Have you ever seen the credits roll by at the end of your favorite show on [V] or MTV and wondered what it’d be like to work there? Well, first of all, tell me, do you think Music Television is all about:
* Fast money
* Faster chicks/guys?
* Loads of partying?
* Sex, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll?
Well, if you believe that’s all to it, then you also believe The Bible contains a hidden code, all serial killers are men and licking certain toads will get you high. So now that we’ve got things in perspective, time to talk shop. There are 2 types of producers who make up a music television channel…
1. Guys who make Shows (a sense of script/ narrative and the ability to tell a story in 24 or 48 minutes)
2. Guys who make Promos (a promotional video requires a sense of design and typography, and the ability to get a message across in 30 seconds; it’s like making a TV ad.)
Most people think that in order to be a Music TV producer, they need to know music or production. While you do need a basic sense of music and visuals, you also need an ‘attitude’ and the perseverance to understand how an idea in your head can get translated to a television show with 3 commercial breaks.
There is the hard way and there is the HARD way
The Career path
1 Production Assistant
2 Assistant Producer
3 Associate Producer
You start life as a Production Asst. (aka “you are a slave”). This is an entry-level position. You must spend 2 years learning the ropes, during which you have no rights, no family, no personal life, no personality, and no time to scratch your ass. Life as a PA is like boot camp in the army. You have a drill sergeant( usually your boss who’s already a producer) who’ll make you carry his/her toilet, baby-sit kids, get him/her a beer, spit shine his/her shoes. And all this on your first day. It goes downhill after that. But seriously, your job is to assist and that’s all you will do. Even if you think you know it all and imagine you can do better than a person who’s been there for donkey’s years and makes 10 times the money you do-tough!!! If you’re lucky, you’ll have a boss who knows nothing and then you’ll know that in the long run what NOT to do. Keep your eyes and ears open. Absorb everything, don’t disregard anything and ummm.. don’t swallow. Life starts at 6000-8000 bucks and if you have good people skills, bully for you.
Assistant/ Associate Producer
These are fancy sounding titles, but you’ve just been upgraded from ‘scum’ to ‘scum with more money and responsibility’… and you’ve also learnt the lingo (how to dress cooler, smoke ten packs a day, drink 2 liquor bottles a night). Once you’re an AP, you are not only upgraded financially (15-20K) but also get your keester kicked less often, people will talk to you and your opinion on things will be required once a year (during your appraisal) and immediately disregarded. then you’ll be asked to go back to your edit coz the producer was just seen with a machete looking for you.
Here you are, the big kahuna. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. You are paid a shit load of money (anywhere between 25 to 80 grand a month!!),you get to call your VJs names (and other vernacular things) and your VJs will abuse you right back. Your work includes calling ACTION and CUT (i.e. in this kind of TV, you are also the director). You get to supervise your own scripts and maybe write them at times. The buck stops with you as far as your shows/promos is concerned. Unfortunately, you still cannot go home everyday, you definitely cannot sleep more than twice a week, and if your stuff sucks, not only will you be laughed at by other people, but your ass will be totally grass. What fun!! This is how one would go about in the natural scheme of things, assuming you don’t have a film school on your CV. If you’ve got the basic degree/ diploma from a film school, and you have seen movies, can quote Truffaut and appreciate Film Noir… you’ll still start as a slave. Except that you’ll graduate to the next step in a year.
Alternatives There is another part of Music TV which is as gratifying as a producer’s and that is being a writer. Writing for TV is not like writing for JAM; in TV you already have visuals supporting your script, so everything does not have to be said. You have to be more subtle and concise. If this basic difference can be figured out, then you are on your way to becoming a kickass writer. If a writer is so inclined, he/she can eventually become a producer (via the Associate Producer route) and then the gratification of executing your own ideas is something else!
Training: There is no substitute for working in the business to learn it. But some kind of training always helps.
PR (former producer at [V])
“A background in art or mass communication is definitely a value add. Tho we have had our share of maverick creatives from diverse backgrounds – MBAs to physics professors, this is rarer today than it was say 5 years ago. Individuals who are interested in the profession are doing courses to prepare them with the basic skills before applying to organizations.”
MTV India’s Natasha Malhotra,
(Vice President Production, Programming and TAR) has this advice for anyone hoping to work at the channel.
We look for people who have a passion for music, a creative aptitude and a understanding of the MTV brand and its values. Often we have specific programming needs – it could be fashion, humor, cricket or Bollywood and then we look for individuals who have that aptitude and can bring their own unique style, wacky sense of humor and perspective to the shows.
Don’t be afraid to take risks, jump dangerously, soar and sometimes crash. and when in doubt KISS: keep it simple stupid!