Where are you currently employed?
As a freelance technical director, I work on a variety of shows. I am also the backup TD for other entertainment shows and a freelance TD trainer for Sony’s line of MVS switchers.
My main shows, Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, Sports Jeopardy and Tosh.0, are shooting right now. Jeopardy! and Wheel tape a couple of days a week but are scattered throughout the year for a total of about 65 days a year. Tosh.0 has a Thursday tape day for 10 shows with a five-to-six-week hiatus before ramping into their next production cycle. Sony training projects come up about once a month. I just finished training at the Miami Marlins Stadium for the All-Star Game it will be hosting next July.
Describe Your Job.
Traditionally, the technical director has been the supervisor or crew chief for engineering. It has also become responsible for programming graphic effects and interfacing video equipment to work together. The TD operates the video switcher, builds the effects needed for the show, and manages the monitors and other feeds and switching sources. The director calls the show and the TD follows the director’s instructions for what gets put on air.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
As a high school freshman, I enrolled in a class on Television Production. We had old equipment, but working in our little TV studio and radio station was so much fun, it seemed to make sense that this might be a career. I got my FCC license and my first job in radio at age 14.
Who gave you your first break?
At age 16, my Television Production teacher, Craig Caples, recommended me for the graveyard shift position as tape operator at KVVU TV-5 in Las Vegas.
What was your first union job?
When I started working in Los Angeles, I was a sports TD on NBA, NHL and MLB for National Mobile Television.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I worked on Dodgers broadcasts for eight years, and I will always be thankful for the chance to work with the great pioneer, Vin Scully. Presently, I am humbled to be working with two of the longest-running game shows in the history of broadcast TV: Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. The staff and crew are much more like a family than most shows with which I have been associated. It has been the single greatest experience of my career.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
Keeping up with the ever-changing equipment and software for video switchers and DDRs and all the other devices the technical director needs to make interface. I read manuals and get quite a bit of help from the marvelous engineers, who take time to explain the new gadgets, languages, and formats in which television is recorded and broadcast. When time is short and something I need for the show is just not coming together, I will also text or call another TD to reach out for ideas.
What was the most fun you've had at work?
I have been so lucky to work with some of the greatest directors and crews, it is impossible to pick just one event. My favorite thing is when everything gells…it feels like we are in a groove, everything flows with high energy and the show just moves along.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I hope my shows continue and I’m still working as part of the family; I want that to go on forever. I also look forward to fun new shows, to teaching other technical directors and to setting up facilities like churches, stadiums, schools and TV stations with professional broadcast equipment — that’s where I learn the most.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Being recently engaged, my biggest passion is enjoying a wonderful life with my fiancé, Peter, and getting to know his sweet family. Work is demanding, so when I have time off I mainly stay close to home. I love to cook, read and play with our two large, spoiled dogs. I also spend much of my free time listening to podcasts and playing with new tech/computer stuff.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Without a doubt, Schindler’s List, a cinematic masterpiece. There are lighter films I love, like Forrest Gump, but Schindler’s List is one of the greatest movies ever produced.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
Stranger Things on Netflix. I am a huge sci-fi fan, and this has more than enough suspense and unknown without being too gory. Blacklist with James Spader. Riddles and mysteries get me hooked every time. I love trying to figure something out. That’s why I enjoy my job so much.
Do you have an industry mentor?
I have been privileged to learn from many mentors. When I first started, Clay Jacobsen gave me his cell number and told me to call if I ever got stuck. Bob Ennis has taught me more about digital effects and switchers than I can describe. Jose Soriano showed me fantastic tricks on the Kayenne switcher. Sony’s Glenn Hill and Scott McQuaid have spent countless hours going over details about their switchers with me. The list goes on and on. This industry is generous with its knowledge.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
Start by reading the manuals for the various switchers and control room equipment; they are online and easy to find. I have the ones I need in PDF form on my iPad. There are YouTube videos and explanations on the web that are very helpful from Grass Valley, Sony and Ross. Like a computer, the real way to learn is to sit in front of it and try things out. If you have access to a video switcher, ask if you can play on it on off-times.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
I was on the committee discussing our shows’ new annual contract between the unions and the network. I was very thankful for the legal knowledge and support the Guild and its representatives gave us. It felt reassuring to have such experience and guidance when dealing with lawyers and executives.
Is there anything you'd like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Television is ever-changing and, as some great things go away, new things open up. Web casting, streaming and binge-watching is remaking this industry. I have worked on shows watched by millions that were never sent over the air and only carried on the Internet. These new media open opportunities for growth and art. It is an exciting time to keep learning and to see where the next big innovation takes us.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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