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Q&A; with Patrick Brown

Senior Director, ROOT Sports

An Inside Look at Being a TV Director in Studio and for Live Sports Events

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After 22 years working in television Pat Brown has no doubt he has chosen the right career path. “I still delight in the daily surprises of live TV” he says, “I simply couldn’t imagine doing anything else”.

As the Senior Director at ROOT Sports, Brown is the technical leader for studio production and is the hiring manager for production jobs. Patrick also directs live sports broadcasts of the Seattle Mariners, Washington Huskies, WSU Cougars, and Oregon State Beavers.

When did you decide that you wanted to work in Television Production?

During the summer of 6th grade, I attended day camp at Oregon State University where kids could take classes from college professors and get a taste for some of the careers that a college education could get you. I was late in choosing my classes and one of the classes that I had originally been interested in was full. The Television Production class was open so I went ahead and signed up for it. The first day we went on a tour of the studio, and the moment I walked into the control room and saw all the TV’s and blinking lights, I was sold on working in tv.

Pat Brown’s Sports TV “Stats”

Education: Washington State University

Production Jobs held: Master Control, Technical Director, Director, Senior Director

Stations: Cable 8 (WSU student station), Prime Sports, KXLY (Spokane), KOBI (Medford, OR), KHQ (Spokane), Fox Sports Northwest (Seattle)

Best piece of advice:. Learn teamwork – you can be taught to run any piece of equipment with practice, but if you can’t work as part of a team you have no chance of a long career in television.

You went to Washington State University, how much did it help you in your Sports TV career?

I can’t say enough about how great my experience at Washington State University was. Although the classes they offer are great, the real opportunity for learning at WSU is in the many chances to do hands-on work. Before I graduated I was the president of Cable 8, the student TV station. I ran camera for a nationally-syndicated show that aired on PBS. I was hired to be the technical director for coverage of WSU Cougars athletics events and I did dozens of other production jobs, big and small, that all focused me in on the career that I have now.

A college diploma is a minimum requirement at a lot of jobs, but that piece of paper won’t get you very far… hands-on experience is the only thing I’ve ever been asked about in an interview. In this business, no one will ask you what your GPA was!

Where did you land your first Television Production job?

My first job out of college was at KXLY-TV in Spokane. I was hired to be a master control operator and technical director (TD). After working there for about a year, with some of the most patient, encouraging directors you could ask for, I realized that I really wanted to become a TV director.

I enjoyed working at KXLY but felt my options were limited, so I started looking around. This is an important note for people who are new to this business: don’t feel stuck at your job! If you don’t think you’re at the right place, make a change! There are lots of production jobs for young, talented people. Your first production job is unlikely to be the right one. In this case, the combination of being a newlywed with the worst work hours imaginable (today they’re merely bad), and no clear path to the job I really wanted meant it was time to move on.

After a little over 18 months at KXLY, we moved to Medford, OR and I took my second job, at KOBI-TV. Being in a market this size was great for me. I was able to work with people who were more closely aligned with me in age and taste, and more importantly, I was able to make a ton of mistakes. I tried a bunch of different styles of directing (including a brief period where I tried being a “screamer.” Turns out, I’m not really cut out to be that guy). Small market TV means you are going to do virtually every job in the station at some point in the first year, and for a TV junkie like me, I loved it.

It didn’t take long before I was casting my net again, looking to see what my next career move might be. Here’s another tip: be prepared for rejection. Chances are, you’re not going to get the job. Keep your attitude up and keep trying; eventually you’ll break through.

For me, the breakthrough came in a city I never thought I’d be going back to: Spokane. This time the job was with KHQ-TV, where I was hired to be the weekend prime-time director.

This job turned out to be pretty awesome. In my nearly 5 years there, I participated in moving the TV station from the building it was founded in to a state-of-the-art digital production facility. I was promoted to the weekday prime-time job. I got to produce coverage of Gonzaga basketball, way back when they were merely “Cinderella’s”, not “Goliaths”. I worked with some of the most competent professionals I have ever worked with. We had a great time while we killed in the ratings.

Are you satisfied with the way your career in Sports TV has developed?

Yes, today I am the Senior Director at Fox Sports Net Northwest in Bellevue, WA. Originally I was hired to direct the “Northwest Sports Report,” but from a directing standpoint it was more of the same; in some ways it was less challenging then the shows I did in Spokane. The big upside of this job, though, was the opportunity to work live sports events. After a time of proving myself in the studio, I was given more and more opportunities to direct live game coverage, and eventually that became one of two main focuses of my job.

In addition to directing most of the college and minor league games that appear on our network, I am also the supervisor of our studio staff. I travel to remote sites to direct 60-70 games per year, plus I direct the pre- and post-game shows from site when the Mariners are home. When I’m not at a remote site, I can work in the office and concentrate on making sure we have the best studio staff around (we do). As a supervisor now, I am involved in hiring people for production jobs. We just hired a recent college graduate; I’ve spent a lot of time lately remembering my first job out of college and trying to be as great of a supervisor as those who I worked with at KXLY were.

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

Understand that sports TV is not normal in any sense of the word. You have to be prepared to work weekends, nights, mornings, overnights, sometimes for 10, 14, or even 18 hours in a day. You will constantly be disappointing someone you love by not being available for family events. If you are going to get married, you need to have a partner who is willing to deal with your schedule being goofy to begin with & inevitably changing at the last second.

But if you can get past all that, working in sports TV is pretty much the coolest job in the world. You get to be in a truck or control room for the biggest events that happen in people’s lives. You will get spoiled by being able to see a replay of any play anytime you want. You might even get used to being on a first-name basis with some of the sports heroes of your youth. When your craft is going well, there is no better feeling on earth then bearing witness to the game-winning three-pointer in overtime, knowing that fans all over the country are hanging on the pictures that you are providing them.

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