“It’s nerve-wracking from a team’s perspective because you’re thinking ‘I wonder if we’re going to look the way we think we look.’ They have access to places that the media simply cannot go: the plane, the buses, the hotel rooms,” said Tom McMillan, Center for Sports Media and Marketing co-founder and VP of Communications for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Behind the final product of HBO 24/7 is a whole slew of crew members who put in hundreds of hours to create compelling and entertaining content, including a multitude of talented editors, cameramen, and people like Bentley Weiner. A Squirrel Hill native, Ms. Weiner is the director and coordinating producer for HBO Sports and has had a strong hand in paving the way for sports/entertainment television.
Ms. Weiner’s career has led her through the entertainment industry before she came to HBO Sports, where she has spent her career for the last 15 years. A graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, she interned at various news stations in the area and spent time as a production assistant for the 1996 summer Olympic Games before moving to New York City. Her first job in New York was as a production assistant for Live with Regis and Kathie Lee before landing a position with HBO Sports working with Bob Costas.
“It was one of those moments where I walked in and I knew it was a fit,” she said during her presentation at Point Park University. “I started off as a production assistant, then an associate producer, and then a feature producer. I began producing 5 – 10 minute pieces on athletes and sports teams.”
Since then, Ms. Weiner has continued to produce shorter pieces that take an average of 2-3 days to shoot, but has also moved on to producing all-access coverage for 24/7 that has her fully immersed for 30-45 days of shooting plus some.
“During 24/7 I’m nearly unreachable,” she admits.
It’s no surprise. Though she is not present for the filming of the series, she is fully involved in the planning and coordination process before shooting begins and is on-call to receive all content in New York while her team is filming on location.
“One of the hard parts of my job is that I write the entire script,” she adds. “So, I’m in constant communication with my crew and I’m writing while they’re filming.”
Bentley described one of the more harrowing aspects of the job with a story. While filming the 24/7 series featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in 2010, there was a particular instance when the 24/7 crew was with the Penguins, who were playing in Ottawa on a Sunday night when a treacherous snowstorm effectively shut down the airport. But, deadlines wait for no man, prompting the 24/7 crew to rent a van and drive back to New York through the blizzard to deliver their content so it could be edited and packaged before it premiered just a few days later.
HBO Sports is different from other sports programming because of the way it is shot and how it captures relationships, sportsmanship, and the nature of competition. It becomes clear when watching the 24/7 series, which focuses on a major sporting event such as the NHL Winter Classic or a landmark boxing match and the events leading up to it, that there is something different about it. The series takes on a more artistic tone than any other reality television show. The cinematography, editing, and writing are on a level far beyond the quality of typical TV. Every shot and angle is beautifully executed and accompanies a narrative that fully invests its audience. It’s no surprise that 24/7 and another HBO Program, Hard Knocks, in association with NFL Films, have taken home various Emmy Awards over the years.
Tom McMillan, who collaborated with Bentley Weiner and the 24/7 crew during their time in Pittsburgh, attested to the laid-back atmosphere the crew created. The Penguins organization, known for their camaraderie, hardly noticed the presence of the camera crew after the first few weeks. They easily grasped 24/7’s purpose and facilitated some of the most memorable content, such as a segment where veteran players played a prank on rookie players by moving all of their hotel room furniture into the hallway during a team dinner.
“The guys told a cameraman beforehand that they were doing this and had him stay back with them to capture the prank,” said Tom. “The trust level was there. By the end of filming, the crew was playing pranks on the players.”
“Sometimes, the really fascinating personalities are the guys you don’t hear much about,” Bentley said.
HBO Sports has been the gold standard for sports entertainment and reality television since its launch, and has been so successful that its competitors have begun to tap into the same market. We’re thrilled that Bentley was able to take time out of her incredibly busy schedule to return to dear old Pittsburgh, and especially excited to hear about her world. On behalf of the Center for Sports Media and Marketing and Point Park University, thank you, Bentley!
Senior, Multimedia & Marketing
Student Advisory Board Member