If you’ve seen Make48 at our events or trade shows most likely there’s a camera or two (or six). That is thanks to our team at Outpost Worldwide, who films our televised series every season for PBS. Well-respected by the community, the full-service production company is vital to Make48 and we wouldn’t be where we are today without their creativity, experience and hard work.
Nick Schmitz is the co-executive producer of Make48 who has worked with the television series since season 1. A Kansas graduate with a background in theatre, Nick moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. In LA, he began working in production and worked on 15-20 reality shows, including spending almost 10 years with America’s Next Top Model. After ANTM was cancelled in 2015 Nick weighed his options and decided to leave the City of Angels to be closer to his family in Kansas City.
Upon his return back to the Midwest, Nick made a few cold calls and reached Mike Wunsch, a partner and producer at Outpost. There was a docuseries their office was going to work on called Make48, Mike told him, and the program would be compatible to his qualification and skill sets. Nick accepted the position and has been our producer since.
Producing Make48 for the past three seasons, Nick has been encapsulated in the world of invention and innovation, but the product world wasn’t something he was familiar with at first and there have been challenges he’s had to overcome. “Product development is an industry that moves slowly and very fast at the same time. Trying to construct a tv series around that, you don’t want to impede the work, particularly the back half where we show the product journey” Nick told me.
“Working the event itself is self-contained and easier compared to the actual development of the products. If I had my own way we would film everything. There would be a camera following Tom (Gray) around at all times, but it’s not feasible.” The teams have 48 hours to plan, prototype and pitch a new idea within the specifications of a challenge, revealed at the start of the 48 hours, yet “the biggest challenge is following the path of these products and being able to tell a coherent story, but knowing that it’s such a long process.”
Nick informed me that, “….one of the conversations I have with Tom all the time is ‘tell me when is this product dead.’ But he can’t tell me because someone could call tomorrow and say ‘hey I saw this on tv and I want to talk about licensing the product.’ When you’re making a television show, you want the story to have an ending, but in the product development world the story never really ends.”
The logistics can be difficult to do, especially in a different city, as we did in Season 3. The event took place in Baltimore, MD where we filmed at Stanley Black & Decker’s Makerspace. The season will air this fall and I asked Nick his opinion on having our first college event. “Really, great energy. What was most striking were the students desire to learn and they were all ears to the mentors and tool techs who stepped in. That comes from wanting to learn, but it’s also about the classroom setting and being used to having a teacher, mentor or someone guide you. I think it makes for a better tv series because it’s less about conflict and more about learning. I feel this season there’s a lot more educational bits and pieces here and there because the students were so open to that.”
The product category isn’t announced until the start of the event, but Nick thinks that’s what will surprise viewers. “The product category fits with what is going on in our lives right now. There’s a lot of out-of-the-box thinking by the students.” Our category this season puts the students in a “what if” mind state that affects everyone worldwide.
As far as his favorite part of the job, there are many. “I love telling a story. Filming in ‘real time’ is great but doing post-production is what I enjoy. There’s a puzzle aspect that challenges me. Take the event — six cameras filming 48 hours. Add up the numbers of footage, 300 hours, and I have to boil it down to 2.5 hours. I like that, finding the pieces that go together.”
There will be another season filmed next year, and Nick will be there to direct. If you see Nick at one of our events, make sure you give him a clap on the back, because there wouldn’t be a Make48 without the hard work from him and the entire Outpost Worldwide crew.