Breaking into TV Production: Advice from NYC Industry Professionals

March 21, 2013 - An enthusiastic group of students and New Yorkers interested in pursuing careers in technical production received a range of advice from experienced industry professionals at Technical Careers in Television Production, part of “Made in NY” Talks.

Taking place in Lehman College’s state-of-the-art multimedia center as students staffed the cameras and control room to record the conversation, the panel was presented by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and Lehman College and moderated by Todd Asher, first deputy commissioner of MOME.

The TV insiders, who have all based their careers in New York City, shared the ideal attributes that anyone looking to break into the industry should have. “Be on time,” said Glynis Burke, an electrician and gaffer whose credits include “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and The Hours. “This is a business of personalities. Be organized, forward thinking, be willing to participate.”

Kenneth Prins, who works as an audio engineer for Fox Networks, mixing different sound elements and troubleshooting audio issues live on set, added that you should be a considerate person. “You want to work with someone that people like to work with,” he said.

Frank Lazarto, head electrician for both CBS Sports and “The Bill Cunningham Show,” described working in production as a “well-choreographed dance.” “In TV time, 30 seconds is an eternity,” he said. “You can get a lot done in 30 seconds.”

One of the panelists, jib and camera operator Mark Britt, arrived in the middle of the panel, exemplifying how the schedule of someone working in the industry can be irregular. He had just finished a day’s work on “Rachael Ray.” “There’s no set schedule,” he explained. It changes all the time, to which Prins noted that he’d be heading to work at 4am the next day.

Eddie McMahon from the Theatrical Stage Employees Union Local 1, also let the audience know about the apprenticeship test it offers every two years. The top 40 applicants are placed in shops in apprenticeships to further learn their craft. Anyone who contacts Local 1’s office and expresses interest in the test will be notified of when the next one is administered.

All of the panelists agreed that despite the long hours, working in the industry was a rewarding and enjoyable experience. They encouraged everyone in the audience not to give up on their goals of working in production and to learn everything they could in the process.

Following the discussion, the panelists mingled with the audience to answer additional questions while Britt gave an impromptu lesson to the students on how to use the multimedia center’s jib camera, much to the gratification of everyone present.