Brett Whitmarsh was born in Upstate New York. Following a passion for television, he attended the Emmy-award winning communications program, Lyndon State College in Vermont. Brett’s professional TV career began at Capital News 9 in Albany, New York. In 2003, he moved to WCSH6, in Portland Maine. At the NBC station, he produces the news magazine shows “207” and “Bill Green’s Maine.” Brett’s role keeps him involved in all aspects of television from producing, reporting, plus shooting and editing video. When not in a TV studio, Brett can be found relaxing with his dog on many of Maine’s beaches.
One of my favorite quotes from “Doctor Who” is “wibbly wobbly timey wimey.” There is no way I can explain it properly. It always pops into my head when I think about the future. My future always seemed clear when I was a teenager; I would work in television, it was that simple. At the time, I didn’t know in what capacity, but I knew I would end up in TV somewhere.
The moment I started playing around with TV stuff, I had great teachers. Smart people who helped influence my direction. Having a purpose and a sense of direction isn’t easy when you’re a teenager. The daily teen-angst can be overwhelming. Everyday presented newly discovered end of the world drama. Through these great academic minds, I still found my focus.
When I entered junior high in upstate New York, I found the Cortland Video Club. A program ran by the school district. They had their own television channel on the cable system. The club was ran by only one man, Jim Forshee, it was his entire life and he loved it. Jim, quite naturally, was a former engineer. One day back in the late 70’s he was handed a bunch of TV stuff and told to make something out of it for the school, and thus the program was born. Jim taught all the TV classes. The classes were fun, creative but held the line on what TV was and did.
For a turbo television geek like me this was heaven. I spent all of my free time there, soaking up as much as I could. Sports were the focus of programming for the channel. We would broadcast live football games every Friday night during the football season. Basketball season brought the same schedule. We would also cover: volleyball, softball, gymnastics, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey. As I developed my skills behind the scenes, I learned the more you knew the more valuable you were. Jim told me that almost everyday. It was the most important lesson he ever taught me. I took that nugget and ran with it. I would shoot, edit, direct, technical direct, and even call the games.
Certain games were sacred. Only the best could take the reins of football. I generally ran audio or did camera on those nights. That was fine by me, there was so much pressure on football nights. I just wanted to blend in the background. I learned a lot by doing so too. I was usually given the commentary jobs no one wanted. I would handle girls’ basketball, softball, volleyball, gymnastics, and field hockey. I was around the age of 15 when I started doing more commentary. I was a TV geek, not a sports freak. I had no clue what I was doing up there, but it was still fun.
Among most of the jocks, I could kinda slide around and not be noticed, but you knew in me in high school, I was that guy. I tried to be cool when I was on air, but that got away from me pretty quickly.
I spent about two years doing CVC. Then I moved to New Hampshire. I was sad to leave it behind, but life got in the way. My folks had gotten divorced and I needed to live with my Dad, who had a good job waiting for him in New Hampshire. This was the fork in the road in my life, the tricky “timey wimey” moment that set me on the life I live today.
When I talk about teachers who helped mold me, my dad is number one. He encouraged me to go after the things I wanted. He told me “find something you love to do and make it your career.” The school in New Hampshire had little to no video program. I came in and submerged myself in all that they had. Once again I build my schooling around what I could do with video. It was a smaller school so being “the video guy” made me stand.
The school wasn’t exactly what set me on my path though; it was my chemistry partner. The very first hour, on day one, I walked in to Mrs. Hopkins chemistry class and met my new chemistry partner. The blonde girl in flannel was my entire future, and I was clueless. We became friends quickly. For a while she was my only friend. She introduced me to others and soon I made other friends. She was a senior and I was a junior. At the time, I didn’t really look at her in a romantic way. She thought I was funny and she made me laugh too.
She graduated and enrolled in Lyndon State College in Vermont, under protest. Her mother had fantasies of everyone singing atop the green mountains like the Vonn Trapp family. So off she went, planning on a career in education. She was a brilliant writer with an exceptional command of the English language.
She discovered the education classes didn’t jive with her. She never saw eye to eye with the teachers. Then that temptress television found its way to her. She discovered the Emmy award winning TV program the school had. She met with some of the teachers and quickly changed majors.
Back in New Hampshire, I was trying to decide if college was in my future. Boston was only an hour away, and Emerson College was looking good. Sadly, Emerson didn’t want me. Next in line was the University of New Hampshire, who also didn’t want me until I took a math class. So I started a general math class at UNH, while I sold shoes at Red’s Shoe Barn. I was stuck, out of high school, big dreams and nowhere to go. My plan was to keep knocking at Emerson’s door.
My old chemistry partner sent me an email talking about this cool TV program in Vermont. My dad and I took a trip up to check it out. To both of our amazement, this was it. This program was everything I had been looking. Finally the clarity I had been hoping for!
Through Lyndon I worked with teachers who held great influence over me. Brilliant minds that knew how to reach me, I had a jumble of knowledge collected over a combined 6 years of jr. and sr. high school, and they put it all right.
Meanwhile, I discovered my chemistry partner was meant to be a life partner. After all these years still giving me the best advice. Where would I be without her? What kind of a life would I be living?
Since graduating, I have worked in TV for 8 years. So now what? TV is becoming a dinosaur. I still love it, but just not as much when I was 15. I am not exactly thrilled with where I see TV going. What does my future hold? Where can I go? My gut tells me its time to give back and become the type of teacher that guided me to where I am today. Do I go to high school, or do I find my way in college? I have always felt, you need to have a plan. So far, I have always had one. I turn 30 this year, and I am ready for a change. I could go back and teach in Vermont, but I don’t want to live there. So it’s up to me to figure out my next plan.
