Jeff Phillips, a senior at California State University, Fresno, was part of the Emmy-winning cinematography team on the long-running CBS-TV reality competition series “Survivor.”
“Survivor” host Jeff Probst also won the Emmy as host for a reality or reality-competition program.
Phillips is a 22-year-old student majoring in mass communication and journalism with an emphasis in electronic media production. He was in Nicaragua working on the next “Survivor” series when the Creative Arts Emmys for technical achievement were announced Aug. 21.
The major acting, writing and directing Emmys were presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on Sunday, Aug. 29, in a national TV broadcast.
The cast and crew threw a party in Nicaragua to celebrate the Emmy, which was flown in for the occasion.
It’s the fourth “Survivor” that Phillips has operated POV (for point of view) cameras that allow for various perspectives to be edited into every episode. He manages to do this work in addition to his Fresno State studies, which includes participation in the academically demanding Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State.
“My job is to achieve great action shots from unique angles that the regular cameras on the sidelines can’t capture,” said Phillips. “Depending on the challenge, I will place between two and 10 cameras.
“Then, at tribal council, I operate three POV cameras in the voting hut,” he explains. “When someone goes to vote and you see the over-the-shoulder shot of the parchment, that is my shot.”
Phillips got interested in photography as a child growing up in Sanger. “I was always fascinated by the idea of capturing moments in time and explored this using my parents’ cameras, but mainly just as a hobby,” he said.
When he was 15, he was a contestant on the kids reality show “Endurance,” which aired on cable’s Discovery Kids and NBC. “It was a truly unique and life-changing experience,” Phillips said, exposing him to TV production and igniting a passion for videography and cinematography.
At Sanger High School, he said, “I started shooting no-budget videos and short films with my buddies, and shortly thereafter I knew that I wanted to pursue camera work as a career.”
In 2006, after graduating from high school, Phillips wrangled a job as a production assistant when “Endurance” filmed its fifth season at Shaver Lake. Three summers later, after his sophomore year at Fresno State, he says, “I discovered this job called the ‘Dream Team,’ which is essentially a production assistant for the challenge and art departments on ‘Survivor.’”
Team members also test all of the show’s challenges and shadow other departments in which they’re interested, leading to an offer to be a POV camera operator during the show’s season in Samoa, working for SEG (Survivor Entertainment Group), part of Mark Burnett Productions.
Phillips said it takes about 250 crew members to produce each series, not including local people who work at various tasks while the crew is on location.