Where are you currently employed?
I work freelance.
A new syndicated show, just going into production, called Celebrity Name Game, hosted by Craig Ferguson. I’m also working on Shark Tank and Rising Star, both on ABC.
Describe Your Job.
I usually describe my job as “live editing.” Instead of being in an editing room with elements in folders on a hard drive, I am sitting in a control room behind a production switcher with everything happening live in front of me. My job is to switch to the correct element at the exact right time without messing up.
The technical director is typically looked to as the lead for the technical crew. A big part of my job is making sure that we have the right equipment for the production and helping the director achieve his or her vision.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
I first started making TV shows as a kid on a VHS camcorder, so there was never a time that I considered doing anything else. Over the years, I have worked with so many people who were video makers as children who turned adult “professionals” that I really feel at home in this career filled with men and women who love to push buttons and make videos for a living.
Who gave you your first break?
I started at KPBS-TV in San Diego as a student assistant. I was soon directing and technical directing for them. No doubt, this annoyed some of the staff members to have an 18-year-old kid in the chair. Thank goodness I have had a chance to try and repair my reputation with those guys. The engineers there were so generous to give me a crash course in professional TV production. They set an example of what it means to be a mentor and I am grateful to have been exposed to their knowledge.
What was your first union job?
My first union job was on News at Ten at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. It was anchored at the time by Hal Fishman. KTLA is a station with a long history, and I loved hearing stories about the early days of TV from the veteran union members, so it was a real moment of pride for me to join the Hollywood chapter of the IA.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I get the most satisfaction from working on big live events like American Idol and the Democratic National Convention — events that end up being talked about around the water cooler the next day. Even though it can be stressful knowing that millions of people are watching, it always gives me a great sense of accomplishment once the broadcast is completed and we have a chance to breathe.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
Unfortunately, the biggest problem that I'm currently encountering is yet to be solved. I find it incredibly difficult to work on a freelance basis and keep my schedule under control. Often, I will have either too many days off or too few days off and, inevitably, I end up with multiple shows wanting to book the same day. Thanks to Google Calendar, I very rarely accidentally double-book.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
I think that it is important for the crew to try and have a fun time at work because it can sometimes translate to a better show on air. Even though my job is considered to be technical in nature, there is a lot of creativity involved as well. I had the most fun working on The Jerry Lewis Telethon because of the seat-of-the-pants nature of the show and being witness to Jerry's hilarious backstage antics.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
There is always room to grow for me. The most obvious path is to move into directing. I am just hopeful that the TV industry stays strong enough to support good union labor in Los Angeles for as long as possible.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
I love to sail and hang out at the beach with my wonderful wife Laura and newborn son David.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
My all-time favorite movie is Lawrence of Arabia because of its epic nature, but I love any movies that involve Vikings, the Old West or bank robbing.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
My favorite TV program recently on the air is Cosmos. It's so cool that Fox put a science show on primetime.
Do you have an industry mentor?
Allan Wells, John Pritchett, Keith Winikoff, Rick Edwards and Eric Becker are on my Mount Rushmore of Technical Directing. They have been responsible for many innovations and I admired their work long before I ever met them in person.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
To anyone wanting to become a technical director, I would suggest starting small. There are a million ways to make mistakes in this job, so it is best to start somewhere more tolerant of inexperience.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I have found that the Guild-provided health and welfare benefits have been extremely helpful in making it possible to have a normal life in the crazy world of freelance.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
We should all strive to do our best work on every job so that employers see the advantage to hiring union labor vs. non-union. I have found that the skill of IA members can be a valuable asset to large scale TV productions.
- Compiled by Edward Landler
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