I like the feel of a good keyboard under my fingertips. If the keyboard doesn’t feel right to my fingers as I put word to screen, my hands seem to cramp up. I know the cramps are all in my mind, but just shaking my fingers about while mouthing a funny noise does tend to make me feel better. This didn’t always used to be a problem for me. I only really noticed it since starting in the ICM program.
I love my keyboard at work. The buttons have a good give to them, but not too hard. The thing is though, I hate writing at work, mostly because I hate my work computer. I am a Mac guy and my work computer is a PC. I love writing on a Mac, not sure why though. Is it the dream that my writing will be better if performed on a Mac? I don’t know. I also can’t concentrate at work. Even the stories I write for work, I need to do at home. Between the noise of my co-workers and someone always needing me for some reason, I just can’t focus at work. As soon as I have a good thought, BOOM, someone interrupts me with some kind of crisis.
Back to my Mac though, I am writing this on my laptop. I love the laptop, I got it because of the ICM program. Before this I have always had iMacs. I have one in my closet and the other in my home office. I love my iMac, but I hate the keyboard. The buttons are too hard and they don’t respond well or quick enough. I am going to buy a new keyboard this summer, I have just decided.
The Mac has always had a simple little program called “text.” I love Text. It is a simple no-nonsense program that I do all my writing on. I have no idea what makes me love it so, but I do.
I like to have peace and quiet when I write. I need to be alone with my thoughts. Things like the wind blowing through an open window, or the leaves bouncing around in the front yard, I have no problem with. The radio blasting, or someone trying to talk to me while I write, leaves me frustrated and very cranky.
I also need to have a comfortable chair and the temperature needs to be just right. If I find myself too fidgety, I can’t get into gear to write well, if at all. I also find myself looking around a lot. I will stop… look up, and then continue. So I like to be in a room with a view or at least have some kind of visuals around me. Even a nice desktop picture will do the trick in inspiring me.
Sometimes I just close my eyes and silence my mind in order to let a phrase or word come to me. I often have a lot of trouble finding the right words to express myself in just the right way, so taking a moment to reflect is key. I usually have a lot to say, but find the trouble of typing it all out is far too time consuming. So many times I have wanted to just dictate words to screen, never works though.
If I find my mind has too many thoughts streaming together at once, I step away from the computer for a moment and go have a glass of milk or something.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I will wake up in the middle of the night, or have trouble falling asleep, because I have just thought of a great line or paragraph that I want to use. So I get up, fire up the computer, and bang out those words real quick, and before I know it, I have written far more than I had intended to at 2am. I have tried to ignore those urges, but come morning, I find myself never remembering what I was trying to say.
I have a horrible time with run-on sentences, and often try to use fragments too much. I am bad at grammar, and try too often to use words that I don’t fully understand.
So those are my writing quirks. Other than running my fingers through my hair, to help me think, or sometimes craving very specific tea, that is how I manage to write.
I grew up in Cortland, New York. It’s, a small town, sandwiched between Ithaca and Syracuse, New York. My earliest memories are of watching TV. I love watching, as much TV as my parents would allow me. My parents didn’t use the TV as a babysitter. I was watching these many hours with family. I didn’t just watch the classic 80’s TV shows that were on at the time, no sir. I was a TV geek even then. I watched tons of “I Love Lucy,” “I Dream of Jeanie,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Get Smart,” the list goes on. Syndication was king back in the 80’s, so shows like these were everywhere. Then “Nick at Nite” was born, and I had a regular schedule of shows to look forward to.
When I wasn’t watching TV, I was out playing TV. My friends and I would re-enacting TV shows, flexing the power of our imaginations. While acting out an action sequence from Superman, I underestimated the power of my jungle gym. Falling off it and discovering what it felt like to have the wind knocked out of me.
When my parents got divorced I moved to Maine, back to NY, then to NH. In New Hampshire, I graduated from high school and followed my chemistry partner off to a tiny, yet crucial, college in Vermont.
At Lyndon State College, I was able to harness my TV knowledge and take the leap from imaginative audience member to active producer. Since graduating, I went to Albany, New York. A station called Capital News 9 was just starting out. CN9 was a local 24-hour news network. During the job interview, they mentioned they were owned by Time Warner so all of my cable channels would be free, and I would get the full package. Free TV, with every channel I could have ever wanted, my 10- year old self would be so jealous.
At this job I was a news photojournalist, or Photog. I shot video, edited, and ran live trucks. After being there a month, they sent me to New York City to help out our sister station NY1. I was going to run my very first live shot, in Time Square, where I failed miserably. I was unaware that there was an electrical malfunction in the truck, so the shot never happened. It was an important day too, the one year anniversary of 9-11. Working in NYC for that week was an eye opening experience, one I hope to never forget.
A year in Albany was enough for me. It was time to head back home to New England. My chemistry partner, who became my girlfriend in the four years of college, got a job at WMUR in New Hampshire.
TV jobs in New England are very hard to get into. There are very few, people stay at their jobs a long time, and stations have high standards. I landed at the NBC station in Portland, Maine, where I have stayed for the last seven years. I have been the producer of a show called “207.”
We call it “207” because Maine only has one area code, a rare thing these days. We have a team of six people who work on the show, sometimes it doesn’t seem like enough. The job is different every day. I can go from a doggie makeover, to chatting with Tippi Hedren about Alfred Hitchcock. Everyone comes to Maine. So we get an amazing array of celebrities and newsmakers. I have met an incredible list of people. I have the chance to do what I want with the show. Some days I am a photographer, other days I am a reporter or producer for the show. While this show is on the air, the world is my oyster.