It was Friday, Jan. 24, when Western Carolina University senior Wyatt Burnette received a call from one of his mentors, former WCU assistant professor Gabe Nucci. Nucci informed him of a valuable freelance opportunity providing postproduction support at Super Bowl 54 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
The only catch was Burnette would have to decide immediately and fly out the next day. After receiving permission from his professors, Burnette left on a journey that cemented his future goals. Upon graduating this month with a communication degree with concentrations in broadcasting and public relations, Burnette plans to pursue a broadcast engineering career, just as soon as the sporting world resumes once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Burnette’s invaluable week-and-a-half experience setting up and tearing down postproduction bays for Creative Mobile Solutions Inc. provided him with the real-life experience he had been seeking.
“It was an eye-opening experience to compare what I’ve learned in school so far to the real world,” Burnette said. “That was about as real as it gets with what I want to do. One of the biggest things I was worried about going down there was I didn’t think I was qualified enough. I was kind of nervous, like, ‘Am I going to know everything I need to know?’”
Nucci advised him to just do his best. Burnette, a Franklin native, spent the first couple of days learning everything he could about the television compound that consisted of about 16 trucks, plus the postproduction facility.
He was part of a Creative Mobile Solutions staff of six that provided Fox Sports, which aired the game, with nine edit bays, two color correction bays and 16 producer stations for content creators to work in.
“It was good to get to work with a bunch of industry professionals,” Burnette said. “It was an eye-opening experience to see what I needed to learn to help improve on things I may not have learned in school. Overall, it was a lot of hours and a lot of work. It was really fun and it got me excited for the future.
It’s a far different future than the one Burnette planned when he arrived at WCU. He came to Cullowhee as a walk-on football player majoring in criminal justice. After his freshman year, he switched to broadcasting. And after his sophomore year, Burnette realized in order to devote more time to broadcasting he would have to give up football.
"It was an eye-opening experience to see what I needed to learn to help improve on things I may not have learned in school. Overall, it was a lot of hours and a lot of work."
Burnette began helping his cousin, Samuel Wallace, the director of photography and videography in the University Communications and Marketing office. He also worked in the Catamount Athletics video operation, helping to produce live events for ESPN3 and the Southern Conference Digital Network. Burnette further honed his skills working in WCU’s television studio.
Internships at Sony and WTVQ-TV, an ABC affiliate in Lexington, Kentucky, gave Burnette further experience. It also showed him that he was more interested in working on the production side of things.
“When I got back from my internship in Lexington, that’s when I met Gabe Nucci,” Burnette said. “I worked for a week with him in the TV studio here and I talked to him about broadcast engineering. It’s still relatively new to me.”
With the sports world currently shut down due to the coronavirus, Burnette said his career pursuit is temporarily on hold as well. But he hopes it’s only a matter of time before he’s living his dream, setting up and tearing down postproduction compounds for broadcasts of future sporting events.