October 9, 2008

Making Dreams Come True

Charlie Dehne ’00 won Emmy Award as producer of MTV series MADE

by Dan Edelen and Kate Helm

As series producer for the MTV program MADE, Charlie Dehne ’00 is proudest of making a difference in the lives of the young people who seek help to turn a dream into a reality. As the show puts it, a “pampered princess” becomes a soccer standout. “An overweight couch potato becomes a model. A sci-fi nerd morphs into a hardcore rapper.” As Dehne says, “Our whole show is about changing lives.”

And change comes swiftly. Dehne has six weeks to hire professional coaches and document the transformation of the show’s profilees. The process demands 24/7 response from the production team. Crews sleeping on floors. Phone calls at 4 a.m. Editors poring over tape. All to make a compelling show worth watching.

“It’s like being a doctor – I’m always on call,” he says. “Each kid has a short-term goal, and it’s our job to get him or her there. Hopefully, in the end, it’s a really positive change for the kid.”

Not all happy endings air as episodes of MADE, though.

In June 2008, Dehne experienced his own dream come true when he won an Emmy Award as producer of the Outstanding Special Class Series. The year prior, he worked in post-production on the show when MADE took home its first statuette.

Although these victories mean a great deal to him, Dehne says the phone calls he receives from parents and their children thanking him for his help are what make his job worthwhile.

In an episode he dubs “Geek to Chic,” Dehne recalls a girl who wanted to be more visible to the opposite sex. “She’s a bookworm, incredibly bright, great personality, but no one ever saw it because she was afraid to show it.” Dehne and his team of personal coaches toiled to help her come out of her shell—typical material for the show.

What he didn’t expect was a series of irate phone calls from the girl’s mother. She chastised Dehne for what the team was putting her daughter through to achieve her goal. “I thought she hated me,” he says.

After the show aired, he received one more call.

“The mother called and said, ‘I just wanted to thank you for making such a wonderful show about my daughter. You made her look so beautiful and special, the way she really is. She feels like a different person, a happier person.’ I know it sounds cliche, but that phone call for me was ultimately rewarding. It meant so much to hear that from a parent and know I made an impact on this kid’s life.”

To breathe life into MADE, now in its 10th season, the English major often calls on his psychology minor, digging for personal motivations. “It’s fascinating to really break these kids down. There’s more than just wanting to be a homecoming queen, rapper, or ballroom dancer, something else here that they want.” Finding that desire and putting it onscreen continues to fuel the show’s success—and his own.

Dehne still can’t believe he went from a production assistant to a series producer in such a short time. “I realized I had to step it up when I found out I was going to be a dad,” he says. “I told my boss I was ready to do anything – ‘take a chance on me, and let me step into the role of series producer.’” The next thing he knew, he got his own dream-come-true shot.

And the icing?

“I’m just shocked that here I am about three years in the business and an Emmy Award winner,” he says. “We have an awesome team; I’m really proud to be a part of such a positive show.

He also enjoys working in Times Square.

“Living in the city now, I love it. There’s so much to offer here. It’s such a great place and a diverse area; it’s amazing what you can pick up and learn here,” says Dehne, who believes New York City holds endless opportunities for students exploring career paths.

Dehne says his undergraduate years gave him tools for success.

“Lafayette definitely helped me with my social skills and just getting out there,” he says. “I had some great English professors who taught me about being creative. My job is about being as creative as possible. They had crazy great thoughts; I was fascinated by how great they were.”

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