Alumni Spotlight: Derek Helwig ’05 Faculty Edition
April 3, 2018
Featured Image: Filming in Peruvian Andes for YouTube Red series, “Ultimate Expedition”
Four years ago we caught up with Derek Helwig (BFA/FP ’05) and his experiences since graduating. Now we have the pleasure of welcoming him to the Chapman family as a professor for the newly created course, DOC 116, Introduction to Television Production: Location. Derek has vast experience and knowledge on shooting on location having worked for 12 seasons with The Amazing Race.
During his tenure with The Amazing Race, from 2006 to 2013, he worked as a PA, research producer, and finally a field producer. It wasn’t a simple start to the show, as he would go on to tell his students, he needed to get creative with having his resume seen by the production manager.
“I knew that I wanted to combine my love for travel from studying abroad with my film degree. My favorite show at the time was amazing race. At the time you had to fax your resume in. After faxing it so many times I got discouraged. I decided I needed to take the bull by the horns and I dressed up like UPS delivery guy, brown shorts and brown shirt. I didn’t have a UPS logo on it but I looked the part. Made a clip board that had fake signatures on it. I had a manila envelope that said ‘Attn: Production Manager’. And then I took it in and had them write the name of the production manager. That way I could follow up and make sure they got it. Which probably seemed pretty suspicious at the time but I got the name and that’s what I needed. The next day I called in and made sure the production manager had my resume and then within a week I had an interview,” says Derek.
Derek’s passion for teaching has been with him as early as his time with The Amazing Race. “Even on Amazing Race, my boss would always put me with the new fixers in the countries we were going to. We kept a pretty tight group of people we could rely on. I would get the new people. I would train them in our style. It was always a teaching element. I felt this call to come back and train,” says Derek. He admitted that, “there are people who are like deer in headlights when they get on set.” Derek was put into the role to help remedy this situation and he loved it. “Seeing students that get inspired is very fulfilling. To see them grow,” says Derek.
If there is anyone to help teach students about filming on location, it’s Derek. He has only shot in a studio twice in his professional career and has been around the world multiple times while working. “I love going out to locations,” says Derek. He found that there was a sense of fulfillment in making someone’s day. However, “it wasn’t just making someone’s day but sharing their stories. At the end of the day that’s what we all do, we’re storytellers.” Most people may think that their story isn’t worth telling but Derek believes that they are and that there is a way to do it.