Do you love baseball? Interested in a career with the MLB Network? JobsInSports.com recently interviewed Ashlee Buchanan, a production assistant with the MLB Network, to discover how she was able to land her dream job and what it takes to succeed in this highly sought-after career.
Interview with an MLB Network Production Assistant, Ashlee Buchanan
Q) You work as a production assistant for the MLB Network. Tell us a little about your role, responsibilities, and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
In the entertainment industry, there are mainly two types of PAs, office and set, but I do both. I have an unusual PA gig. Most PAs are the grunts, doing odds and ends, grabbing coffee, etc. for the main crew, but MLB Network’s main studio is in Secaucus, NJ, and I am in Los Angeles.
I work out of the house of one of the hosts of our show. MLB has built an entire studio with a set, cameras, and lights in what you would call “Dad’s office.” I am the only other person on site. Therefore, I am in charge of all on-site production. I check the audio, IFBs, return monitors and feeds, lighting, mics, printing out show scripts, temperature control, props, and any of the hosts’ needs.
Our main Producer, Director, and Researchers are all back in Secaucus, and I work with them directly as well. If we have any technical issues on and off-air on site, I am the one to fix it, and because our last studio had so many issues, I got a lot of on the job training in repairing and rebuilding our equipment.
Q) What’s the one thing not listed in the job description that you love about your job?
When our host moved houses, we filmed the show for four months out of Dodger stadium. It was there I took on more of an Associate Producer role, doing all the same things that I did on our normal set, but actually had a team of two that worked alongside me since we were now using the Ballpark Cameras.
I was also in charge of setting up and striking the set every day, deliveries, weather-related issues and working directly with the Dodger Grounds Crew, tour guides, event staff, other media outlets and various executives making sure our production did not hinder anything that was going on at the stadium. It introduced me to even more people in the sports world, and new connections are always great to have.
Q) You’ve been with MLB Network for a little over 5 years now, what initially drew you to working with the organization?
I have always loved baseball and grew up in a huge baseball family. So much so that when my parents built their dream house my father’s version of a “Man Cave” was having a full-on batting cage in the backyard! While I never actually played on a baseball or softball team, I was taught to hit, throw, and catch a hardball at an early age. So naturally, I was drawn to MLB in terms of working in sports television.
Q) Many professionals today find they aren’t even working in the field of study that they earned a degree in. How much impact has your degree benefited you in working in the sports industry?
I earned a BA in Journalism and a Minor in Theater, so I do actually use my degree to an extent. I did my college internship at a local news station, so that showed me a little more about how a newsroom and live television worked.
Q) Did you play sports in High School or College? And if so, what position were you best at?
I was actually a competitive gymnast for most of my life. I started when I was just 18-months-old, was doing backflips at five, and started competing at eight-years-old. At that time, that was as young as you could be to compete, but now they are able to start younger.
I quit due to injuries when I was 15 but have never lost the love for the sport. I then transitioned into dance, competitive cheerleading, and theater. I loved anything where I got to perform and do backflips.
Q) If Yes: Is that what got you interested in working in sports as a career option?
When I was a gymnast, I thought about getting into sports medicine, but I also loved performing. I turned away from pursuing that because I didn’t really like math or science at that time, and I knew that field would require a lot of it.
Q) You’ve worked a World Series, how much fun was that? During the series, did you ever think. “I can’t believe I’m a part of this?”
YES! The first World Series I worked in was in 2016, The Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians. I worked the pre and post-game shows from the third baseline at Wrigley Field for games three, four, and five. As a HUGE Cubs fan, it was a dream come true. Not only was I there, but I was on the field! I always said that WHEN the Cubs went to the World Series, I would be there, and I sure was!
Q) How did you find your current position? Did you use any online tools? Tell me a little bit about the process you used to land your job in sports?
So like so many jobs in the Entertainment Industry, it’s all about who you know and connections. I was lucky and had a girlfriend who had landed this job before me. When she was promoted to Associate Producer she was able to find a fill-in replacement for her when she was unable to work on the show (whereas she was pursuing being On-Air talent).
So I started as a freelance replacement and when she came, I moved into an On-Air position and was hired on as her full-time replacement.
Q) When you were in the thick of your job search, what were the things that frustrated you the most?
The most frustrating thing about being in front of the camera or in production is the lack of insecurity that is usually associated with it. Unless you work for a new or sports network, there is little job security because you are usually bouncing from project to project.
Q) How many interviews did it take to get an offer from the MLB Network? Tell us a little about their interview process?
As I mentioned before, I was lucky because of my referral, so I only had the one interview and background check. They trusted my friend’s opinion of me, and my work ethic has proven her right.
Q) You have some experience in film and tv as an actress as well, what cross over skills help you the most in your current position?
Being in front of the camera gives you a lot of appreciation for the production team that makes it all possible. Since I started off on stage and in front of the camera, I was already comfortable on set and knew how productions were run. I am a very organized and detail-oriented person, and I rarely crack under pressure, so when I had my first shot at producing on an award-winning Web Series, I naturally thrived. It was then I realized how much I enjoyed being behind the scenes as well.
Q) I’m sure you work with many entry-levels and new team members breaking into the industry, what advice do you give them on their first week on the job?
I have only worked with bigger teams at events like the World Series, but my only usual advice to new Runners (set PAs) is to follow MLBN’s rules and regulations, which include not asking for autographs, pictures nor post any pertinent information on social media. I’d also say never show an attitude of entitlement, try to anticipate needs and be kind and helpful to everyone there. MLBN is actually a pretty tight-knit community, and I have found that most people look out for each other, and it’s a fun environment to work in.
Q) What noticeable trend are you seeing in the recent grads and entry level employees you’re working with? Are they as driven as you were, do they all have the same degree or come from the same college program?
The only thing I have noticed in general is that a lot of recent grads don’t realize that they will have to be at the bottom of the totem pole and maybe do things that they feel they are better than. I rebuttal that with just suck it up and do it! Be the best at whatever entry-level position you are in and prove you can do and handle more, and it will be noticed. I would also advise you to find a specific thing you want to do.
For example, if you are getting a communications degree that is very broad. Narrow that down to a field. Audio, lighting, graphics, broadcast journalism, marketing, camera operated, PR, etc. because that makes you more valuable to a company.
I would also tell them that if you’re going to be young and broke, then don’t be afraid to take advantage of that time and intern at as many places you can! Sports stadiums are a great start for sports. I know I met several interns while I was working at Dodgers, and they were all eager to learn and make connections, and connections are super important.
Q) The last question is for you, is there anything you’d like to tell our audience about any new projects or passions you’d like to share with JobsInSports.com users?
I am working towards being an Associate Producer with MLBN and just had meetings in regards to that title, but I am also the On-Air Producer for a live comedy radio show on Dash Radio. Dash is a free downloadable app similar to Pandora, and we are on the Marcus King Presents Comedy Channel, which has been voted #1 Comedy Radio Channel in the World. It’s hosted by two extremely talented and funny comedians, and I am in charge of content format, segment allocation, social media, guest relations, BTS video, and photos. We are live on Mondays at 7-9 pm PST.
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