​​​​​BCA Alum, Brett Holey, Directs Presidential Debate for Multiple Networks


The second Presidential Debate was unlike anything ever seen in U.S. politics.  More than 69 million U.S. television viewers as well as worldwide online audiences were able to visually experience the history-making Town Hall thanks to CMU's School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts alum, Brett Holey.

Holey, Senior Director of NBC News, directed the TV pool coverage of the debate which took place Sunday, October 9th at Washington University in St. Louis.  All video of the debate originates from the pool which was under Holey's overall direction.

As he explains, the major broadcast and cable news networks take turns providing coverage of the major political events they all carry.  The integrated "pool" feed of cameras and audio is not only used by all the U.S. networks but is also sold to a number of other subscribers around the country and around the world for television and digital platforms.

In addition to the general "switched feed," the TV pool provides close-up shots of candidates on separate, isolated feeds.  Most networks create a split screen from those shots that they use for much of the debate. But as Holey points out, "the nature of the town hall debate makes it difficult for the other directors to 'ride the split' all night. The movement of the candidates, their interaction with each other, the moderators and the citizen participants on stage make it impossible to appreciate it in a single shot. It is my team's job to capture what's going on:  the proximity, the body language, the relationships. The podium and table debates are in a pretty static environment. They take place in a tight proscenium with three participants. But the town hall is a 360-degree arena with 44 people in an unpredictable format. It is by far the most challenging format to shoot and if there was one pool event of the political year I really wanted to direct, this was it."

Holey has directed all of NBC's top-rated political specials this year.  But with the debate behind him, he is focused on providing a fresh approach for NBC News election night coverage and graphic presentation. 

After starting his career at ABC News Holey joined NBC twenty years ago as director of NBC Nightly News.  In his years on the broadcast it was the most watched newscast in America for all but a handful of weeks.

In recognition of his work, Holey has collected thirteen Emmys; numerous Edward R. Murrow and Columbia duPont awards and a number of other accolades including several for graphic and scenic design.

Holey and BCA are discussing ways for him to share his insights on directing political coverage with BCA students.