From camera operation to content design and serving as a technical director, it takes many areas of expertise for a Daktronics Event Producer to put on a well-polished show. However, gaining experience in each of these sports production roles can be a challenge.
Today, many high schools and colleges offer programs to expose students to this type of work and provide them with experiences they may not be able to find elsewhere. We sat down with Katie Windham, Daktronics Event Producer for James Madison University in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to learn more about her experiences. While Windham did not have a program in high school to help drive her production interests, she was able to find experiences elsewhere that ultimately led her to where she is today.
1. How did you get your start in event production?
I worked for a small production company in high school and throughout most of college filming weddings and graduations. I started out as a secondary camera operator and gradually moved into an editor role.
2. When did you decide that event production was the profession you wanted to pursue?
I fell in love with video when I started working with that production company in high school. I knew at that point I wanted to major in something to do with video. In college, we were required to work on a few PBS shows for credit and I fell in the love with the live event environment. My final semester of college I started working in Daktronics Creative Services and, as a result, joined the South Dakota State University video board crew. After working as a V-Play operator at my first football game, I was hooked.
3. In your opinion, what is the most challenging part of an event producers job?
Overall, I think it’s balancing workloads and preparation, along with thinking on your feet. During an event when something goes awry (and it almost always does) you have to think quickly to adjust and fix the issue. This is also what I love the most about live sports production. You can plan everything down to the second but at some point that might all go out the window and you have to adjust.
4. What has been your most memorable experience working as an event producer or in your current role?
Oh, man! I don’t know if I have just one. Our game-winning field goal in last year’s semi-final playoff game against Weber State has to be one of them. It was an incredible moment to produce and it will forever be one of the best moments in James Madison University football history.
I absolutely love when we are able to nail the intro video as the team runs out to fireworks, or when we can help the crowd force false starts. Those are the moments that really make a production a success for us.
In my early event production days, I had the opportunity to work the College World Series (CWS) two years in a row – one of those being the final year it was held in Rosenblatt Stadium. Working the CWS in itself is quite the experience, but the last year in Rosenblatt was bittersweet.
5. What advice would you give to high school students looking to enter this field? How about college students?
I would advise anyone wanting to get into live production, or video production in general, to put in the work. You may have to start in a volunteer role and/or as a grip managing cable. But those hours and dedication will pay off. People take notice when you are reliable and eager to learn, and then the higher profile positions will become available.
This business is also a lot about who you know, so the more connections you can make, the better. Also, don’t take those connections for granted. It’s really easy to burn a bridge that doesn’t seem that useful at the time but, down the line, it could become a regret.