By: Rachel Salyer
People throw around the word “producer” all the time: movie producer, television producer, music producer and so on. But what do producers actually do?
There isn’t one solid answer to this question, according to Kevin Salyer, executive producer of Fox 8’s morning talk show “New Day Cleveland.” In fact, there are thousands of different answers.
“Each producer on the planet has a different job description,” Salyer said.
This includes the producers for Z-TV, The University of Akron’s television station. Z-TV has four different programs that are entirely created and produced by students. Potential candidates go through an interview process with Z-TV general manager Phil Hoffman to be selected to produce their own show.
“People always think I’m looking for some technical guru or a brilliant writer, but that’s not necessarily the case,” Hoffman said. “I need someone who has a level head, a sense of professionalism, who fill follow through with their word and get things done.”
Jessica Shorten, a senior at UA, has all of the qualities Hoffman is looking for. She is the producer of Z-TV’s community affairs program “Moving Forward.”
Shorten said that while she loves seeing her creative vision come to life, it’s not without a great deal of time and effort. She spends a large amount of her time at Z-TV working on her show.
“I’m typically here every day before eight in the morning, between every class, and every weekend,” Shorten said. “Everyone asks me if I ever go home—I do! I swear!”
One of the biggest parts of Shorten’s job as a producer is organizing. She schedules guests, from musicians to chefs to authors, to come into Z-TV’s studio to film interviews for “Moving Forward.” She also helps her team to develop ideas for potential stories to feature on the show.
Shorten likes to let her team choose their own stories so they can help contribute to the creative vision of the show. Even so, giving up some of the artistic control can be difficult.
“I’m a bit of a control freak,” Shorten said. “As an editor, I have this vision in my head, and it’s hard to have faith in someone else to get it done the way you want it.”
Despite the stress, Shorten said there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing your finished product on the screen. Salyer agrees.
“Having a gem of an idea in your mind when you’re lying awake in bed or showering in the morning and then turning [it] into a complete package is very fulfilling,” Salyer said. “Then you get to sit on the couch at home watching what you made on television and lean over to your family and say, ‘I did that.’”
Coming up with an exact definition of the world “producer” is virtually impossible, Hoffman said. It’s someone who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, whatever that job may be.
According to Salyer, being a producer is the best job in the world.
“It’s a privilege to be able to move people to feel, to take action, to change their life by something you created,” Salyer said. “Who gets to do that every day? Producers.”