Alumni produce show for Sportsman Channel
A love of the outdoors and a cancer diagnosis became the recipe for two Central Michigan University alumni's TV show.
Chad Hall, a 2002 alumnus, and Jason Brown, a 2000 alumnus, teamed up to pitch a television show called "Sheep Shape." The show follows four people, including Hall, who have overcome challenges while they take on the dangerous mountains of North America.
Hall was diagnosed with cancer while attending CMU, and after he met Brown, the two agreed filming Hall overcoming mental and physical challenges could make for a TV show.
Brown has now produced more than 500 episodes of outdoor programing for several different networks. Sheep Shape will air at 8:30 p.m. June 25 on the Sportsman Channel.
CML: What was the inspiration behind Sheep Shape?
BROWN: Last winter, we wanted to do a show that documents Chad's journey. It started as a documentary, and then we started viewing it as a TV series. He said, 'I'd like to find a couple of others who have gone through difficulties like me,' and I though it was great. The search was on and we found the other three cast members. Through the production process we had huge success. Almost a year later, we’re on episode five of twelve that were sending to the network.
How did you and Chad team up?
BROWN: I was a broadcast journalist. I met Chad at CMU through my wife; she went to school with him. I met him before he got diagnosed. As he was going through treatments, I gave him a whole bunch of hunting videos. Thats where things kicked off--outdoors and hunting.
HALL: I knew Jason started up a production company that produced outdoor TV shows. We became close friends, came together and thought the idea of me going through these challenges would be a compelling television show. We pitched it and the networks loved it. They wanted us to produce it. We found three other individuals that went through life challenges themselves. We set a goal to train together to get into 'sheep shape' to be able to go on these expeditions.
Chad, how did cancer affect your life?
HALL: It was devastating. I was in Sigma Phi Epsilon living at the house, and it was fall of ’98 when I found out. I had testing done and doctors confirmed I had tumor in my femur. I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. I had to tell my brothers I couldn’t come back in the spring. After that I started treatment right away. Luckily it didn't spread at all we caught early enough.
We did four months of chemotherapy. I had surgery and they removed and reconstructed my leg and knee. I beat it, and came right back to CMU to finish up school. I lived in Mount Pleasant over the summer and hammered out of my classes to catch up with the guys that were two years ahead of me.
Who are the other cast members?
HALL: Kelsie Burford--a Montana (native) who overcame sexual abuse and bullying. Rick Corone, a former Chicago White Sox baseball player who is battling pancreatic cancer while training to go on the hunt. Patrick Scrogin, a helicopter pilot. He took a near-fatal crash and broke almost every bone in his body. He's able to climb massive mountains with just one leg.
What kind of training is required for Sheep Shape?
HALL: We hired trainers and strength and conditioning coaches for every person. They designed the diets and workouts we’d be doing. We were all working out at a minimum of five to six days a week. We all had heavy diets and goals we needed to meet. Some of us were working on endurance. Others were working on a combination of leg and core strengths. We need to hike with heavy backpacks for 15 plus hours a day. You had to prepare yourself just as much mentally as physically.
What was the hardest part about filming this show?
BROWN: The struggle on the production side was battery life. When you’re out there for days, you need battery power. The other thing is weather. You have to climb tens of thousands of feet a day. You have to be in physically great condition to keep up with the hunters. When you’re always climbing and moving, one of our camera men has to get those shots, and he's now five hundred feet behind. You have to be in peak condition if you’re part of that production crew.
What did you learn from your experience on the show?
HALL: I learned more from the accomplishment side. Any limitation you have, you can find a way to overcome it. That is the meaning behind the show: No challenge is too great.