Producing a Demo

Just last week, one of our clients spent the day shooting stand-ups and interviews.  Soon, we’ll choose the stand-ups we like best, script the reporter packages and anchor segments, then hit the studio to put the finishing touches on what promises to be one terrific demo DVD. 

What’s it like preparing the material necessary to show your best?

Our first step is to coordinate with you exactly what your reporter stand-ups will look like, where they’ll be staged and just what you’ll be saying.  You then “script” the stand-ups–that is, you write out generally what you would like to say.  We then spend part of a single day shooting those stand-ups and any other “live shots” and interviews we want to put on your reel.

When that’s finished, we schedule you for a second half-day to record the voice-over segments for your reporter packages and we fire-up our studio for the anchoring portion of the reel which you have also scripted yourself. 

Soon, through the magic of editing, you have a bright and tight representation of your best work which you can show prospective employers.  You’ll receive a DVD as well as a special webpage.  You can e-mail the link for that webpage to news and sports directors and anybody else for quick downloading of your reel for viewing. 

But of course, that’s just part of it.  We then become your personal consultants every step of the way, plotting a course of action where you can meet the right people and network to the openings in one of the most competitive fields there is, broadcast performance.  We do this on your schedule, staying in constant contact with you via telephone, e-mail and personal consultations.  And we do it for as long as it takes.  Even after you land that first job, we’ll continue to look at examples of your work and give you feedback so you can improve and eventually move up in the business.  We do this for a lifetime, because that’s how long our agreement with you runs, literally for a lifetime!

Contact us at www.marczumoff.com and we’ll be happy to talk with you about how to start your career as a broadcast performer.   

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Take the job you don’t want

The radio newscaster was happy, delivering news in the afternoons and occasionally going out to municipal meetings and the like in the evenings.  It was a good gig at a solid, well-respected station in the market.  His boss was fair.  His co-workers were nice.  The equipment was good and the overall working environment was satisfactory. 

But being a radio newsperson had its limitations.  That is, it wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do in the business.  It wasn’t the perfect fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Then one day, the newscaster got wind of the fact that the play-by-play voice for the college football and basketball team in the market had been relieved of his duties.   The station for which he was working was the voice of the school’s games and when he heard of these developments, he took swift action.  He literally walked down the hall to the station manager’s office, knocked on the door, entered the room and said, “I don’t mean to be presumptuous but I can do play-by-play and, well, I’m of the understanding you might need someone to do the games on our station.”

The station manager, in a pinch for somebody to broadcast the games, quickly acceded and the newscaster soon began fulfilling his lifelong passion of doing play-by-play sports. 

If you haven’t gathered by now, the announcer is me, and the lesson is simple.  Even though I had always wanted to be a play-by-play announcer, I’d spent the first five years of my broadcasting life as a newscaster.  Doing news gave me several advantages: experience in the areas of journalism, writing, reporting and being live on the air.  It also allowed me to be in the right place at the right time.  When the opening finally came, I was there ready to claim it.  Suffice it to say, I never went back to news again.

At www.marczumoff.com, we’ll counsel you on all opportunities as part of a comprehensive method of developing your career as a broadcast performer. 

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Re-inventing TV

Recently, an article posted on a Chicago Tribune blog reported that news producers, writers and editors at an NBC-owned TV station in the Windy City had to reapply for new, multi-faceted positions. The article said that staffers at WMAQ-TV were told this because of increasing demands to provide content not just for TV but the Internet, mobile devices and other emerging platforms.

Media are converging quickly. Distribution channels are being developed at a rapid pace.  And with it are the demands for television news and sports people to be multi-dimensional in order to meet these demands.

That goes for broadcast talent as well.  At Comcast Sportsnet, the station that employs me as play-by-play voice of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, I also have to fulfill requirements to provide content for the station’s website, csnphilly.com  http://www.csnphilly.com/pages/main. This includes filing a video report on the team following every game and writing a weekly column on the Sixers called Zoo’s Views. 

Interestingly, I’ve also seen reporters in the field for the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper filing video reports for their website as they experience their own media convergence.

