All-Female Crew Produces Live Broadcast for Ryerson’s Rams Network

From producer to replay, 23 students handle hockey-game production at the Canadian university

Leandra Vermeulen was a college student with a tremendous opportunity. This past summer, the soon-to-be fourth-year student at Ryerson University in Toronto was working in the television compound of the Pan Am Games, having the time of her life, when she noticed something: there weren’t a lot of people like her around.

That led to an idea and the inception of “The Takeover,” a night when a crew of 23 female students from Ryerson’s RTA School of Media, filling every position from producer to director to camera operator to replay, produced a Ryerson women’s hockey game live for the Rams Network and Rogers TV.

“This year, when I started working at the Rams Network,” says Vermeulen, a Toronto native who will graduate in the spring, “I saw it as a great platform to be able to bring women together and empower them and do something crazy like this.”

An interdisciplinary group of female students from Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design filled the entire crew of a live broadcast for the Rams Network on Jan. 29.

An interdisciplinary group of female students from Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication and Design filled the entire crew of a live broadcast for the Rams Network on Jan. 29.

The event was proudly received across campus as the school publicized the event and made it a critical part of a special night at Mattamy Athletic Center honoring Breast Cancer Awareness.

“This broadcast is more than just recording a hockey game; it’s a signal to the sport industry that change is coming and it is starting with this group of girls right here at Ryerson,” says Charles Falzon, dean of the Faculty of Communication and Design. “I’m proud that the RTA School of Media will graduate more women who have an interest and the skills needed to be successful in sports because of extracurricular initiatives like this one.”

Ryerson athletics is currently in the first year of a reimagined initiative addressing its live–event-video production. Over the summer, the athletic department and the RTA School of Media partnered to make the academic side a greater part of the live event-production process. Prior to this year, the athletic department had 10 part-time student positions dedicated to streaming coverage. That model was revamped by re-identifying those positions as “broadcast crew leads” and filling them with work/study students.

To fill the crew list of live productions, up to five or six of those 10 positions are placed in key leadership roles throughout the crew, with the remaining roles filled by student volunteers, a majority of whom come from RTA School of Media’s new Sport Media program, currently in its second year.

Four of the 10 broadcast-crew lead positions are filled by females, and they put their heads together to fill out the key roles, sending out a crew call list to fill out the remainder of the team.

“We don’t normally have 23 people on our crew for a broadcast, but we added a handful of additional roles because there was such a huge interest in it from the student volunteers,” says Brian Withers, an instructor at Ryerson University and supervising producer of RTA Productions Sports Unit.

Withers and Vermeulen hope that events like this one will spark an interest in live sports production in women who maybe never considered it before.

Dubbed “The Takeover,” the broadcast aired live on Rogers TV cable.

Dubbed “The Takeover,” the broadcast aired live on Rogers TV cable.

“The great thing about ‘The Takeover’ was that we were broadcasting a women’s hockey game so I feel like we will start seeing more women in sports broadcasting with more women’s sports being broadcast,” says Vermeulen. “If you don’t see yourself being represented, then you might not want to be a part of it.”

Ryerson’s Rams Network is a year-round production outfit. It will produce approximately 65 events (hockey, basketball, volleyball) live this academic year and, thanks to some critical partnerships with key Canadian technology vendors, offers students the chance to work with some of the most advanced production gear in the business.

A master-control room, studio, and classroom are located on the fourth floor of the Mattamy Athletic Center (the former Maple Leaf Gardens) and features a Ross Video Acuity production switcher and an Evertz DreamCatcher replay system.

Crews use a collection of Sony cameras, deploying five for a hockey broadcast and four for basketball and volleyball.

Vermeulen is pleased with how the event turned out and hopes that her younger classmates will take the torch and continue this as an annual event. She didn’t come to Ryerson looking to get into sports production (she planned on being a film major), but she finds herself aspiring to work replay on major professional sports events and looking to shake up an industry that has long been male-dominated.

“Working live events for Ryerson and getting into the live atmosphere made me really interested in it,” says Vermeulen. “Working in film was great, but I just found it to be very slow-paced: you film all day, and you get five to 10 minutes’ worth of footage. When you are doing a live broadcast, you still do long days with your crew, but you get the adrenaline when the event is actually going. Now I feel like I am where I am supposed to be.”