The Journey

Improving Lives by Crashing Yards
By Justin Scott

The white-hot sun overhead baked everything. The nearly unbearable 100-degree temperature was magnified by the bleak landscape that lay before Kristel DeVries, '04. The backyard she entered looked more like the surface of the moon than a young bachelor's outdoor entertaining space in a suburban California neighborhood. Not a single blade of grass could be seen through the sea of dark gray gravel that blanketed the wasteland that lay before her.

"It was a terrible backyard. There was gravel everywhere, no lawn. It was hideous!" DeVries said.

DeVries is the producer for the nationally televised show Yard Crashers. The television show's goal is to change backyards from broken-down to astonishing and their owners from helpless to independent. The show airs on the Do It Yourself Network at 9:30 p.m. on Monday nights and involves ambush makeovers. The host, professional landscaper Ahmed Hassan, waits at home improvement stores to offer his assistance to the average weekend warrior. If the selected person agrees to the help, an episode of Yard Crashers is born. The show promises a radical 48-hour transformation of an average person's backyard, and it always delivers. As the producer of Yard Crashers, DeVries has to be sure of that.

Making Her Way to California

While attending Whitworth, DeVries majored in communications and minored in Spanish. She knew, even as a child, that she would go to Whitworth.

"My parents met at Whitworth, my aunts, uncles, cousins and so on and so forth went to Whitworth," DeVries said, laughing.

After graduation and a trip across Europe, DeVries moved back to Sacramento and got a job at a local Restoration Hardware store while looking for job opportunities in the communications field. DeVries contacted an employee at The Scripps Networks, the company in charge of channels like The Food Network and HGTV to see if there were any openings.

"I've always wanted to work with the Food Network, even before I went to college, so I decided to call up my friend to see if she knew of anything I might fit into," DeVries said.

An entry-level position at the Scripps Network headquarters was a possibility, but DeVries ultimately decided against the move to Tennessee. Without her knowledge, DeVries' contact at Scripps sent her resume to a Sacramento-based Production Company called The Idea Factory. A month later The Idea Factory called DeVries, and after a series of interviews, DeVries was hired. As with most people starting new careers in television, DeVries began her career in the television industry as the office and production assistant. Answering phones, organizing props for gardening shoots, and making lunch and errand runs became her job, but she had a hunger and passion for more.

"I really love writing and I knew that I was in a creative field. For heaven's sake, the company I work for is called The Idea Factory! So I decided to try writing segment packages for different specials and asked for more responsibility," DeVries said.

That's exactly what she got. Within the course of a year, DeVries had moved from production gopher to producing a fitness show called All That's Fit on the Fine Living Network. She was also field producing different television packages and writing scripts for various Scripps Network channels due to the close connection between the two production companies.

The opportunity to produce Yard Crashers came as a surprise and she jumped at the chance to produce a nationally televised show. The largest difference between her job as a producer on her previous show and Yard Crashers is the scale of the work. DeVries is responsible for pre-production aspects as producer by organizing the two-day makeover for Yard Crashers. She is in charge of figuring out the shoot schedule, finding props for each project, and hiring key contractors and guest landscapers. DeVries also has a say in the actual design of each yard done by the show and is responsible for getting donated materials for the yards. In reviewing the plans for the yard, her key responsibility is to make sure that each project is suited to the home owner.

When the Yard Crashers production rolls up to their target house, DeVries is in charge on site. She directs two cameras throughout the weekend, making sure that enough content is shot so that a 21-minute show for national television can be forged. After the shoot, DeVries goes through the process of converting all the footage shot that weekend into a digital format that can be edited. She then edits and organizes all of the raw footage into a show and writes a script for that episode.

"We say the show is 'unscripted' because we don't prepare a script for our host. We just have an outline of how the day needs to go. You can't script people who are great 'off the cuff.'" DeVries said.

In the highly stressful and highly competitive television business, DeVries counts her time spent at Whitworth as an advantage in the workplace because it prepared her for the challenges she now faces daily.

"The scholastic and intellectual aspects of my education at Whitworth are a major factor in where I am today. I was ready to hit the job market the day I graduated," DeVries said.

DeVries is quick to point out that there is more to an education at Whitworth then pure academics.

"The education you get at Whitworth goes beyond the books, though. I think Whitworth taught me about community and the relationships you have with the people you meet on a daily basis," DeVries said.

While gardening is not her personal forte, DeVries enjoys producing a show that helps out the everyday person by giving them a major hand with yard work and landscaping. And as for the dreaded bachelor's pad backyard, it is one of DeVries fondest memories.

"We took out all of the gravel, put it in a table base and put a really nice redwood cap on top creating a 'gravel table,' gave him sod, a cool sink stand ice chest and a keg holder for outside. But the best part was that I got a hot tub donated," DeVries said. "We totally changed it!"