The message for those of you trying to break into the business as broadcast performers is clear, come to the market equipped with a number of tools.  Be ready to write, learning through a combination of course work and experience at a school newspaper or other publication.  Also, be sure you know at least the rudiments of shooting and editing.  Of course, this latter point is true anyway given the fact that at many small market stations, one-man bands in the field are often commonplace.

At www.marczumoff.com, we’ll help you to be prepared for the rapidly changing world of media, how it’s distributed and your role in it.

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Big Fish

It was a Friday night around midnight back in the day, and my best friend was taking my girlfriend out on a date.  I knew this because they’d come to visit me at a major market radio station where I was getting ready to work the overnight shift as a low-level assistant.  Funny thing was, I had already obtained a fulltime job as a radio newscaster at a nearby small market radio station.  But I was also working weekends—in effect, seven days a week.

This was the broadcasting equivalent of functioning as both a big fish in a small pond and as a small fish in a big pond.  In other words, I was working as a performer at a smaller market station while at the very same time, holding down a bottom-rung position at a major market station in the evenings and on weekends.

Because of this, I was unable to go out many weekends, hence my best friend accompanying my girlfriend on a date.  But at the time, I could see the bigger picture.  I had rationalized there eventually would be time to go out with friends.  I was young and this was the time to hustle. 

If you can possibly keep a foot in both a smaller market and larger market outlet at the same time—while getting adequate rest and maintaining your sanity of course—this could have a significant benefit on your career.  It’s simple really—while you’re getting your on-air experience at one place, you’re effectively “in the door” at a larger facility.  So, say after a year or so of being on the air at the smaller market station, you could begin to shuttle samples of your work to the people who matter at the larger station.  That process made so much easier by the fact that you’re in the door already, that you know the important people there and perhaps even more significantly, they know you. 

This is best accomplished by acquiring employment at a small station that’s within a reasonable driving distance of where you live and the larger place where you might work at other times.  If you can do that and put your social life on a temporary hold, it could have greater professional benefits for you in the future. 

At www.marczumoff.com, we’ll help you with becoming a big fish in a small pond and a small fish in a big pond.  

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Obama: anything is possible

Trust me when I tell you, there are plenty of people who never thought they’d see an African American elected president of the United States.  “Not in their lifetime,” they thought. 
 
Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States should serve as inspiration to all of us.  Partisan politics aside, it’s not about policy here.  It’s about a black man being elected to lead the most powerful nation on the globe—and who among us thought that was possible?
 
It’s time for a little idealism, especially since we’re living in a time in which we could use a heavy dose.  And while you’re at it, apply it to your desire to develop a career as a broadcast performer, an industry that, when you’re on the outside looking in, appears as though it’s sealed off by some sort of code. 
 
Before you summon up some of that idealism and optimism, base it on a little reality.  Watch the news or sports coverage in your neck of the woods and ask yourself, “Who are these people?”  Are they ordained somehow?  Are the blessed in some way that I am not?  Are they necessarily better-connected or even more talented? 
 
Remind yourself that those you are watching are regular people just like you.  More times than not, the breaks that they attained were earned; that they achieved what they achieved as much on just plain hard work as they did on talent—and a little idealism. 
 
Idealism helps to fuel dreams.  Dreams help to propel you into achieving a goal.  If you don’t visualize it, chances are you may not make it. 
 
Barack Obama had a dream.  Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.
What’s yours?
 
At www.marczumoff.com, a heavy dose of idealism comes free of charge.  It will help you achieve your dream of breaking into the business as a broadcast performer. 

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Versatility is key

“I want to anchor the news.”
“I’d love to do play-by-play sports.”
“I see myself as the next Oprah”

Goals?  Dreams?  Love ‘em.  Keep ‘em.  We should all have ‘em.  As the television play-by-play voice of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, I’m living my dream and so I consider myself one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth. 

But what about the journey?  How did I get where I am today?  Well, in no particular order, I was in radio as a news anchor and reporter with only limited play-by-play experience.  When I made the jump to television in the early 80’s, I assumed a number of duties that not only included anchoring and reporting but writing, producing, editing and even camera work. 

