Getting to Know A...TV PRODUCER!
Inspired by and drawn from just a fragment of the dynamic people in my life “Getting to Know A…” is my way of introducing you to a variety of professionals who are excelling in their various fields. Some follow a traditional path after finding their inspiration in unexpected places. Others carved out their own non-traditional careers. What they have in common is they are all incredibly passionate about what they do. My hope is something in these inspires you, the readers, as well.
Since the subjects of these pieces live far and wide I had initially sent each of them a personalized questionnaire with the intention of drafting them into articles. Their answers were just so dang good there was no way I wanted to change them. I decided, with permission to leave them as is.
Tell me first what you do. Both the title and what you actually do
I am Sr. Content Producer at NBC’s new Esquire Network. I make TV and digital content for our Brand Creative department, which can also include advertising, interstitials, marketing and commercials. I also am an author (completing a book for Penguin Publishing, my sixth) and musician (front man of punk vets The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs).
Did you go to school for this?
I graduated CSUN with a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communication, with a minor in Journalism. At the time, I was working in the music business and didn’t think my degree applied much, but as time went on and my job changed I would say that it now applies directly and has indeed been useful.
What did you go to college for?
I went to college for music, but ended up pursuing writing and public speaking in my studies. And partying.
How did this help your career?
My background in journalism has helped me as a writer in terms having the basic skills, knowing the rules and how to best structure my work. These things also helped as I moved into non-journalism writing, such as scripts and books. The Speech Communications major was kind of bullsh*t at the time. I had no idea what I wanted to do in college besides music however I hated taking music theory classes. Since I enjoyed writing I considered majoring in Journalism, but felt that might limit me if I didn’t go into that field. Speech seemed just vague enough of a major to apply to my interests. Plus I like to talk. Loudly.
How did you become a TV producer? What was the process?
I had a background in music and writing, but was unemployed for a spell. I was freelance writing and editing and was looking for jobs at magazines and websites when a friend told me G4tv (the new Comcast-owned videogame TV network) was hiring web writers. Despite not being much of a gamer, I got the job. As time went on I became more interested in production and moved into that direction. Luckily, my bosses were open to it and supported me learning as much as I could. Eventually I learned how to be a field producer, to shoot, to light, to edit, and became a one-man production team. Then I moved into directing. These days I do a bit of it all at Esquire, which is what G4 ended up morphing into after being folded into the NBC TV umbrella.
Who were your biggest mentors/influences in your career?
Well, my biggest influences in life are David Lee Roth, Iggy Pop and Frank Zappa. I was lucky enough to spend quality time Zappa and Roth, but have only met Iggy casually a few times. As far as mentors go, writer Lonn Friend has been an important one. He was a big influence on me in my rock journalism days with his work at Rip Magazine, hired me for my first Managing Editor gig (at KNAC.com), and got me my first book deal (“On the Road with The Ramones”). He also mentions me by name in his books, which is a great honor.
Another mentor has been director Joe Lynch. He was my boss at G4tv when I first moved into production and was a huge asset, source of information, and inspiration. Beyond technical stuff, he taught me how to be a good leader yet still be a teammate, how to work with talent and crews effectively, and how to deal with management and money people. But he also filled me with confidence when I was first getting into production. He was convinced I could do anything I set my mind to. You need people like Lonn to show you the ropes and get you out of your safe-zone, and people like Joe to inspire you and teach you how best to navigate in your field of choice.
What’s a pretty cool thing you get to do regularly that someone who ISN’T a TV Producer would get to do?
Lately I have been filming food and drink themed TV pilots, so I get to fly around the country and eat amazing food and drink fantastic beverages. Plus, stay at rad hotels in amazing cities. And they pay me for this!!! I also got to cavort with gorgeous fitness models on the beaches on Miami while filming segments for American Ninja Warrior, but that’s another story…
What is a personal career highlight so far?
Last summer I was given the opportunity to direct a 90 minute documentary film for G4tv about struggling hip hop artists.* It was an amazing experience on many levels, but mainly because I had never told a story over 90 minutes before, which was a real challenge. I had also never edited (Final Cut) anything so big in scope. I really enjoyed the challenge. Beyond that, working at the legendary POPsmear Magazine was a career highlight, as I will never get a job that fun and insane again. In fact, it was that job which led me to my days with David Lee Roth, which would be yet another career (and personal) highlight. And being a touring “rock star” in The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs for a decade was certainly tons of fun….but again, that’s another story…
(*MB here: I am soooo excited to see this!!!)
From a personal perspective, how does your work inform your life outside the office?
My work makes me appreciate not working actually. I work very hard, but I really value my time away from production, writing, and music too. The older I get, the more I try to keep these things separate. When I am with my kid, I try not to think about work at all. She gets my full attention. When I am at work, I try to leave my social or personal issues at home and come in with a clean slate. When I was younger I don’t think I was as good at that balancing act.
Does your life outside the office inform your work? If so, how?
As a writer, everything I go through in life informs what I do. Part of the job is to keep my eyes, ears and heart open. Whatever rings true in life – good or bad – can be source material for my art. If your life doesn’t inform your art on some level, then your art likely is bullshit. Just sayin’…
How is your life outside your office different from your work?
I am a single father, so when I am not working I am raising my awesome 10-year-old daughter*. My role as a dad is about as different as my role in showbiz as possible.
(*MB again: his daughter is hands down one of my favorite people ever. She is kick ass on a deep deep level)
Creatively and personally, what are the major benefits of your career?
I enjoy where I am in my career these days because it never gets boring. One project I am directing, one day I am producing, while another I am editing. I write sometimes, but pass on writing other times. Mainly, the work is fun, challenging and always creative. As my boss at Esquire put it, we are the only department in the building with “Creative” in the title!
What are the drawbacks, if any?
I work lots of crazy hours and there’s lots of travel (which can be both a benefit and drawback), so I often have to be on call, which can wreak havoc on the home life.
What advice would you give someone considering this as a career?
Get your hands dirty. Work, work, work. Do every job you can and learn all aspects of your field. Be able to do your job better than everybody else, plus be able to do everyone else’s job too just in case. You don’t have to be an expert in everything, but it behooves you to be pretty good at most things. They say it takes 10,000 hours to an expert at something. They are wrong. It takes 20,000. So get started!