How I became an associate producer for 'Dancing with the Stars'
Natalie Casper gets to see ideas come to life on live television for millions to see.
Television production may not have been her original path, but after joining a student-run production at her college, Natalie Casper knew she had found her calling.
Now, at 24, Casper has been working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles for three years, two of which have been spent working on shows like NBC’s The Voice and her current role as an associate producer and executive assistant for Dancing with the Stars.
“The most rewarding part of my job is seeing everything from pre-production—the casting decisions, the set changes, the brainstorming meetings for creative themes—come to life on live television,” she says. “It's amazing to see something that was once an idea written on a white board being broadcast to millions of people across the country.”
Casper originally entered college as a writing and literature major, but after working on Emerson College’s EVVYs show in Boston, which is essentially a student version of the Emmys, she fell in love with television.
“I loved seeing people with such different talents working together for a common goal, and I loved the adrenaline rush of producing live television,” she says. She graduated in 2012 with a degree in media production and management.
How she got into the field
Casper moved to Los Angeles as part of Emerson’s domestic study program during which she interned for the production company behind NBC’s The Voice for her last semester of school. Casper explains she stayed in touch with an alumna from her school who ended up working on the show as an executive assistant at the time, and she asked about their internship program.
“I could not have asked for a better first experience in the television industry,” she says. “Having the opportunity to be a fly on the wall at one of the biggest shows on TV was so inspiring.”
After being an intern on The Voice, Casper landed two gigs as a production assistant for The 39th Annual People’s Choice Awards and the Vanderpump Rules reunion show. She then worked as an executive assistant on The X Factor for 11 months before switching to work in music as an executive assistant at the Disney Music Group. Casper was always a fan of Disney and worked for the company for a little over a year before transitioning back into television.
What her typical day is like
Casper’s days are spent organizing the showrunner's schedule and roll calls, creating presentations for team meetings, collecting ratings data, assisting with VIP guests on show days, and helping the production team with whatever they might need. She is also the production liaison to the show’s judges, so she organizes their schedules, show paperwork and any travel bookings.
“On show days, I make sure my boss has everything he needs for his script meeting in the morning, and then I head over to the judges’ trailers to make sure they have everything they need when they arrive,” explains Casper. “I spend a few hours answering emails and last minute requests at my desk before dress rehearsal begins, and then it stays very busy until the show is over.”
During the actual show, Casper is stationed on set to help gather photos for social media and help in the show’s skybox, one of the show’s set locations where contestants receive their scores.
“On days when we aren't on the air, I'm rolling calls with my boss, gathering all wrap materials from the latest episode for our season wrap book, and preparing a new batch of paperwork for next week's show,” says Casper.
What skills she says are important
Casper says having the ability to adapt quickly to changes is one of the most important skills to possess in production.
“Things are constantly changing, and you have to be able to roll with the punches without getting frustrated or losing it,” she explains.
Additionally, Casper says you should know how to conduct yourself professionally in front of celebrities and high-level executives. This means knowing proper phone and email etiquette, such as professional greetings and using proper grammar, in addition to keeping your cool.
What she says is the biggest challenge
In television, sometimes the hardest part of your job can be your hours. Days can be extremely long and your inbox can continue to pile up late into the evening. Casper says learning how to balance your work schedule with your personal schedule is imperative to your sanity.
“Working in TV can make people behave frantically, and it's always refreshing to come across someone who stays calm, has a good attitude and remains friendly even when stressed,” she explains.
Her career advice
Casper’s most valuable advice for anyone interested in the entertainment industry:
“No matter what happens, be nice to everyone and never burn a bridge,” says Casper, noting that it’s important to handle challenges in a professional manner with a positive attitude.
“The entertainment industry is incredibly small, and you never know which colleague might go on to work for the company of your dreams.”
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