BABE #54: BRITTANY MIGNANELLI,
Associate Field Producer @ The Dr. Oz Show
I'm not sure what I'm a bigger fan of: Brittany's incredibly witty personality, her passion and drive when it comes to her career and goals, or her love of food. My best friend Molly (Molla) knew what she was doing when she connected us, and now all I want to do is be IRL best friends with Brittany, but long distance will have to do for now. What I'm trying to say is that I have a major crush on her, and I'm almost positive that you will too. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, girl. Your hustle is inspiring and you're a freaking Babe.
Babe you admire and why?
Samantha Bee. I always enjoyed her segments on The Daily Show, but this past year she has ignited a fire in me (and I’m sure within thousands of other women) with her late night show, Full Frontal. She’s been hitting harder than many other late night shows on the subjects that matter most and isn’t afraid to “go there.” On top of that – being the only female in late night is so bad ass. She has such an important voice at the moment.
How do you spend your free time?
I try to experience everything that living in NYC has to offer – whether it be a restaurant I haven’t tried or a museum exhibition that looks cool. I put a high value on time spent with friends, so I’m usually doing something with them on the weekends. I love love love live music, so concerts are a big part of my life, too. There’s this thing I go to a lot in NYC called Sofar Sounds (which you should 1000% check out - it exists in almost every major city in the U.S. and internationally). They put on nightly/weekly, intimate concerts held in secret locations – revealed to you along with the artists on the day of. Aside from that, in the Winter, you might find me snowboarding… or hibernating like a bear, if bears were into binge-watching Netflix and ordering seamless.
Dream coffee date?
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I would have them sit across from me while I held their hands and stared at them for a full 15 minutes before I collected my thoughts. Then I would tell them what an impact they’ve both had on my life and my career and also ask them if I could live at their houses one night per week. Then we would probably become best friends and start going on group vacations? Start a book club? Adopt a river otter together? I’m just surmising.
Must-have item in your purse?
Oh god, this is like asking Mary Poppins what she needs most in her bag. I think at some point in my childhood I became convinced that I would be involved in one of those “stranded on a desert island” situations and now I carry everything from lipstick to granola bars to a full first aid kit in my purse. Let’s go with the granola bars – since nobody likes me when I’m hangry.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Firstly, I’d just like to say that I have thought about this question deeply and I usually ask it on first dates. I would have a double double from In-N-Out, animal style, but with McDonald’s fries on the side, a slice of Artichoke pizza, Thanksgiving stuffing, and a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert.
What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
I’ve always wanted to be able to write code. There’s a lack of female coders in the world and I would love to be one of them/think it’s an extremely valuable skill to have.
I recently got sucked into watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. For years I’ve prided myself on watching zero reality television so this is a hard one to admit. *stares wistfully off into the distance like Ben last season, contemplating my life choices.*
Tell us about your hustle:
I am an associate field producer for The Dr. Oz Show, where I'm responsible for producing anywhere from 5-10 field packages per week, depending on what's on the show at the moment. I get assignments from supervising and segment producers, telling me what they'd like covered and what kind of package they're looking for. From there, I write a script, and depending on the nature of the piece, I'll need to shoot content for it - like an interview or b-roll. When I go out in the field, I'm responsible for creating a desired shot list and directing the shoot. Normally, I'll string out my pieces and create a preliminary edit before passing it off to a staff editor. Other smaller responsibilities include acquiring third party media, gathering releases from field guests, booking field locations and just generally facilitating communication between supervising, segment, and field producers for production. That's my day job. I am also the co-creator of Petal Stone Comedy, a sketch comedy group. For that, I write, produce, and direct sketches to be posted on our YouTube page.
When/how did you get into TV Production? What has that journey been like for you so far?
I’ve wanted to be in TV since I was performing hour-long programs for my parents (complete with commercial breaks that I also made up) in our living room as a kid. When it came time for me to go to college, I wanted a university that had a strong television program but would also give me the full college experience - enter UCF. From there, I made sure I had a relative internship every summer with real-world experience in the field. After graduation, I applied my butt off to every show/studio/network I could, and the rest is history. It’s been a wild ride but I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
What was the application and interview process like for your current role?
In May of 2013, after applying for an open production assistant spot, I was brought in for an interview with the supervising producer of the field department at that time. A few weeks later, I was informed that I got the job and I would be starting after the show’s summer hiatus in July. From there, I learned the ropes and worked my hardest in an effort to get promoted to associate producer (my current position).
What is your work environment/office culture like?
