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Q&A; with Rex Grigg, Studio Operator II

CNN, Washington D.C. Bureau

An Inside Look at Being a TV Studio Operator

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If variety truly is the spice of life than working in live TV is a habenero hot plate.

"I’ve worked a live shot in Sherman, Texas at a miniature horse farm” reminisces Rex Grigg, Studio Operator for CNN’s Washington DC Bureau “and I’ve also worked a Presidential Inauguration, not many people can say that."

When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in Television Production?

When I was offered a job. My first job after college was, trying to find a job.  I looked in the newspaper want ads, at the time, the web was not as prominently used as it is today to find job postings.  After scouring the want ads, sending out hundreds of resumes to jobs involving some sort of media or video production I dropped my resume physically and personally off at a local TV station, no job was posted, I just went there and dropped off my resume…. I got hired.  So, since I was getting a paycheck for working in Television, I decided it seemed like a career worth pursuing.

Rex Grigg’s Sports TV “Stats”

rex grigg studio operator cnn washington dcEducation: University of North Texas

Production Jobs held: Master Control Operator, Audio Engineer, Cameraman, Technical Director, Director

Stations: KXII-TV (Sherman, TX) CNN (Atlanta, GA), CNN/Sports Illustrated (Atlanta, GA), CNN Washington D.C. Bureau (Washington D.C.)

Best piece of advice: The great thing about working in TV is you can work geographically wherever it makes you happy, because there are TV stations everywhere. If you want to ski everyday in the Winter, you can get a job at a TV station in Colorado, if you like living in the desert you can get a job in Tucson. The choice is yours.

What was it about a career in Television Production that originally lured you?

The job security, at least from the Operations side on my end.  It is important to have some stability in the job market.  I know alot of people who have lost jobs in the corporate world, and many other fields.  I might not be rich working in Television, but, I’ve had a job for 17 years now.  I’ve never ‘lost’ my job in TV.  The lure to stay, has been my constant pulling in a paycheck.

Did you have fears it would be hard to land your first Production Job?

I didn’t have to fear, because at first, it was a reality of not being able to get in the door.  As I mentioned earlier, I sent out a hundred resumes to all kinds of places that WERE hiring, that DID have a job posted, including many Television stations. 

I got a return letter from many places saying, thanks but no thanks,  we’ve already filled that position, good luck in your future endeavors, keep looking back at us for future job postings etc.  It WAS hard getting that first production job, it was only when I wasn’t trying hard that I did finally get my first job in TV…as I said, I simply dropped off my resume at the front desk of several TV stations whether there was a job posted or not, and THAT is how I got hired. Why wait for a posting?  Go and drop off a resume, you might be surprised at the result.  Even if you never get past the front desk, like me.

Where did you got to school and has it helped you in your Television career?

BA University of North Texas 1992.  Radio TV Film major, Theatre minor.My college experiences gave me hands on experience working with the equipment, and process of working in Television Production.  In this case, money can buy you experience… college tuition to be exact.  But, it was money well spent.  I got a job because of it.  And, I’m more successful for having that knowledge.

How did you land your first Television Production job?

My first job was at KXII-TV in Sherman, Texas.  I dropped a resume off at the front desk.  I didn’t even dress up, I was wearing a T-shirt.  At that time, I had already dropped off resumes at other places, and I knew I wouldn’t get past the front desk.  So, I dropped off the paper and left.  I thanked the Receptionist and was polite to her, of course.  But, I was not dressed up for an interview.

rex grigg audio engineer cnnMy job at CNN came from me sending my resume much in the same way.  I simply put a resume in an envelope, mailed it to all the Networks, all the major ones on West, East coast, labeled Human Resources… no cover letter, no reference letter… only the Resume. 
I was not responding to any ads… I got the addresses from the Sunday TV Guide for all the major networks, in fact, that’s how I got the idea to send the resume that way.  I just saw the addresses altogether of all the major networks, and I got the idea to go and do something crazy and cold send my resume.  I’ve been with CNN 14 years now.

Would you do anything differently if you could go back to the early stages of your career?

I would have held out for an on camera job or worked in the newsroom as a producer.  There are more opportunities for promotion within Broadcasting from the Editorial side and not from the Technical side.  More salary too.

What is the most difficult thing about working in Television Production?

The hours.  If you open the station, you have to get up at 4 in the morning.  If you close the station, you have to stay up until midnight.  Nights, weekends and holidays too.control room television audio engineer

Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in Television Production?

Nobody gets rich, but there is a certain job security.  There is a TV station everywhere in the USA or the World.  If you want to ski everyday in the Winter, you can get a job at a TV station in Colorado, if you like living in the desert you can get a job in Tucson, if you like coffee and rain, Seattle.  If you like rural life, Tulsa Oklahoma.  Get the picture.  You can work geographically wherever it makes you happy, because there are TV stations everywhere.

Do you have a memorable story – whether funny, sad or just interesting – that you’d like to share?

In the small market, we covered a live event in Ardmore Oklahoma… The Moving Wall, the Vietnam memorial wall that tours the country was on display.  A man walked up with flowers, found the name he was looking for, placed the flowers, and walked away crying. That moment has stuck with me.

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