Updated: Feb 2, 2019
By Tasnin Khan
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work behind the scenes and be a part of the team that brings to life your favorite tv shows? There are so many moving parts to the creative direction and work necessary to make a project successful. We often here about the “success stories” and tips from people who have made it in any industry; but what about some pieces of advice and glimpses into the experiences of someone on the come-up? Here is a little bit into the world of Shanel, who is a part of the post-production team for Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt that you can relate to and apply to your own life and career - whether you are sure where that path may take you or not.
Here is the condensed version of my talk with Shanel Charles, which has been edited for clarity.
Tasnin: What’s a typical day like for you?
Shanel: So I’m a part of the post-production team which consists of editors, post production producers, post production coordinators. I start off my day watching Dailies (which is raw footage) of what was shot the day before for the show. I’ll make sure there’s nothing wrong with it, that the color is set, everything looks okay, that an actress’s nipple isn’t showing or something, basically keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary or any technical issues. I make a dailies transfer report which sums up if I find anything wrong or if they are fine and send them out to producers, camera crew, makeup team, and all that good stuff. Overall, I provide support for the editors, with whatever it is that they need and also provide administrative support.
Tasnin: What were some of the steps that led you to this current position?
Shanel: I taught myself how to edit videos and ended up editing videos in college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I did an internship with a post-production company, where I got to see how multiple shows are and got to meet multiple people who work for the industry in New York and that’s how I eventually got my job. I ended up doing videography for Cardi B on her first tour after meeting her manager randomly, who liked my work and invited me on tour.
Tasnin: What was that like?
Shanel: It was a great experience but it made me realize I didn’t want to do videography forever. Tours are hard! A lot of people think it sounds cool, you get to see different cities. It was a great experience but I knew it wasn’t for me in the long run. I started wondering what it was like to work on shows, and doing my internship was really a great start for me. I didn’t know post production was a thing, that there were coordinators, supervisors, and producers. You really don’t know until your first internship or job, and so my advice is to take the L and intern. I know a lot of people don’t like aspects of interning but it really does help and I would suggest anyone who wants to get into TV to intern for sure.
Tasnin: How is it working with who you work with?
Shanel: I work with editors, producers, and a little bit with writers. It can be tough sometimes dealing with producers. It is a fast-paced environment and there are multiple people putting input into things with different personalities. You’re getting hit with multiple things at a time so it can be hard to help multiple people at the same time. But it taught me a lot of life lessons - usually I’m very quick to react but I’ve learned to have a lot of professional patience and that’s probably important to have at any job.
Tasnin: So what would be your advice for someone in a similar situation with keeping the peace while putting your best foot forward when working with a group at work?
Shanel: It’s really important to remain professional at all times, know that you are there for a job and a purpose, and you’re getting paid for what you are doing. All of the TV jobs are based on who you know, and that editor/producer/director will help take you to the next level, will teach you something you don’t know, will promote you or bring you on their next show. So it is really important to maintain those good relationships. Every job is a networking opportunity for a better opportunity. It is really important to be nice to everybody; you won’t get far not being nice to people and not being kind to people at all!
We go in thinking we know everything and been in school for last 12 years and spent $50,000 on college and think we have all this technical knowledge older people don’t have, but nothing beats experience. That’s the only way you will master something and be good is doing it over and over and over again. People our age have to be willing to listen and learn. We don’t know everything! It’s ok to try our best to learn from our bosses, and eventually we can be better than them at their job in the future.
Tasnin: What’s the next step for you?
Shanel: Next up is probably assistant editor or an associate producer at a mid-level position. But my long-term dream is to become an executive producer. They usually have their own show that they wrote and created. Ultimately, they have a say in every aspect of the show. Something I wish for is more people of color in the industry. Even on this show, 60% of the directors of every episode, which were different, were female which I think is pretty cool.
Tasnin: Any other advice for other twenty somethings?
Shanel: It’s hard when you are in your twenties and you don’t have anything figured out, you’re not making the money you want, or getting opportunities you want. But stay persistent and stay positive. There are so many difficult moments I had at my internship, first job, and even on this job where I’m like “I can’t do this anymore, I can’t work in this field it’s too tough, I don’t have the personality.” So many days I wanted to quit on the spot, but I didn’t. I just moved up by learning from difficult situations and personalities. It is so important to keep pushing and keep that little goal in mind because it really will bring you to where you are meant to eventually be.
Hopefully a few words from a fellow twentysomething climbing her way up the ranks provides you with a little bit of sweet relief and inspiration. Take it from Shanel, and rest assured - you aren’t alone. It’s okay not to have it all figured out, but nonetheless, there is beauty in the process.