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Ready to Break Into the TV Business? Start at NPL

October 9, 2023

Make Your Own Shows  — and Air Them — with NECAT

If there’s one industry that’s in no danger of fading anytime soon, it’s television.

In 2022, Americans aged 15 and older spent an average three hours per day glued to the tube, and that average tends to grow higher the older we get, according to data available on Statista. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly 80% of the U.S. population watches TV.

And for those who want to break into the TV industry, it doesn’t get much better than Nashville. Already a thriving hub for artists and creators from all walks of life, Tennessee ranks fifth in the nation for opportunities in the motion picture/video production industry. Those opportunities are also expected to grow by 19% in the coming decade, according to the Tennessee Entertainment Commission.

But the costs can make getting a foot in the door a daunting task.

In 2018, the average per-episode cost of some of the most popular programs was nearly $6 million, according to FilmLA. Meanwhile, a TV producer noted that a reality TV show costs between $150,000 to $175,000 per hour, as cited in an interview with Current.

But at Nashville Public Library (NPL), we’ve got a secret weapon to help aspiring filmmakers realize their dreams at a fraction of the cost. It’s called the Nashville Education, Community, and Arts Television (NECAT) Network.

What is NECAT?

NECAT is a Public Education Government (PEG) television station with a twofold mission. First, they bring arts and education programming created both locally and around the world to Middle Tennessee viewers. Second, they provide training, resources, and support to help aspiring filmmakers realize their ambitions.

NECAT operates three TV channels: Music City Arts (arts channel), iQtv (education channel), and Access Nashville (community access channel). The network operates a state-of-the-art TV studio, complete with a six-camera setup with tricasters, multi-track audio, full LED lighting, and more.

The studio that would become NECAT first opened in 2001, operating as Public Access 19. In 2010, the Metro Nashville Government merged Metropolitan Educational Access Corporation (MEAC) and Community Access Corporation (CAC) to become NECAT.

Since 2022, NECAT has fallen under the umbrella of NPL, where the studio’s staff continue their mission while leveraging the full scope of the Library’s resources.

An Aspiring Filmmaker’s Launchpad

Beyond the formal lingo and technical specs, NECAT’s goal is very simple, but impactful: teach aspiring filmmakers how to make quality TV shows, then show them to the world.

Through NECAT, filmmakers learn the ins and outs of TV production, from scriptwriting to operating a camera, capturing audio to editing footage, and more.

What’s more, NECAT provides everything a filmmaker needs through its studio. Members can use NECAT’s tools and technology to film, edit, and air their shows.

And there’s no external pressure in anything a filmmaker does. They maintain full ownership of the copyright for content they create; they can focus on any topic or genre they desire; and they work with whomever they choose when producing their shows, be it NECAT technicians or fellow members exclusively.

“NECAT is a place for free speech, inclusion, and where unique voices are on display,” NECAT Studio Manager Cameron McCasland said. “We help local artists craft the content they want to produce and — most importantly — help them showcase their work to viewers at home.”

Serving Two Communities

As a PEG local to the Nashville area, NECAT has a crucial advantage compared to other TV studios: connection to our community. Some of their most popular programs — including The Chico and B-Man Show, Mind Your Own Music Business, Cookin’ with Big Fella, and more — are produced locally by members of the Nashville community.

“One crucial thing that we always bear in mind at NECAT is that we serve two audiences: the filmmakers and our viewers at home,” McCasland said. “We serve the former by helping them bring their visions to life, and we serve the latter by empowering them to access quality programs — many of which are made by members of their own communities — that they can’t find anywhere else.

In addition, members of NECAT get real-world, hands-on experience they can use to sharpen their skills and build up their résumé, using a studio setup just like what they’d find at a major studio.

“Nashville studios work with some pretty big names in the entertainment, music, film, and news industries. Our hope is that members who wish to go on to a major TV studio do so with the skills and confidence to show up on day one and say, ‘Yes, I know I can do this because I’ve done it before,’” McCasland said.

How it Works

Becoming a NECAT member is very straightforward and — perhaps more importantly — very cost-effective.

There are two membership tiers: Technician and Producer.

Technician tier is for those who want to serve as volunteer crew on production shoots by NECAT Producers. It costs $50 annually, and requires completion of NECAT’s in-house “Production 1” class.

Producer tier is for folks who want to create their own TV shows and air them on NECAT. Producers can book the studio, borrow equipment, and submit shows to air on NECAT channels. This tier costs $100 annually and requires completion of both the “Production 1” and “Production 2” classes.

To learn more about becoming a NECAT member — and tune in live to their lineup of homegrown shows — visit NECAT’s website.

Wizard avatar


Ed's a proud member of NPL's Marketing and Communications team. Some of his favorite books include Dracula, Once an EagleNeuromancerStarship TroopersThe Black CompanyBerserkBlade of the ImmortalBlame! and Vampire Hunter D. When not at the Library, you'll find him spending time with his wife and son, doing interval training, reading, or waiting for the next FromSoftware game.


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