The ability and the willingness to become a versatile broadcaster was the key for me.  It allowed me an entrée into the business and ensured my viability.  While I never lost sight of my dream to become the voice of a professional sports team, I learned and subsequently embraced other aspects of the business.  Ultimately, it helped me to become a better sports announcer because I’d grown to appreciate other parts of the business.  I grew to respect the roles of others, hopefully making me a better teammate in the broadcast.  In all, it gave me an intrinsic appreciation for what it takes to produce any sort of program for television. 

As it relates to you, well, the dream or vision of playing a particular role as a broadcast performer will ultimately provide the drive you need to break into the business.  But your willingness to do other things will accelerate that career development and enable you to work in the business as you continue to work toward your ultimate goal.  If you’re worried about becoming “pigeon-holed” in a particular role that’s not necessarily your goal, well, that’s something you can deal with when the time comes.  Fact is, it’s much better to be in the broadcasting business—albeit in a particular position you might not ultimately want for the rest of your life—than to be on the outside looking in.  You can always work to eventually “cross over” into a position that, if not exactly what you’re ultimately looking for, could certainly be a lot closer to that ultimate goal.

At www.marczumoff.com, we’ll help you to prepare for the versatility and flexibility that’s necessary to develop and ultimately flourish in your broadcasting career.

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Be Positive

It’s hard to be positive. Negativity can be so much easier. Just look at the odds that many people say you have of breaking into broadcasting! A thousand to one?  A hundred-thousand to one? A million to one?

It’s no wonder the world is full of motivational speakers. Negativity is often so pervasive that people often need help—either overcoming their own poor self-concept, their own doubt or simply, the overwhelming negative attitude pervasive in our own action space in particular and throughout society at large. 

I’m not asking you to ignore the reality of the situation. Breaking into broadcasting is a daunting task. It takes good performance coaching, a solid demo reel and the comprehensive networking skills we help to teach you at www.marczumoff.com. But in order to put your total career development program into effect, you have to have a positive outlook. It’s a must.
 
Negativity will stop you in your tracks. Enlist all the help you can muster.  If you’re not positive about your situation in general, chances are you won’t get anywhere. Negative attitudes and negative energy are a waste and will handcuff you in your efforts to become a broadcast performer.
 
The best way to be positive is to surround yourself with positive people. Football and basketball teams have cheerleaders. Why not you? Pompoms aside, you need the support of people who believe in you and what you want to do for yourself. Parents and other family members, friends, business associates, whoever you choose, make sure you surround yourself with people who are…positive. Those nattering nabobs of negativity, well, you can’t avoid them.  But you can answer them with a positive position on your future that is not only embraced by you, but the majority of the people with which you spend your time.

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Breaking into broadcasting: success in a recession

The job of breaking into broadcasting is tough enough.  Now, you have to do it in the middle of a recession, a time when reduced revenues are forcing stations to cutback.  This not only shrinks the amount of jobs available, but it also swells the unemployment pool at the same time, especially with people who already have experience!

Before you get too bummed out, take heart. The competition was going to be fierce no matter what. So recession or not, you still need to be ready with the tools necessary to give you a leg up on the competition. Here’s a review of some of the mandatory assets you will need to succeed in your quest to break in as a broadcast performer:

1.) Believe in yourself.  This is the first step, the foundation for success.  You have to believe that you can do the job, not only in the face of competition, but also in dealing with being rejected.  And as you probably know, you have to be lucky sometimes even to be rejected because telephone calls and e-mails are often never returned.
2.) Surround yourself with positive people.  This will help you to believe in yourself.  Negativity only leads to doubt and a drain on your energy.  Sports teams have cheerleaders.  Why not you?
3.) Have the right demo DVD.  This includes putting your best stuff first and having it professionally produced. 
4.) Network to the right people.  This includes scheduling informational interviews and constantly following up. 
5.) Remember the three P’s, Passion, Persistence and Patience

All of this won’t do anything for anybody’s 401k, but it will help increase your chances of breaking into the business as a broadcast performer, during or even after the recession.  At www.marczumoff.com, we provide lifetime assistance in all phases of the process that is, breaking into broadcasting. 

