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Q&A; with Brian Hegner, ESPN Director II

An Inside Look at Being a Sports TV Director

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A career path is not always a straight line, even if your desire is to work in sports TV your first industry opportunity could come from someplace else.

"I started out after college shooting video for law firms and now I’m directing 40 camera live broadcasts at the Belmont" recalls Brian Hegner, Sports TV Director II at ESPN "In many ways working in Sports TV has exceeded what I ever expected, but I find the longer I am in the industry my personal achievements can’t keep up with what I want to do."

When did you decide to pursue a career in Sports TV?

I originally thought I would go into radio, but all the toys and different aspects of television drew me in that direction. I changed my major from Marine Biology to Broadcasting in my freshman year and off I started.

What was it about a career in Sports TV that originally lured you?

I have a family history of theater and was involved in stage work, both on stage and technical. Television production has a lot of the same aspects as stage, but with more moving parts. I caught on to lighting and presentation pretty fast and that helped spur me forward.

Brian Hegner’s Sports TV “Stats”

brian hegner sports tv directorEducation: University of Miami

Production Jobs held: Video Editor, Cameraman, Technical Director, Freelance Director, Director I, Director II

Stations: CNN, CNN/Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports Net South, ESPN

Years in Sports TV: 18 years industry experience

Best piece of advice: Get a thick skin – there is so much stress involved with putting a production together that tempers flare often, as a newbie everything will get directed at you.

Did you initially have fears that it would be hard to get your first television production job?

I did have fears as my many resumes went into the abyss, but I literally took the first job I was offered and then worked towards getting the job I wanted. I was lucky to find something the day I graduated.

You went to the University of Miami, how much did it help you in your Sports TV career?

It was by far the most important part of the television growth. Being able to touch equipment, develop stories, produce shows, direct, run camera and anything else I had an interest in doing gave me confidence applying for production jobs. We had a good program with lots of opportunity, for that I’m lucky, but it took me taking an interest that gave me a lot of the chances I got in school.

Was your education technical, theory and writing or a balance of both?

At Miami you could go for a degree in Broadcasting (more technical) or Broadcast Journalism (more writing), but you took the same classes throughout, with only a few differences. So even though I took a technical route I learned ethics, theory and writing. It helped that I doubled in English as well, but both types of students were in every class – we all weren’t talented at both things, but at least we were educated in them.

Where did you land your first job in Television?

My first production job was at a consumer level production house called Broadcast Quality Video in Miami. I heard there was a production job open and I applied the day I graduated and got the job the next day. What I would call my first real production job would be at CNN, which I started in October of 1993 as a VJ.

After your first few months did you feel confident in your career choice, or were there concerns?

Within the first few months I had learned two new editing systems and was shooting items for law firms and corporate customers. When I started working in production at CNN it became an infinite list of attainable goals, since it was so large. It was scary at first, but once I got my feet underneath me, it became fun and you really felt that you were doing work that people were watching.

What’s the hardest thing about working in Sports TV?cnn sports illustrated control room

Getting yelled at is never fun and not something you expect at work. Unfortunately, there is so much stress involved with putting a production together that tempers flare and as a newbie everything gets directed to you. Once I got used to that part I only had to learn to work at all hours in the day, to which I am still getting accustomed.

What would you do differently if you could return to the early stages of your Sports TV career?

I would have done some work with film as well. There is so much TV that is shot like film, it would be nice to have that background.

How has your career in Television Production developed in titles, responsibilities and locations?

At one time or another I’ve held just about every production job there is. I started as a Video Editor at Broadcast Quality in Miami, then a Video Journalist, Master Control, Cameraman, Technical Director then Director at CNN and CNN/Sports Illustrated in Atlanta.

I was then a freelance Technical Director for many companies which led to becoming a Senior Director at Fox Sports Net South, still in Atlanta.

After Fox, I became a freelancer again as a Director which led to a full time position with ESPN in New York as the Director of Cold Pizza (Now: First Take). Once Cold Pizza was moved to Bristol, CT from NYC I moved as a Director (no specific show), then I was promoted to Director II, still with ESPN.

college football live sports tv directorMy responsibilities once I left CNN have been greatly varied. I have managed 25 full-time employees, built new studios, directed 4-camera women’s softball games and 40-camera races at the Belmont. Each job had its different amounts of management compared to directing, but all of them had some of each.

What is the most difficult thing about working in Sports TV?

The hardest thing in television is the hours and days you must work. It gets easier working 6-day weeks over holidays, but it never feels good. But you have to do what is needed to promote your industry or company. You usually get rewarded or compensated somehow, but it’s never fun when you are doing it.

Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in Sports TV?

Go to school; get a degree in communications and on your way do as much as can in your free time to learn more about the industry. Once you graduate, do not be afraid to take the first production job presented to you as you can always move on and up. There are lots of production jobs for young, talented people. Your first production job is unlikely to be the right one – but it is the most important one!

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