Chicago/Midwest Chapter of NATAS host TV Academy Career Day
"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit," said American President Harry Truman.
If the motivation is not the desire to receive acknowledgment or praise, what else can possibly drive a person to work hard and achieve a result? The answer is simple -- it is passion. Outstanding Chicago television professionals, who took part in the TV Academy Career Day on April 1 at Columbia College, completely relate to this statement.
Their paths to success are different, yet one deep and barely controllable emotion unites all of them -- their passion to one of the greatest industries in the world -- the television industry.
Organized by Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, this TV Academy Career Day is popular among students from broadcasting colleges, TV Academy members and other interested professionals. This event gives them a great opportunity to talk with the leaders in the television field about job availability, job qualifications, internships, educational requirements, and the background needed for a television job in Chicago.
The panel members carried themselves in a very engaging and personable manner and immediately created a friendly, informal, yet professional atmosphere. The panelists didn't just discuss their jobs and the requirements for those jobs. These highly skilled television gurus told their audience about their first steps in the industry and about the difficulties they had to face to get noticed and recognized. This message was delivered not to scare the potential television professionals but to prepare them for unavoidable difficulties and obstacles that each of them will have to face.
TV Academy Career Day brought together representatives of most television disciplines on air as well as behind the camera. John Owens, moderator of the event, introduced the panelists and made sure that the event went smoothly. An award-winning multimedia journalist and producer at Decades TV (Weigel Broadcasting), Owens set up the right atmosphere by telling his own story of success. His extensive background includes more than 17 years working as a producer at Chicago Tribune where he led many of the video integration efforts, an exciting role of an assignment editor at WFLD-TV, and a very busy reporter job at the City News Bureau. Owens is also popular for his documentaries and multimedia work that have won numerous regional and national awards.
Bradley Piper, a producer and photojournalist from WGN-TV, whose job is to shoot and to edit for newscasts and to manage daily video feeds and "microwave" shots in the news center, told his unique success story and gave some tips to the future television stars. "Have a good understanding of who you are," he said. Bradley Piper is a highly skilled professional who knows how to work both with a crew and in the field and can adapt to any possible situation. He also recommended not being afraid to change your goals.
Mark Schimmel, who for the past 18 years has been directing award winning commercials, television, and short and feature films, impressed the audience with his great people skills and enthusiasm. His story of success started with his love to drawing. He studied drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago and photography at Columbia College. His path to success includes taking an assignment only with the promise of a job at Disney World, extensively studying advertising, and doing his own little commercials. Once, he had to wait for four and a half hours to show his work, and his patience led him to get noticed and receive his first big project. Being a graduate from New York City's PRATT Institute and a great storyteller, Schimmel is known for directing the Wrangler Blue Jeans, True Value, and Wii Fit Plus commercials.
Evelyn Holmes, a general assignment reporter for ABC 7 News, inspired the audience with her charisma and great sense of humor. She started at CLTV as a traffic reporter in 1996. A multi-tasking, passionate and hardworking person with a "can do" attitude, Evelyn Holmes also performed the duties of a weathercaster, a general assignment reporter, a fill-in news anchor and a weekend news anchor. This talented and dedicated television professional joined ABC 7 in 2003. Talking about working in the television industry, Holmes noted: "It is never a straight path. It is an evolution. You got to know who you are … Each of you has a gift, a talent, but it doesn't belong to you. Use it properly. Love the craft."
RoseMary Prodonovich, production coordinator for numerous television shows produced by ABC ("Betrayal"), NBC ("Love is a Four Letter Word"), Fox ("Empire," "Mind Games"), and Amazon Prime ("Patriot"), told about her very valuable role on television. Every company needs someone who has great organizational skills, and here RoseMary's talent comes to play. The production coordinator is responsible for studios, crew, cast, management, agents, vendors, people in the field -- you name it. RoseMary Prodonovich handles these responsibilities just as a juggler. Being a performer and a stage manager in the past, she had to sleep on an air mattress for six weeks when she moved to Chicago from California to pursue her dream. She remembered being an intern and working 17 hours a day for free, producing her own stories and being absolutely happy with her life. Why? Because she followed her passion, and fate paid her back -- now she is a reputable television professional.
Nicolas DeGrazia, the co-founder and creative director of Bitter Jester Studios, which is an eight-time Emmy-winning production company, told about his experience in the television industry. Today, his client list includes Nike, United Airlines, the American Medical Association, U.S. Postal Service, and Ravinia, but the path to this success was rough, yet exciting. DeGrazia went through his share of difficulties when he had to study extensively, taught himself to make and edit videos, delivered newspapers at nights, slept only four hours a night, and still enthusiastically followed his dream. Today, this independent television professional has six Emmy Awards for writing, producing, directing, and editing and spends his days working with clients, producing web and TV content, directing actors and interviewing. He recommended internships as it's a great way to get hands-on experience.
Steve Novak, a WGN-TV producer and director, a newscast and sports director (Blackhawks, Bulls), and a producer/director of the Chicago Auto Show, medical specials, and Fourth of July celebration for WGN/CLTV, presented his view on the television industry. He said that he has been in the television industry for over thirty years and has seen a lot of changes take place.
"Technology changed, but your knowledge always stays with you," Novak said. He stressed that working in broadcast television means working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year and it is very important to be prepared for it. Being an accomplished television professional and guru with extensive experience in the industry, today Novak serves as the president of the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of NATAS.
After their initial presentations, the panelists were happy to answer questions as their opinions often matched and complemented each other. "You have to have a passion and to work hard. Believe in yourself; if you face a problem, remember -- it's not a problem, it's an opportunity. This work can take you wherever you want to go. Make a good impression. Find your niche. It's not a ladder, it's a set of opportunities," this is just some of the advice that they gave that day. Inspired audience members couldn't resist talking with these experienced television gurus even after the event and formed long lines. They stayed and kept asking questions with that special light in their eyes, which meant only one thing. All of them shared the same feature that will eventually lead them to success. It's called passion.