(Right to left: My co-host Dana Ward, Greg Grunberg and me)
Five years ago, I was doing an audio podcast in my car. Yesterday, I was in front of a camera on the last day of shooting for the first episode of my new TV series, filming wrap-arounds and a very funny feature segment with Heroes/Alias/Felicity star Greg Grunberg. As I drove home dog tired from Burbank after a 12 hour production day I thought to myself that I’ve never worked this hard before but it’s been so incredibly worth it.
And a whole hell of a lot of fun as well.
In 2005, I published a novel and was trying to find a way to promote it on the internet when I came across an article in MacWorld magazine about “How to Start a Podcast in 5 Minutes”. PACIFIC COAST HELLWAY, the first attempt I ever made to actually publicly “perform” anything other than music was just me ranting like a rabid monkey. Miraculously, it ended up on Sirius Satellite Radio every weekday for a year and a half and it basically ignited a whole new career for me. Podcasting became my full-time job.
And it was a a great job. The money was pretty damn good and I had complete freedom to do what I wanted, how I wanted. In the past, I’d been lucky to make my living most of my adult life from doing my creative thing whether it was writing music for TV and video games, writing TV and movie scripts on assignment, etc… but the nature of any online enterprise, I soon learned, was built on shifting sand. Audience’s tastes were changing and video had just exploded on the web. I knew I had to be in that space if I wanted to continue to create opportunities for myself.
So in 2008, shortly past my 40th birthday, I was editing a music video I had directed for my very talented Berklee pal, MUNK, when I had an epiphany. I reinvented myself as a sarcastic “newsman” and created THINGS I LEARNED THIS WEEK, mostly as an exercise in writing jokes about current events. Within months, TILTW became my main source of income, bringing in some surprisingly good cash so I doubled down on my efforts to really be good at it.
I began to think that the “on camera” thing could maybe even lead to something. Incredibly delusional for a 40 year old with zero previous on camera experience, I know, but still, I figured I’d continue to hone my delivery and camera presence if only just as an exercise to make the show better.
So I built myself a teleprompter and taught myself how to deliver lines from it and man, it ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. Earlier this year, I got a call from a producer I’ve worked with in the past telling me that he wanted me to host a TV pilot he was cooking up. No audition. The gig was mine. Because he knew the quality of my writing, the consistency of my work and had been watching TILTW each week, he said I’d be perfect for it.
Of course I said yes.
Months pass and all the crazy things that have to happen to get a project like this from zero to one finally fall into place including getting the 6-Time Emmy winning Executive Producer of shows like “A Current Affair”, “Hard Copy”, “Judge Judy” and “Christina’s Court” on board to shepherd the project as well as a very experienced production team and virtuoso co-host Dana Ward from Clever TV as well as a supporting cast including Dave “Voice of Hulu” Fennoy and the super-talented Theresa June-Tao.
So in August this ragtag group of misfits began production on the pilot. We shot some great stuff and put together a sizzle reel that wowed the ad agency attached to the project as well as a syndicator and before we knew it, we had gone from talking about the pilot to planning out a series.
As I hastily write this, we still have some hoops to jump through and though nothing is final yet, we have both domestic and foreign TV offers for the show on the table and we’re now in the planning stages of episode 2 and beyond and somehow, in the last five years I took a very unplanned detour that landed me as host, writer and co-producer of an upcoming TV newsmagazine. The best thing is I really just get to be me and I get to work with so many amazing people as I continue to hone my skills.
Just in case you ever wondered, hosting a TV show is really just as much fun as you’d think it would be but it’s hard, hard work. I now have a profound respect for people who do this every day.
And to think it all started because of a podcast I did in my car and the fact that I always, always, always made sure to do my best to bring my “A” game every time.
Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff is the bestselling author of several books including: “The Killing of Osama Bin Laden” and “Where’s My F*cking Latte? (and Other Stories About Being an Assistant in Hollywood)”