nothing but fond memories of working with the Gosselin family.

"I knew that going in a good way to get in with kids was to get a nickname so I was 'Stinky,'" he said with a laugh, being quick to note that the name is in no way a reflection on his personal hygiene.

"Jon & Kate Plus Eight" may have crashed and burned following Jon and Kate Gosselin's divorce but McCarthy-Miller's career continued to gain momentum and in September he moved on Raleigh, N.C., to work as a freelance producer and assistant director for Trailblazer Studios. Currently, he's dedicated to "Salvage Dawgs," a reality show about Robert Kulp and Mike Whiteside, the owners of Black Dog Salvage in Virginia, as they search for antiques and items lost in time or within crumbling buildings.

"We just got picked up, which is exciting news so we should be shooting through the spring," he said, adding that each episode is very labor-intensive.

"It takes about a month to pull crew together and go in and know what content to get out of the salvage. Sometimes the salvage is two to three days but we only have 22 minutes to highlight the salvage," McCarthy-Miller explained. "We start early because we like to get a full day in. We're a small crew: two producers, two cameras, two audio [technicians] and a PA [production assistant].

"We get to the salvage and it's really just divide and conquer. This show is great to work on because it's real. We show up and we let them go and they do their thing and it's getting the best content. We'll do a salvage and then condense it into an episode and then we interview them about it. Then there's B roll [secondary footage] to be plugged in. There are a lot of shoot days that go into an episode," he continued.

While "Salvage Dawgs" may take up the majority of his time, McCarthy-Miller said he's also exploring other avenues within his career.

"I think there's always room for improvement and development ... I would like to AD [assistant direct] some bigger jobs. A lot of it comes from development and pitching items. There's always room for new shows, especially in the reality [genre]," he said.

"I don't want to get away from reality [programming] because it's really just looking to someone else's life or business. It's not easy to produce, but it's easy for me because it's getting to know someone and then highlighting them [in] the best way we can. I love the commercial world as well. I haven't really dipped into the scripted world [but] that's the great thing about freelance because you can jump around and try different things," McCarthy-Miller continued.

When asked what advice he'd give to other aspiring Longmeadow High School graduates looking to make it in the television industry, he replied with a chuckle, "If you work hard enough and network you should be fine."

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