Anyone in TV will tell you that it’s crazy – but a good kind of crazy. It’s hectic and stressful but you’re always surrounded by creative people who clearly enjoy the high of chaos just as much as you do. It can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Beyond that, we’re a really fun bunch. We may not have ping pong tables in the office or have the laid-back culture that you see in the tech world but we always find time to enjoy ourselves at some point during the day. Some of my closest friends now are people I’ve met at Oz – so it can be a really tight-knit community. Also – the dress code that leans more towards the ‘casual’ end of the spectrum is awesome on a day that I feel like wearing a flannel and Vans.
How do you manage to stay on top of deadlines and handle delegating tasks, etc?
By keeping a to-do list. If someone managed to get ahold of my notebook they would be like, “oh this belongs to a serial killer.” I write down every single task I need to do, no matter how small. It allows me to review all of my work for the day visually and choose which item is the most time sensitive. I also swear by my Google calendar – those alerts are clutch.
How would you say being a woman has affected your professional experience?
I think I speak for women in all industries – not just TV – in saying that we still have trouble being taken seriously. With blonde hair and a bubbly personality, I can often be mistaken as an air-head or someone who isn’t particularly driven. I consider myself an intelligent and extremely motivated individual on a relentless path towards my goals – so I demand to be taken seriously, and implore other women to do the same. In regards to comedy, I’ve run into several instances in which I experienced the “but women aren’t as funny as men” shtick. It’s old, it’s dumb and it’s a load of crap. I remember a guy I was dating who, upon telling him I was planning on enrolling in comedy classes, patted my head patronizingly and saying, “Aw, that’s cute. But, like, are you THAT funny?” Ugh.
What are some common misconceptions about your job(s)?
Often when I say that I work in TV, people will say something to the effect of, “Oh FUN! I wish I could trade with you, I do ____ and it’s so hard!” I usually follow this with a Liz Lemon-esque eye roll. TV is not "easy" by any means. The people I work with are some of the hardest workers I know. We’re no strangers to late nights at the office, and please don’t even look at me after a 12-hour shoot day. There are so many steps and so many people that serve as moving parts to making this machine go. The content we’re making may be entertaining, and yes, we can have some fun on the job, but an immense amount of hard work goes into each final product.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
Proving myself to others and superiors. It can be hard to trust the fresh-faced college graduate who wants to produce their own content in their first season on the job – I totally get that. When I started, I was young and hungry and all I wanted to do was to prove that I could be sent out on my own shoots or write a script. Was I nervous? Of course. Did I still want more than anything to put my name on something? You betcha. So I started small – making suggestions, pitching ideas, asking for little opportunities – and with persistence, I got them.
Do you ever struggle to come up with new ideas? How do you combat creative blocks?
Definitely. It’s really difficult and frustrating when I haven’t put out a sketch in a while and the creativity, is, well, nonexistent. One of my sketch teachers taught us to pick up a newspaper when we have a mental block, as a unique headline or even an advertisement can spark a sketch idea. I try to do that – or go for a run. Some of my best ideas have come to me randomly when I'm running, and I’ll have to stop to jot them in my Notes app.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Getting to watch my finished pieces is particularly awesome. To see the entire process from concept to script to shoot to edit – and then to see the final product on TV - is a really unique and rewarding experience. Also – totally random and not as important, but I love choosing stock photos/footage. I always manage to find some really weird and hilarious content during my searches.
I think any creative person would say deadlines. Sometimes, I feel like I could’ve made a piece just 10% better if I had an extra day or two to plan or shoot or edit. But – that’s the nature of our industry.
What would you say is your biggest strength in your current role?
I think my writing is my strong point. I feel like I can bang out a good script in a short amount of time.
What would you say is the skill you most need to improve?
I’m gonna do the thing where my strength is also my weakness, guys! Most writers would agree – there is always room for improvement. My scripts can always use tweaks from colleagues and higher ups and I welcome constructive criticism with open arms. I don’t think I’ll ever feel totally, 100% satisfied with my writing.
What draws you to show business?
The excitement. Even if you’re working on a piece about the rate at which grass grows – TV has a way to make everything exciting. Whether it’s the fast pace of the work or the creativity that goes into everything, it can all be very dazzling. I’ve also always had this inherent desire to entertain. I’ve been told I was a bit of a ham as a kid and I love storytelling. If I can make someone laugh or captivate them in some way, I’m satisfied. Working in show business allows me to do that but on a really large scale.
What’s your ultimate dream job?
Major pipe dream but… I would love to work for SNL. Cast member, writer, dressing room organizer, prop food taste tester, exotic pet handler, I don’t care – I just wanna be in studio 8H.
Are you involved with any other community organizations or side projects?
