Thursday, September 20, 2012
Exploring the “World’s Largest Tree House,” checking out a peanut factory or paying a visit to Cabbage Patch Kids General Hospital could each be described as a typical day on the job for Signal Mountain resident Karen Elliott.
This week she is panning for gold in central Alabama as host of “Southern Accents,” a 30-minute program airing on local and regional PBS affiliates that features the best attractions the region has to offer.
For 15 years Elliott’s work has revolved around finding fun new things for others to do in their spare time.
“Whether you have a few hours or a day or a weekend, we give you somewhere you can go to rejuvenate a little bit, get some quiet or a little bit of nature,” said Elliott, the third host of the show now filming its 21st season.
She writes, hosts and produces each episode of “Southern Accents,” and is currently filming the new season set to air in February.
The show’s scope extends throughout the Deep South region, with featured destinations located an average of four hours from Chattanooga. Elliott said about half of her story ideas now come from viewers, whom she encourages at the end of each show to share their thoughts on possible features. She said most of the calls and emails she receives are about restaurants.
“I love Southern food stories,” said Elliott, who in addition to her fondness for restaurants likes to tour food processing plants such as that of Golden Flake Snack Foods.
“I try to do stories that would appeal to all ages,” she added. Elliott also tries to diversify her subjects to suit a wide range of interests, from a feature on the region’s best barbecue to a story on botanical gardens.
Whenever she decides on a destination, she said she researches the area to find other attractions located within an hour’s drive to make the trip more efficient.
“Departments of tourism are great about getting us complimentary rooms,” she said of the show’s two-person team, which also includes photographer and editor Ross Tilghman.
Each interview subject is given questions to review and alter if they so choose prior to Elliott’s arrival. Once at her destination, she films the interview first, followed by supporting video scenes based on topics discussed during the interview.
“It’s very rewarding but sometimes challenging,” she said of filming, which can take six hours to create a six-minute segment.
Elliott then goes through all the footage on a DVD at home, indicating on the script for the editor where each shot should be placed.
Local PBS affilliate WTCI runs each “Southern Accents” EPISODE three times a week: Thursday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The show also airs on the statewide PBS network the Tennessee Channel, as well as in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky. Arizona will air the show statewide beginning in April, and many other stations around the country have also picked up the show.