An Interview with Tyler Petersen
An Interview with Tyler Petersen

VP / Director of Episodic Programming for Ackerman McQueen

Tyler joined Ackerman McQueen in 2011. His past work experience includes Production Manager at Frank the Plumber LLC, Head Assistant Editor at Cambio.com and freelance PA, DIT. He has worked as a showrunner for NRA.TV’s NOIR and Love at First Shot.

AM: How did you get to Ackerman McQueen?

TYLER: I was getting fed up with L.A. Too many people, too much traffic, so tired spending all my time in the car. I wanted to move back to my home state. And one summer came for a visit and interviewed with Revan, who had just started working full-time here.

But unfortunately, nobody was really hiring at the time. So, I went back to L.A. and five or six months later, I get a random call from Revan and he was, like, "Are you still interested in coming back?" And I said, "Yes." Came out for an interview. Got the job and been here since 2011

 

AM: What’s your journey to becoming the Director for Episodic Programming?

TYLER: When I started working here, I began with doing internal AM stuff. After working a year or two on that, I switched to NRA programming. All of these shows, I was there from the very beginning, either working as an editor or a director or a semi-producer, working with other producers or showrunning.

After I did that for a couple years, it was decided that AM needed more showrunners outside of myself. So, they put me in this director position to work other people up to becoming showrunners themselves. James Parsons is one of the new showrunners. He's been the showrunner for NOIR last season and has done a great job.

 

AM: What does preproduction look like for an episodic series?

TYLER: By the time we start filming, preproduction for the whole season is probably about 50% there. The other 50% we're figuring it out while we're filming.

For example, NOIR seasons 5 and 6, if you go back and watch any of the episodes in there, the way that each episode is designed, there's a central theme for what that episode is going to be. We then pitch these ideas to the client. Once we get approval, we’ll work with specifics. What are some scripted ideas we can do? Who are some people that we can talk to that revolve around that theme?

When I do this process, I very much like working with a white board. You just start writing up all your ideas. You'll start quickly realizing what ideas or what themes are going to work when you see it up like that. And once you got that, you just start hitting the ground hard, trying to get things going.

 

AM: Does the preproduction process change across brands or clients?

TYLER: Of course, content changes, but the key things stay the same, such as what's the overall objective? How much money do we have? What's our timeline looking like? Who can be talent on camera? Any production questions I take into an NRA show, I would take those same questions to apply to any of our clients.

One critical question I ask is: what can we do to elevate this show to the next level? We need to continually push ourselves. We always need to figure new ways of telling better stories.

 

AM: How do you establish a style for an episodic series?

TYLER: One way I’ve always found useful is that you reference things you know. Like when we were doing NOIR season 5, that was the first season that it took on this individual segment format that tied collectively together for its own episode. That format style we borrowed from a New Yorker video magazine series and modified to suit our needs.

It's always good to reference other things like that because at least that can help a line of dialogue between people that are working on the series. Once everyone is on the same page, we can take it and make it our own.

Same thing goes for an editing style. We’re actually at this point with NRA programming where we’re referencing our own work visually. That’s always a really cool moment.

 

AM: What’s a necessary quality for someone wanting to work on episodic programming?

TYLER: It's important that when you're on the road, and you're filming for whatever show, that you are flexible. Always be open to new ideas.

One time we went to Utah to film a segment with a company for NOIR. And while we were there, we came across another company we wanted to work in somehow. That company was Black Rifle Coffee. They're a pro-Second Amendment company that roasts and sells coffee.

So what we ended up doing was we filmed an interview segment with the owner. But what ended up in the final product was the VO from his interview talking about coffee paired with footage of someone preparing to take their shot at the gun range.

And so, we did this really cool thing where you really don't know that he's talking about coffee (and not firearms) until the end of where he's actually making a shot of espresso.

The best problem you can have as a showrunner is to have so much great content that you have to start figuring out what you don't want because you have so much good stuff.

 

AM: What is one episodic proof-of-concept that you’re working on right now that excites you?

TYLER: We've got a couple of things that we're working on internally for AM. We have this series that we're in the process of creating called Fix It.

We've got a handful of employees who work here that, in their off time, fix or build things. Ed builds cars, Jesse fixes or makes almost anything. Dean works on Minis (cars) AND he's a painter. And Tuck does a lot of woodworking.

The idea was that you've got all these different characters. What if we presented this group of people with a problem and they had to “Fix It?” The goal with this series is that we’re using whatever they're fixing as a catalyst to getting to know the employees.

I hope this proof-of-concept works out. This first episode isn’t long. It’s an Instagram post that has multiple slides within the post. So, looking at a total running time, with all the different slides, of four minutes.

Episodic programming can be something as long as NOIR season 6, which was 45- to 50-minute episodes, all the way down to something that's four minutes. The runtime fits the final product.

 

AM: What’s AM’s production/talent pool like?

TYLER: Our crew really cares about the job. They care about the product that we're putting together and care about doing it the best they can possibly can in the most efficient way.

Sometimes there's good prep time and sometimes there's not. They will all tell you they wish they had more time on the front end because when they're better prepared, the product is that much better.

Our crew doesn’t like settling. They're not satisfied where they are, and they always want our end product getting better.

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