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August 23, 2019

Branching Out

A cross-country lark leads to an unforeseen career.

Jacqueline Cutler
  • Jordin Althaus

Had Bart Peters liked the valet uniform, Hollywood might have one fewer producer.

After earning a business degree from Miami University in Ohio, Peters had no plans. So when a cousin rented a U-Haul to move to Los Angeles, he tagged along.

"Cincinnati was the biggest city we ever frequented. I remember being completely intimidated by how big L.A. was," Peters recalls. "I spent a summer hanging out at the beach until my money ran out."

Then he applied for every job he could — and got two bites. Parking cars required a uniform, so he used the last few minutes on his cell plan to call about the other job, a production assistant gig. Peters couldn't define it, but he could wear what he wanted.

So he wound up a PA at the Democratic National Convention, making $75 for every 14-hour day. But he was in the middle of the action, and he was hooked.

That led to TV jobs, beginning with So You Think You Can Dance. Peters learned various aspects of producing and directing as he worked on such shows as DirecTV Audience Network's Guitar Center Sessions and International Ghost Investigators.

During six years at DirecTV and its successor, AT&T Audience Network, Peters notched concert specials, documentaries and series. When he left in 2016, it was to start his own Big Branch Productions — quietly.

"So many people leave a network, and that is the last you ever hear of them," Peters says. "I don't want to be the guy that doesn't have anything. I wanted to have stuff on air before I announced the company."

Though Peters gravitates toward music specials and keeps an office in Nashville, he's open to all genres. His comedy Loudermilk, starring Ron Livingston, was renewed for a third season on AT&T Audience, and he has several edgy shows in development.

Big Branch's Super Saturday Night concert special captures the excitement of Super Bowl Eve; this year's starred the Foo Fighters, and Peters was involved in every aspect of the live broadcast and livestream. Sure, he's signing the checks, but as he talks about front man Dave Grohl, and the business in general, his enthusiasm evokes the farm kid he used to be.

"The town had a population of 90 and a stop sign," he says of Farmersville, Ohio, his hometown. "I was in Future Farmers of America — I failed epically. One test was to take a push mower apart, and you passed if you started it up again. Well, mine didn't start."

In such a small town, he adds, there was no exposure to the arts. Yet those early gambles — driving cross-country on a whim and taking a job he was clueless about — landed him in the right career. "I didn't know what I wanted to do," he says, "until I saw it."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2019

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