Peter Lanier ’05 likes a good story. From politics, national security and international affairs, to sharks, loud cars and people living in the Alaskan wilderness: you name it – he’s produced media about it.
His work is so ubiquitous you’ve probably seen it. Ever watched a promo for one of Discovery Channel’s shows during Shark Week? He probably had a hand in it. How about a commercial for an upcoming episode of Deadliest Catch, Gold Rush, Fast N’ Loud, Street Outlaws or Alaskan Bush People? He helps create those. This week you’ll be able to see Lanier’s handiwork during a promo for next summer’s 30th anniversary of Shark Week, as well as promos for shows like Shark Vortex, African Shark Safari and Lost Cage. Seen any spots promoting Discovery’s new show Darkness? Yep, Lanier produced those, too.
Currently a senior writer/producer for the Discovery Channel marketing department, Lanier’s career in television began in late 2005 as a temp for CNN, where he worked in the cable news giant’s administrative department handling billing and invoices. Intrigued by TV news, Lanier started coming in on his own time to watch the production of the Sunday talk shows. And that opened the door to his career.
“A lot of people think there’s some all-powerful, higher-up person making every decision about what goes on-air, but really it’s the show producers who decide what stories to cover and what to put on TV,” he says. “And I thought that was really cool.”
His persistent presence behind the scenes landed him a job in 2007 working as a production assistant on Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. He went on to work as a production assistant for State of the Union with John King and later as an associate producer and producer for The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.
“The Situation Room is a two-hour, live daily show,” says Lanier. “A lot of news breaks during the show and you have to be quick to turn that news into compelling television.”
But the Spanish major and linguistics minor didn’t start his college career with an eye toward communication or marketing. He was planning on a career in the Foreign Service. As is often the case, however, minds change during the transition to adulthood, and by the time he graduated, Lanier was looking for a different career path to follow.
“I always enjoyed projects that allowed me to do something creative,” says Lanier of his time at the College. So, when he landed that temp role at CNN, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the world of producing spoke to him. “And I always really liked television and media. After seeing it up close, I really wanted to work in it.”
His career in journalism was capped by a 2012 Emmy Award for Outstanding Live Coverage of a Current News Story – Long Form for CNN’s election night coverage, Election in America, which covered then President Barack Obama’s bid for his second term against Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Then in 2014, Lanier decided he wanted a change.
“I really enjoyed working in news, but I felt ready to try something different,” he says, adding that over time he found that he liked producing the visual and technical elements of the news more than the news itself. “I became much more interested in the television side of the job than the news side.”
When he spotted an opening for a producer at Discovery, Lanier dove in.
“I love it,” he says of his work creating commercials for Discovery’s line-up of shows. “It’s a great feeling to work hard on a campaign, watch your work air on national television, then see the show get good ratings. It’s really gratifying.”
His tip for fellow Cougars about to embark on life post-college is to remain flexible and keep at it.
“Just getting that initial job, you should consider that a big win,” Lanier says. “I started as a temp and worked my way to production assistant after a year and a half, and from there I started over at the bottom of the producer career track. I wasn’t a full-fledged producer until I was 29 years old.”
He adds, “It takes years to build up a skill-set and resume that will put you in a position for working on high-profile work. Be patient.”
The key to having a successful career is focus and determination. Lanier is proof of that.