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CCM alumnus Zach Mueller in Alaska.

E-Media Alumnus Strikes Gold on Action-Packed Discovery Channel Series

CCM E-Media alumnus Zach Mueller.

After graduating from CCM’s bachelor of fine arts program in electronic media in 2010, Zach Mueller has put his talents and skills to the test on the adventure of a lifetime.

Three years after receiving his BFA, Mueller found himself out of the sound lab and on location in Alaska as a sound mixer for the Discovery Channel's Gold Rush (formerly Gold Rush: Alaska), a reality television series produced by RAW TV, focused on the mining of the gold placer deposits of Alaska, the Klondike and Guyana.

CCM’s curriculum is designed to allow students like Mueller to hit the ground running. "The Electronic Media Division is very much in line with the University of Cincinnati's focus on experiential learning," explains Division Head John Owens. "We challenge students to become multi-platform media storytellers and then apply their talents in real-world projects and internships. We believe this gives our graduates an advantage because they are not pigeon-holed into one career path and they have excellent portfolio material that clearly demonstrates their capabilities."

Thanks to internationally accomplished faculty members like CCM's Dorothy Richard Starling Chair in Classical Violin Kurt Sassmannshaus, Mueller has worked abroad in Denmark, Portugal, the Netherlands and China since graduation, building his international experience and expertise. However, Mueller notes that working with a foreign crew in his own country was a new experience. “I felt very lucky to be on the show and working with a British crew was an amazing experience,” says Mueller. While working on season four of Gold Rush as the only sound mixer with a very small, mostly British crew, Mueller had to learn not only about life in Alaska but also about how to work with his crew’s unique vocabulary and practices.

Beyond the demands of his crew, the locations and climate were significantly more challenging. Rain and bear sightings were a daily occurrence where Mueller and the crew were located, in the northern temperate rainforests of Haines, a city in southeast Alaska, about 90 miles from Juneau. Due to concern for the safety of the crew, two local armed Alaskans followed the group during filming, and all crew members were required to carry air horns and mace at all times.

Mueller remembers the first day he arrived on set: “It was the longest day of the year and the sun didn't go down for almost a week.” One particular day, Mueller recalls, “we had to climb up a giant 120-foot pile of rocks for a shot, and on the way down, I bent my ankle up and was out for three days. We also had to stand in calf-deep freezing mud to work. At the end of shooting, it was in the negative degrees!”

Mueller on location in Alaska.

Mueller, however, isn’t complaining. He feels very lucky to be only three years out of college with a great deal of experience sound mixing for TV shows such as House Hunters International and Bar Rescue, as well as the Presidential Debates, some fantastic independent movies and many other projects.

“CCM was a major part in helping me get to where I am today,” Mueller mentions. “Professors Kevin Burke, Tom Haines, Zach Riggins and John Owens instilled useful information that helped me start a successful career. They connected me with local TV crews and filmmakers to get me started in the business. CCM offered a range of disciplines including musical theatre, theatre, opera and theater design—all of which provided me with a variety of skills to offer in the industry.”

Learn more about the Discovery Channel's Gold Rush by visiting www.discovery.com/tv-shows/gold-rush.

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