Tuesday, October 7, 2008

So You Want to Work in Sports?: Bernie Kim, Graphics Producer, Best Damn Sports Show Period

Over the next several weeks, HHR will be interviewing 20 and 30-something-year-olds in various careers in professional, amateur and collegiate sports to get a take on how they broke into their respective industries and to offer tips how ambitious sports-related job seekers might do the same.

Today, we interview Bernie Kim, 28, Graphics Producer for Fox Sports Net's Best Damn Sports Show Period. A former sports radio radio call screener, Bernie now lives the high life in LA, regularly rubbing elbows with some of Hollywood and professional sports' most recognizable stars.

Name: Bernie Kim
Age: 28
Position: Graphics Producer
Organization: Best Damn Sports Show Period, FSN
College Major: Broadcast Journalism
Prior Sports-Related Experience: WNST radio Baltimore, sports talk show producer, also got sound at Orioles games for different radio shows

Let's get these first two out of the way off the bat:

Does everyone's title there start with "Best Damn" and end with "Period" (ie Best Damn Graphics Producer Period)?

For some people yes. For me it's probably "Just OK Graphics Producer Ellipsis."

Do you have to go through the awful task of selecting the right pictures of hot chicks? If not, who does?

I do have that task when it's necessary. Great use of a college education. Every year when we do our "Smoking 16" contest to find the hottest woman, I find the stills we use on air. I fought to get Minka Kelly from Friday Night Lights onto the list two years ago, but a bunch of people didn't know who she was. Then I picked a bad photo of her and got a lot of heat for picking someone who didn't seem worthy of the contest. But she has since been involved with Derek Jeter, validating my choice, since Jeter only dates one of the 16 hottest women in the world?

Graphics Producer sounds a bit vague. What does the position entail and, if it is anything like the name implies, what sort of graphics background do you have?

I oversee the images and graphical elements that go on-screen. If you watch the show, there are elements like title cards for bits, quote boards, locator maps that I have to create on a day we tape the show. I don't actually physically create any graphics, but I give my ideas to our graphic artist and our graphic operators create on screen elements. I don't have a graphics background, but I have a creative enough mind to come up with ideas that our artists can execute.

That's only part of what I do on the show. Our bosses are good about having us do all kinds of work for the show. I also segment produce guest segments every week and write comedy bits.

How did you land the job at BDSSP and what prerequisites was the show looking for in the hiring process?

I had wanted to work for the show after graduating from Syracuse in the winter of 2001. Then in January of 2002, a friend of mine hired me to be a runner for the US Figure Skating Championships in LA for ABC Sports. It was only a few days of work, but while I was in LA, I did a little networking to see if I could make contacts at Fox Sports Net. I got some names of Syracuse alums in LA from our alumni directory and cold called. One of the alums gave me the name of a guy at Fox Sports who gave me the name of a producer at BDSSP. I emailed him and he told me there weren't any jobs available but to keep in touch.

After that, I ended up moving to LA permanently. I found out that a former classmate was interning at BDSSP. A few more things clicked in place and I was called in for an interview. It turns out that the producer who I had previously been in touch with also passed along my name for the position. That helped the cause.

The guy who interviewed me for the position, Jason Cahill, was also a Syracuse guy and I later found out the Syracuse connection helped get me the interview. I had a strong resume for a guy not far removed from college, so they gave me a shot. After a few months of being a freelance researcher for the show, they hired me full time.

Take us through a typical day, if in fact there is such a thing, in your position. How involved are you with the everyday creative direction of the broadcast?

On a show day, I'll get in at 8 AM. I'll check various web sites for sports news and topics to discuss on the show. We'll have an early morning editorial meeting where we figure out what we're going to open the show with -- usually two or three topics. Because we rely on guest hosts to give BDSSP a fresh perspective, we have to remember to cater the discussions to that show's panel.

The most entertaining part of the day is the talent lunch meeting. All the hosts, guest hosts and a few producers meet for about a half hour to talk about the show. Inevitably someone tells an amazing behind-the-scenes story of their playing days. The guys speak freely and uncensored, and a lot of the stuff won't, and frankly can't, make air. But if it did, I guarantee BDSSP would be the most popular sports show on television. The running joke in our office is the talent lunch meeting should be the show.

Tell us about the concept behind the BDSSP Podcast. What are your expectations for the show? Who were your favorite guests?

We are just trying to keep up with the times, so one of our producers, Jason Cahill pitched the idea for a wrap-up show and it got approved. We don't think we're going to break any iTunes records but it's been a pretty cool experience so far.

The best guest has probably been Gary Payton. He just says what he's thinking with no filter. We were lucky enough to have The Big Show come in studio for a recent podcast. I could use his wedding ring as a belt.

Word is that you were the force and face of some of the show's most memorable vignettes, including the widely acclaimed and circulated BDSSP's Lazy Saturday Draft Day video. Tell us about that and working with the stars in the video.

(there were actually 2 incarnations of this, one in 2006 and one this year)

That was an idea from a producer, Clif Dunn, at a short-lived show called "ESPN Hollywood". I left BDSSP for 6 months to work at that show. When I was there, Lazy Sunday had just come out and Clif asked if I wanted to write a parody of the bit. Well, I wrote a handful of lines and pitched it and it got shot down. Then the show got cancelled, and I got hired back at BDSSP and pitched it again. They loved it but wanted famous athletes to do the bit. After tossing around names and not finding any takers, they just had me do it. I chose Jason Cahill as the co-rapper -- after all he did hire me -- and we shot it in a few weeks.

