Photo of Tracy Evans

Tracy Evans (center) with Marine Molly and friends


The Mason Spirit: The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of George Mason University

The Real Reality Television

Alumna focuses the camera on real people, real stories

By Colleen Kearney Rich

By the time you read this, television producer Tracy Evans, B.A. Communication '91, will be sunning herself on a beach in Bali, enjoying some much needed downtime after another hectic season. For the past 12 years, Evans has worked in television in front of and behind the camera. As part of Nancy Glass Productions, located outside of Philadelphia, Evans has just completed a season working on the Pet Story series for Animal Planet. In recent years, she has produced for a number of networks including Court TV, TLC, Lifetime, and E! Entertainment Television.

Producing a television episode is a lot like a scavenger hunt that has Evans moving in many different directions almost at once. "As a producer, I do pretty much the same things I did as a television reporter although it is a lot more challenging," says Evans. "As a reporter, I was responsible for a news package or live shot about two minutes long. As a producer, I create shows that are 30 minutes long."

Creating these shows involves researching the story and pulling together the components needed to tell that story. In addition to being in charge of a field crew, which includes a photographer and an audio person, she also conducts interviews (that's the a-roll) and gathers video (that's the b-roll). "Later I look at the tapes, write the script, and then sit down with an editor who helps me put all the pieces of the puzzle together," says Evans.

"The more interesting the story is the better," says Evans. "I have a short attention span, so I enjoy stories that are complicated, complex, or just plain weird! I guess most of the shows fall into the category of 'reality television,' but not the kind that spits out shows like Fear Factor. I'm not a fan of those shows. The reality shows I produce feature real people."

Prior to this season with Animal Planet, Evans produced for Court TV's top-rated show Forensic Files. For an episode on that series, Evans was basically given access to the case file and 10 days to shoot the story. One episode that was near and dear to Evans was the profile of Aimee Willard, the Mason student who was abducted and murdered outside Philadelphia in 1996. "Her murder was absolutely terrifying," says Evans, "and how the detectives solved her murder is mind boggling. Forensic Files is a fascinating show."

This season of Pet Story has Evans interacting with animals, mostly horses and dogs, from across the country. For recent episodes, Evans followed a dog named Taz, from Herndon, Va., as he auditioned for and competed on Pet Star, which involved shooting sequences on both coasts over several months, and the story of Marine Molly, a bulldog who is the mascot at the Marine Recruit Depot in San Diego, Calif. But why leave the glamorous life of a television reporter and producer to work with pets?

"I do miss being on camera," says Evans. "I would like to be on air again or perform voice-over work for television production, but I have no interest in returning to television news. I enjoy telling stories. As a general assignment reporter, you rarely have an opportunity to do that. Most news stations care more about getting the news on first rather than getting it right. That's one reason I left."

Another reason is that she would like to start her own production company with her husband, Rob Gibson, a television news manager at the WB station in Philadelphia, and this experience is another step toward that goal.

Their company will be called Thrash Productions after their two dogs, Thor and Crash. "I'd run the creative side of the business. He'd run the technical side," says Evans. "We already have a list of original show ideas we hope to sell to cable networks."

Evans says her time at Mason was a huge help to her career. She even prolonged her education to make the most of area internship opportunities. "Washington is the news capital of the world," says Evans. After internships at WUSA and WPGC-AM, Evans went on to work in the Washington market for WJLA and News Channel 8.

That was 12 years ago, and Evans hasn't slowed down yet. It is only a matter of time before you will see Thrash Productions scrolling down your television screen.