My side-hustle, as we’ll call it – Petal Stone Comedy. I want to work on doing more with the channel in 2017 and will hopefully bust out some more sketches over the summer during my show’s hiatus. I also work on a late night show on the subway. Yes, on the subway. Derailed with Dean Dimitruk is the brain-child of two friends of mine. It’s crazy fun to be a part of and I see big things for it in the future.
What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into your industry?
Connect. With. Everyone. “It’s all about who you know” is sometimes frustratingly but ridiculously true. Anyone who says otherwise is a very good liar who also got their job from their mom’s friend Barbara’s veterinarian’s son. Keep in touch with your fellow interns – they will end up at shows and companies that you may want to work at. Keep in touch with your intern coordinators or bosses. Keep in touch with that one weird person at the office who always told stories about their family’s potato farm. Remember the Latin name for their favorite potato. Okay I’m being extreme but you get the point. Sometimes the difference between your application and the person’s next to you is as simple as a 3rd party connection.
What motivates and inspires you?
Seeing other people, in any line of work, doing something that they’re passionate about truly inspires me. If I met a meteorologist who was super jacked up about the weather and just could not wait to tell me about his/her top 3 favorite cloud formations – guess what? I’m gonna get jacked up too. I love talking and connecting with anyone who loves what they do. It inspires and motivates me to keep chugging along until I make my own dreams a reality. For anyone who may be stuck in a rut – the other thing that I find particularly motivating is reviewing my own progress. Sometimes you just have to stop for a second, breathe and look at how far you’ve come. Without a doubt you will find something that makes you feel like your journey is worthwhile to continue.
What does success look like to you?
Success – that elusive, seductive she-beast. In spite of the insanely big dreams I laid out earlier – I think at my core I really just want to be happy. Success means:
- Getting to work in an industry that I love
- Working at a job that I enjoy
- Being able to put a roof over my head and Poptarts in my belly.
How do you find a work-life balance?
In TV it can be really hard to strike that balance but after almost 4 years I’ve gotten a better handle on it. Make plans with friends, family and significant others, but also make them realistic. I don’t think anyone in television gets out before 6pm, so don’t make dinner for 5:30 and then be shocked when you can’t make it because you’re stuck in an edit bay. Have a strong work ethic, but make sure that coworkers/superiors know what events are important to you that you refuse to miss – like a wedding or a first date or poker night with your grandma. You need to be able to get up and walk away from the work that can certainly wait until tomorrow.
What helps you wind down / how do you manage stress?
I like to step away from working in TV by burning my retinas out and watching more TV. Seriously, though, TV is my release. I just like to zone out to an episode of Arrested Development that I’ve seen 20-some-odd times already, laugh at the same old jokes and forget about everything.
What are some notable (funny, embarrassing, intense) experiences you’ve had on the job?
When I was interning in the summer of 2012, I watched Aubrey Plaza drop and shatter her iPhone at a press junket. I picked it up for her and ended up being her assigned intern for the rest of the day. Paralyzed by my overwhelming fandom and nervousness, I was barely able to mutter more than 5 words to her. Not sure if this next one is considered ‘on the job,’ but it happened as I was walking around Rockefeller Plaza one day with a coworker grabbing lunch. We’re no strangers to celebrity sightings but for some reason, upon seeing Hoda Kotb across the street I exclaimed, “that’s f**kin’ Hoda!” louder than I would have liked to. Her weird facial reaction was totally warranted. Once, I was interviewing a guest who for some reason could not pronounce the word “lymph node” and kept saying “limp norb.” It was hard to keep a straight face and it took about 15 takes to get the line right.
What are your goals for the future?
My new goal is trying set more realistic goals for myself. Being ambitious is awesome but it’s a double-edged sword because you can constantly feel like you’re not doing enough or you’re not at the level you want to be at yet. Realistic goals: I’d love to break into late night, I’d love for my sketches to reach a wider audience, I want my writing to continue to improve and I want to continue to be happy. If I had to break it down even further, goal #1: make people laugh.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
When things are hard and I feel like I’m not at the right place at the right time, sometimes I’ll joke about my career saying, “I wish I didn’t have a dream. Having a dream sucks. Life would be so much easier if I didn’t really care what I did and just wanted to make money.” Halfway through saying it, I remember that it’s a dumb thing to say. So, here is the opposite of that sentiment in a letter to my fellow ladies:
If you’re lucky enough to have a dream in your head, go after it with every ounce of your being. Make your dream a priority. Water your dream every night like it’s a little baby plant and don’t let it shrivel up and die. If you can’t put total focus on your dream at the moment, take small steps each day that are at least related to your dream, like your dream’s 2nd cousin. When you start to feel discouraged, remind yourself of the moment or collection of moments that made you realize you even had a dream in the first place.
TL;DR – don’t give up on your dreams, damnit.
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