I just wrote a bunch of lyrics and luckily Reggie Bush came in studio and said agreed be in it. And for some reason NHL commissioner Gary Bettman decided to join in and he really got a great reaction from his one shot.

They asked me to write another version again this year and to incorporate the rookies that were coming in studio. All of the guys were really cool and happy to be in it. I was stoked that Darren McFadden put on a wig for us and tracked a line.

Then when Kim Kardashian was scheduled to be on the show, I knew we had to put her in the song. I wrote a few lines about her butt and a little reluctant to ask here to be in it but she was so cool about it. She even helped direct her shot. Now I can say I'm in an internet video with Kim Kardashian!

Throughout its existence, BDSSP has had number of big name professional athletes and personalities hosts (as well as eye candy). What is it like working with them? The on-air personalities' relationship with staff?

It's a very good relationship. Chris Rose is a total professional and makes every producer's job easier. John Salley is hilarious, Charissa Thompson is very easy to work with. And even before them, everyone, including Tom Arnold, was great.

Has the staff ever posed any strange and/or unusual requests to you?

Nope. (Finally a short answer!)

You seem to have had a hand in a lot of various creative elements of the show. Of which are you most proud?

The rap videos were great. I wrote a skit for Chuck Liddell parodying Fight Club right before his fight with Rampage Jackson. That was a blast to do and the first bit I ever directed.

One thing that got be really pumped up is when a joke of mine made Sports Illustrated. We put Gary Payton in a lie detector and asked him, "Would he get a sex change and play in the WNBA for $100 million?" He said, "Yes," and it was registered as the truth. A week later the question and his response got a blurb in SI. It was the first time I felt like a made a mark on sports culture. Not that it was water cooler talk in every office, but SI is the preeminent sports magazine and I created something that they printed. Plus, when I originally pitched the question it got shot down by one of our producers, and so the SI mention was good vindication.

Syracuse is renowned for its Communications Department. Did you find having the University on your resume helped open doors that others without the "S" on their degree might not have had the luxury.

It absolutely helped. I wouldn't have this job if not for the connections I made through Syracuse.

Many, once in college, find tons of majors they never even knew existed until they got there. In your experience, can you name a job in the sports media world that you never knew existed until you got into the pipeline?

Not really, going to Syracuse gave me a good idea of what to expect.

How would you compare your work in radio with that in television?

Radio is OK, but got a little monotonous. It was a good starter job for me.

How did you get the WNST gig and what were your reasons for moving on?

They hired me to phone screen for one of the talk shows and I also ended up going to Oriole Park and getting sound after home games. They knew it was a short-term gig for me and that I wanted to move out to California. To be honest, I think I got fired.

They never said, "We're letting you go," but I wouldn't have cared if they did. I needed a change. TV has been incredibly rewarding and 500 times more fun.

What are your ultimate career goals?

I'd like to run my own show one day, but I have yet to find my inspirado for an original show. Short term, I just want to keep learning everything I can about the TV business.

What's the most rewarding part of your current job?

I'm an entertainer at heart, so knowing that people are enjoying the product I'm putting out there is incredibly rewarding. When we had studio audiences, I would stand in the studio when one of my comedy pieces was being aired. I loved watching the reaction of the crowd.

I also produced one of our Top 50 shows, Top 50 Bizarre Plays. I was out at a bar having dinner and it was on one of the screens. A few of the guys were sitting at the bar glued to the show, chuckling and talking about the plays. That made all the hard work worth it.

Biggest perks?

Getting to meet so many people I grew up watching or currently do watch. The first day I worked at the show, I sat next to Emmitt Smith back stage. Because of Best Damn, I've partied on a boat with John Daly, done the Carlton Dance for Alfonso Ribeiro, and did the Ray Lewis dance for Ray Lewis. That last one was a full performance including a song I wrote for the Ravens. He was laughing so hard I think he was crying. I also think he was slightly afraid I would stalk him.

Anything you would have changed during college to better prepare you? Relevant courses or internships you'd recommend?

I didn't know runner positions were available until after college. Any time a network covers a game or event, they'll hire runners to do gopher work. It's a great way to get your foot in the door and build the resume. I wish I had done that while I was in school.

What advice would you offer those looking to follow in your footsteps or even break into sports television in general?

Keep yourself busy doing relevant work. Having a good GPA is nice, but when you're applying for a job the first thing you want any possible employer to see is work-related experience. Use any connections you can to break into a company. And be eager, but don't be pushy or annoying.

Finally, how has PJ's Jacket been affected by your move to LA? Was this a move to follow in the footsteps of the great Motley Crew and Skid Row and break into the LA music scene?

The physical unit of PJ’s Jacket might be over, but the spirit will never die!


See all our "So You Want to Work in Sports?" Features Here.


rs27 said...

Gary Payton rules.

Scott @ WFNY said...

Excellent stuff. Huge fan of this feature...

Christopher Byrne said...

Great interview!

Your readers may be interested in an article I wrote last year entitled "So You Want a Job in TV Sports?" over on "Eye on Sports Media".

Hugging Harold Reynolds said...

Thanks, everyone. Have another good one rolling out this week. Keep an eye out.

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