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Q&A; with Elliot Dane, CNN Sports Video Editor

An Inside Look at Being a Sports TV Video Editor

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Elliot Dane knew he wanted to work in Sports TV, he just didn’t think he’d work for free. "I saw an opportunity with the Olympics being in Atlanta in 1996 for a chance to get in the door somewhere, so I just made the move. After sending resumes out all across town the only offer I got was for an unpaid intership at CNN Sports.

"After a year of working for free and holding down a paying full-time job, I finally got hired in Sports TV with pay," reveals the jovial Dane, "15 years later and I couldn’t be happier with my CNN Sports experience".

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

I am not sure Sports TV was a specific choice in my deciding moment. I did know I wanted to be involved in sports as a career path if I could, so that was my initial choice. I was living in San Diego after getting my college degree and their were not many opportunities there. I saw an opportunity to get in the door somewhere with the Olympics being in Atlanta in 1996, so I just made the move.

Elliot Dane’s Sports TV “Stats”

cnn world sportEducation: University Of San Diego

Production Jobs held: Production Assistant, Video Editor, Advanced Editor, Producer

Stations: CNN Sports (Atlanta, GA), CNN International

Favorite Sports Memory: 1995 UCLA Bruins title over Arkansas, long live Tyus Edney.

Best piece of advice:. Perseverance, knowledge, practice and hard work should lead to good things falling your way.

You went to UC-San Diego, how much did it help you in your Sports TV career?

At my school the program was largely theoretical and was geared toward getting your Masters. I had an internship during school with the local Sports radio station which was invaluable in showing me that radio was not one of my paths. It however did not dissuade me from wanting to find a role in the Sports world and was certainly a great experience to have. It was one of the few hands on experiences I had in production of any kind. That along with one class creating actual videos were the only hands on experiences I had in college.

Where did you land your first job in Sports TV?

My first opportunity came to me by luck, I had no personal contacts in the Sports TV industry available when I moved to Atlanta. At the time there were not a lot of resources and I purchased a "Sports Careers Information Kit" with contacts. Since it was Atlanta I sent generic letters to a variety of places looking to get an internship or a ground floor job to every place I could think of. That included the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee, CNN Sports and probably a couple more out there at the time.

I received a couple of form letter responses in the group and got one fateful call from CNN Sports. They offered me an unpaid internship which I was happy to take. I did that for over a year, while holding another full time job as I bided my time. I moved from logging games to editing for a show called ‘Calling All Sports’ to editing for ‘World Sport’… all for no pay. My first time being paid for work was as a freelance editor for TNT Sports, before I was finally hired full time with CNN Sports. The system has chanced quite a bit from those days. Both logging and editing are paid for roles and to freelance you need to at least get college credit.

golfer sports tv video editorWould you do anything differently if you could go back to the early stages of your career?

I think there isn’t that much I could do differently. I would say if at all possible while in school if you have a chance intern if you can. It was tough for me given the need to work back then and I can only imagine how tough it would be given today’s money to go to school, but I can’t stress the importance of putting yourself out there and trying different things if you can while in school enough. And I would take this seriously if it’s a career you truly would want to have.

Did you always want to be a Video Editor or did you envision something different?

I fell into being a Video Editor more than I chose it. I could probably be as effective as a Sports Producer as I am a Video Editor, but I enjoy the autonomy and freedom I am given as Video Editor more. That is not true in many places. When I edit I am typically charged with much of the producing because I essentially choose all my video, music, effects, etc.. in a piece.

Has working in television exceeded or fallen short of your expectations?

Probably exceeded my expectations in a sense, but I have been lucky to have a reliable job for the 15 or so years I have worked here. I have seen many come and go and I have not felt the stress of having to look for a job in an industry that can limit one’s choices at times. Especially getting full-time, full benefits type positions.cnnsi newsroom

Do you wonder what life would be like if you didn’t work in Sports TV?

I always have wondered what it would be like to have to get a real job. What would I have done if I did not stick around at CNN. Would I have gone a different direction and left sports entirely if things did not work out? I am not sure if this has been a blessing or a curse in my case. What would happen if I am forced to move on at my age now? This is the only pang and an important one everyone in my industry must face when we start becoming middle aged.

The lack of great opportunities countrywide and the specialist I have become in the Sports TV industry I fear has pigeonholed me too much. I have a ton of Video Editing and producing type experience in Sports TV, but not necessarily if I altered my path and became more of a high end craft editor. I would have probably start on a ground floor level or begin a new career path altogether should I move on from here to create a more conducive family schedule or should they one day ask me to move on because I have become too expensive.

In Atlanta there are plenty of freelance opportunities at the moment, but not necessarily strong full-time positions to sustain a family as you get older. This is important when considering the career long-term. I have also had the good fortune of a successful working wife as a backup plan. That being said I edit Sports TV for a living. I watch Sports TV when I work, and I don’t take my work home with me.

This is not meant to dissuade or persuade anyone, but it is certainly something to think about when you consider a career long term.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to work in Sports TV as a Video Editor?

When my focus was toward higher end editing patience was important because of the need for trial and error to be creative. Watch commercials and other production elements you see on TV. Copying is the highest form of flattery. Try to copy cool things you see and somehow make it your own. I am a big believer in collaboration on many levels. Don’t be afraid to share ideas and run things by producers and colleagues as much as you can. I love getting opinions from others to the point of being annoying.

fred hickman paper mache cnn sports illustratedDo you have a memorable story from working in Sports TV that you’d like to share?

In a general sense I have great memories in my early years of the camaraderie with my co-workers. I doubt many career paths are as interesting. Perhaps one that won’t get anyone in trouble is the life size Fred Hickman paper mache that was entombed in the walls of CNN/SI.

When it became clear that CNN/Sports Illustrated was going to be closed down, things got a little silly. One of our main Sportscasters, Fred Hickman, had left to work for the YES Network. As a tribute to him, the staff created a full sized Fred Hickman paper mache replica and attached it to his desk. In the final days of the network, the replica found a home inside one of the walls. Who knows if it is still there or has been ‘discovered’ by some unassuming contractor, who for a fleeting moment had to have feared they found a dead body in the wall.

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