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Put your best stuff first

15 to 20 seconds. 

Sometimes, that’s all the time it took Paul Gluck to make a decision on someone’s career.  Gluck, currently an associate professor at Temple University’s School of Communications and Theater, was at one time a major market news director.  And he says when he had an opening and was judging demo reels that were sent his way, often times he would decide whether or not a person was worthy of being on the air at this station…

…in 15 to 20 seconds…

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking before one of Gluck’s classes at Temple.  When the subject of what to put on a demo DVD came up, the former producer, writer, executive producer, executive editor and V.P../ station manager spoke from years of experience, not to mention hundreds of hours of looking at demo after demo after demo.

This 15 to 20 second example is meant as a simple reminder for all of you who are feverishly editing demo reels and wondering what exactly to put on them.  While chances are a news or sports director will look at a bit more than the first 15 to 20 seconds, the principle is still the same: be sure to put your best stuff first.

Often, I recommend putting a montage of stand-ups at the top of your reel to give some quick depth and breadth to your work.  Ironically, Gluck told his class that when he was a news director, he had preferred at times to see a full report at the top of a reel. 

This is not meant to confuse you, only to enlighten you to the importance of putting your absolute best material first on a demo reel.  And that includes leaving out  any bad edits, video hits, graphic mistakes or other imperfections that might be present in some of your material.  While any or all of these errors might not be your fault, the fact that you are including them as examples of your work is your fault.  In other words, it might show a news or sports director that your judgment is clouded—that you’d be willing while working in his or her shop to allow these mistakes to hit air—and that’s simply not good. 

So no matter what it is, make sure you hit them with your best shot.  Whether it’s a montage, a full report or something else you’ve done, make it your best work.  Indeed for some, 15 to 20 seconds might be all the time you have. 

At www.marczumoff.com, we’ll help you produce and edit fresh material for a demo reel to be sure you’re putting your best stuff, first. 

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Double-check everything

So here I am in Charlotte, broadcasting the 76ers-Bobcats game, and in my preparation for the telecast I run across the name of DJ Augustin. I find out the rookie from the University of Texas is playing pretty well, that he’s a pure point who can score and I assume he pronounced his name AUG-US-TIN.

Not smart. 

Here I am, in broadcasting for 32 years and I’m making assumptions. It’s the very thing I preach against–to never assume. And what do I do?  I get lazy.  I ended up pronouncing his name AUG-US-TIN.

Into the fourth quarter we go and after a basket by Augustin, I hear the PA announcer in the background yell, “DEE…JAY….AUG-US-TEEN. AUG-US-TEEN, I thought to myself, and the entire telecast I’d been saying AUG-US-TIN. Frankly, I had no one to be upset with but myself. 

OK, I’m human.  We all make mistakes. But mistakes like that are preventable with a little bit of work beforehand. What I should have done (and honestly, what I need to do more of) is to make certain accuracy checks like that are routine, even if the answers are what I expect them to be (i.e. how else do you pronounce Smith or Young?)

This lesson about double-checking, and accuracy in general, can be taken to cover areas like your own career development. For example, when writing a letter to a potential employer or informational interviewer, you need to be certain you have all of his or her information correct. That includes spelling, proper titles, address, etc.  And when you get on the telephone with or meet this person, you need to know how to correctly pronounce his or her name…beforehand.

Needless to say, as my example so poignantly shows, accuracy is of the utmost importance once you get into the business. News and sports anchors and reporters need to know their facts and pronunciations are correct.  It’s not only critical in terms of accurate reporting, but continued inaccuracies or mispronunciations can call into question your credibility. 

So remember the carpenter’s credo, measure twice, cut once. An ounce of prevention will help preserve a pound of accuracy. And again…the players name is D.J. AUG-US-TEEN.

Even though I made this mistake, at www.marczumoff.com, we teach aspiring broadcasters how to prevent them. Visit us, opt-in for our newsletter and tips on how to develop your career as a broadcast performer. 

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