Interview: Michael Benjamin, Olympics Production Assistant and Program Planner/Scheduler

Michael Benjamin won a Sports Emmy for his work on the 2012 London Olympic Games. Prior to that he worked at the MSG Varsity Network, went through the NBC Universal Page Program, and interned at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Currently, Michael is a scheduling coordinator at A&E Networks and a contributor to the Bleacher Report. Here Michael shares a glimpse into his time on the Olympics: the hard work, adrenaline, and lasting memories. 

michael benjamin olympic production assistant education - the media chroniclesHave you ever tried to stop water from pouring out of a broken faucet with your hands? Let’s say you try your best to hold your palms to the spout and the fight water pressure with human strength. No matter. Eventually, the water seeps through your fingertips, rolls down your sleeves, and pours into the sink. Unless you’re trying to pay extra on your rent check, it’s time to call the plumber.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/a6/Mario_%26_Sonic_Sochi_2014.pngThis is the Olympic Games. Once that cauldron lights up on Opening Night (and now, even before that!), the rain comes down. It’s a sports blizzard – the Winter Olympics at Sochi 2014 has 98 medal events across 15 sport disciplines – that requires a team of talented professionals with the speed and skill required to feed millions of global fans athletic highlights from the chosen host land. Basically, NBC is “Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games.”

I was used to the rising tide. I started out running tape and talent as a utility production assistant for a regional high school sports network (MSG Varsity), then spent a year in grey as a Page at NBC Universal. I also had an Olympics under my belt as a logger in Beijing, China, and a few summers in the business thanks to the Emma L. Bowen Foundation, a great leadership and development program for high-achieving minority students interested in the media space, like on-air whiz reporter Jarred Hill.

All that said, working an Olympic Games teaches you how to live on 3-5 hours of sleep for three weeks, to eat with one hand and type with the other, to stand up and make tough decisions in the face of time and adversity, and to make lifelong friends and unforgettable memories. While working the London Olympic Games, I incorporated graphics and animations into our highlights, digitized and maintained content for post-production, and supported a bevy of talented freelance and staff editors and producers hired to pull the Olympics puzzle together. All told, I ended up winning a Sports Emmy for my efforts as an associate producer.

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It’s hard to succeed at anything in the media business. There’s tons of pressure and competition, mounds of individuals who want to win just as badly as you do, with content becoming obsolete almost as soon as it hits the air or web. Storytelling is a tricky medium that way, but it’s important not to get bogged down in the weeds. Life moves way too fast, so you’ve got to enjoy every moment.

But that’s enough talk for now. Like the great Ralph Wiley said, I look forward. There’s so much more to learn and accomplish, and time still forgets to wait up and slow down. It’s possible to make it in the business, but make sure to be patient, build skills and relationships, and have FUN!

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