Putting a kid-friendly spin on professional football was a winning play for Ben Pluimer. The former Belle Fourche resident recently won his first Emmy for a program on Nickelodeon.
Pluimer received a 2020-21 Sports Emmy for outstanding playoff coverage of a National Football Conference Wild Card game between the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints. Pluimer was an associate producer.
The program was the result of a collaboration early this year between the National Football League and Nickelodeon, a network dedicated to kids’ programming, Pluimer said.
“We broadcast a Wild Card game and gave it a Nickelodeon spin,” he said. “We were tailoring the broadcast for kids and keeping it interesting enough that if parents were watching, they wouldn’t want to turn off the game.”
Nickelodeon’s trademark slime made appearances, as did popular characters from Nickelodeon cartoons and sitcoms.
“The instant replays would have animation added,” Pluimer said. “Whenever there was a field goal, an image of SpongeBob SquarePants would be on the field. ‘Young Sheldon’ would pop up and explain football terms. We had kids on the field talking about the plays. … It did really well and we ended up winning two Emmys. The graphics team won an Emmy for best sports graphic.”
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The Emmys were awarded in July, and Pluimer received his Emmy trophy this fall. After a 15-year career as a freelance producer and director in Los Angeles, this fall Pluimer also was hired by Nickelodeon. He is an executive producer who helps create and direct shows and is “an overall creative person there right now,” he said.
“I’m grateful to still be doing this and grateful to have had such a fortunate year during a year when everything was so bad all over the world,” Pluimer said. “I’m very lucky to have a supportive family and a supportive team at Nickelodeon, and (I feel) a lot of gratitude all around.”
Pluimer is the son of Richard and Gloria Pluimer of Spearfish and Charla and Bill O’Dea of Belle Fourche. Pluimer has been married for five years to Dr. Shannon Bates, a psychologist, and the couple has a 3-year-old son, Charlie.
Pluimer previously directed and produced commercials, sitcoms for Nickelodeon, comedy cooking shows for the A&E network and more. He’s directed and created programming for networks and brands including Comedy Central, Amazon, Funny or Die, ABC, Fox, Dow, Mattel, Syfy, Fullscreen, Red Hour Films, Channel 101, Go90, Hello Labs, Ford, Taco Bell, Mars Inc, Mattel, Subaru, AT&T, Black & Decker, Harley Davidson, Jenn-Air and VisitCA. He was nominated for a prime time Emmy in 2008.
Growing up in Belle Fourche, Pluimer’s passion for movies ultimately led him to his current career.
“Somewhere around the last couple of years of high school, I started getting more into movies … and started getting into the idea of doing something with movies even though I had no idea what that meant or how to do it,” he said.
Pluimer describes that era of his life as “shooting everything he could on his family’s beat-up VHS camcorder. These videos were mostly him and his friends tearing around town to Beastie Boys songs.” Pluimer graduated from Belle Fourche High School in 2000 and went to film school at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. He credits the school and professors with giving him and other students the freedom to experiment creatively.
“They had a television department. I learned how to run a camera, how to edit footage. I taught myself the software so well I ended up being the person that would teach the professors the software,” Pluimer said. “St. Cloud gave us a huge sandbox to play with. We had great resources and we formed great student groups to help learn from each other. The professors let us explore and run wild.”
“I started taking more film classes and watching movies, and I had the idea to get together with friends and start making them,” he said. “At some point I did an internship for a production company in Rapid City helping them with local commercials and editing. I ended up really liking it.”
In 2004, he moved to Los Angeles.
“For some reason, I thought I wanted to (have a career) on the biggest stage possible so I thought I’d moved to Los Angeles. I had no idea how lucky I would have to be,” Pluimer said.
“The leap from South Dakota to Minnesota to Los Angeles was huge. I think it was so overwhelming I never had a chance to sit and think about it,” he said. “It’s very intimidating and even now, I try not to think too hard about what’s going to happen. I try to take opportunities as they come.”
One such opportunity came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pluimer’s boss asked for ideas for Nickelodeon TV shows that could be produced remotely from people’s homes. Pluimer collaborated to develop “Unfiltered,” a game show he compares to the classic “What’s My Line.” Celebrities hide behind 3D animated characters and a panel of kids – filming with cameras and green screens in their own homes – ask questions, collect clues and play games to guess the identity of the mystery guests. This summer, “Unfiltered” finished filming its second season.
Clips of “Unfiltered” and some of Pluimer’s other projects can be viewed on his website, benpluimer.com.