Ryan Sedmak ’13 flew from New York to Charleston with the cast and crew of NBC’s The Today Show just before his May graduation. He was the only Today Show intern selected to help produce a segment that took place in the Holy City.
Two weeks later Sedmak was back in Charleston, walking across the Cistern with his graduating class before wrapping up his semester-long internship with The Today Show and moving on to NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams. Now, a year after he left the College of Charleston, Sedmak has worked as an editorial assistant for an AOL daily online news series and currently works as the Associate Producer for a company called Fieldhouse Productions.
If you haven’t heard of them it’s because they fly under the radar, producing everything from feature film spots to TV series pilots to music videos for companies like MTV, VH1, National Geographic and HGTV. In his spare time, Sedmak moonlights as a contributing writer for the Huffington Post.
Q: What do you do as an Associate Producer?
A: I am responsible for making sure all the details are tied together. In other words, I coordinate with talent – actors, models, etc. – on shoots and interviews, I back up all of our materials so we have copies, and I communicate directly with the networks we are working with. There are a million little things that go into my job, but the big picture is that I make sure everything runs smoothly and that at the end of the day we have a quality product for our client. It’s always exciting but not as glamorous as people might think.
Q: How did you get started in the entertainment industry?
A: The answer to that starts earlier than you’d think. As a freshman at the College I knew I wanted to intern with The Today Show. Since their summer internship was ridiculously competitive, my advisor and I arranged my remaining class schedules around completing my class requirements a semester early so I could intern there my final semester.
That internship set the ball rolling in terms of my interests, experience and contacts. I stayed at NBC for a total of seven months before AOL’s human resources team recruited me. From there I was recruited by Fieldhouse, and I see myself staying and learning from this position for a while. Bringing order to the chaos of this industry – when I can – is extremely rewarding.
Q: What do you think made you stand out as you interviewed for each position?
A: I think the technical skills I learned from my internships and practiced in my spare time helped – namely proficiency in film editing software. It surprised me, but I actually think fluency in Spanish helped me in the interview process for my current position – one of my supervisors is from South America. Beyond that, my abilities were probably similar to other candidates in that I’m organized, ambitious, and I have a solid handle on communication principles. Those specific qualities and skills that set you apart from others will make all the difference.
Q: What is your favorite thing about your job?
A: I love working with creative people. They are the most successful in this industry, so I’m fortunate to be able to work with so many creative types. I appreciate being granted my own creative freedom – my supervisors trust me to structure projects I’m working on in ways that I think flow the best. I think that kind of trust so early in my career is rare. Mostly I love being able to tell stories through my work.
Q: How did you start writing for the Huffington Post?
A: Since AOL owns the Huffington Post, when I worked at AOL I shared office space with their writers and editors. I understood that they were eager for more content, and I was interested in writing for them. I actually don’t get paid for my work there, I do it because it’s a great way to get my work out there, to sharpen my storytelling skills and to round-out my experience. You always have to think not only about your job but also your career.
Q: What advice would you give to current students interested in working in production?
A: I recommend getting concrete experience through internships and speaking with as many people in the industry as possible – I am a huge fan of informational interviews because they take the pressure off. Also, lots of people say they want to go into production, but I suggest zeroing in on what you might want to do in production. Do you want to do news? Feature films? Talk shows? Documentaries?
What I’ve found is that you can’t necessarily depend on your resume to make you stand out, even if you do possess those technical skills that others might not. If all you do when you want a position is send in your resume and wait, there’s a good chance your application will fall by the wayside. If you really want it, do everything you can to get it – find employee names and cold-call the company, message people on LinkedIn, track down email addresses and send emails – everything.
Finally, Anderson Cooper told me this: Be willing to work harder than anyone else and learn how to write.