Internship Experiences

Melissa Jordano, Class of 2014
Crybaby Media, New York
Summer 2012

Interning at Crybaby Media in midtown Manhattan this past summer was an exciting and educational experience. The company, which was founded by Danny Passman in May of 2010, is a full-service creative development and packaging firm. More specifically, they create, cast and sell reality TV shows, help producers and production companies cast and sell their shows, cast talent for TV networks, help non-fiction talent help build their brands and provide creative consulting for other companies. Since its origin, the company has sold several shows, including Hook, Line & Dinner, which was just signed for its third season on the Cooking Channel, Keasha’s Perfect Dress, which is a series in production on Slice in Canada and Bulloch Family Ranch, which just started production for GMC. As Crybaby Media is still in it’s early stages, it was extremely exciting to see the dynamic of a start-up and to experience the company at a time when it is really starting to take off and gain momentum. While I was there this summer, the company sold several shows to production companies and received casting assignments from various networks, which I am not allowed to name because of confidentiality agreements. The company comprises of Danny Passman, the President and Founder and Bryan Severence, a member of development team. I worked in a one-room office that overlooks Madison Square Park with Danny and Bryan, and from the experience I learned a tremendous amount about the entertainment industry and important lessons about how to conduct business and be a thorough researcher.

Working at Crybaby Media was exciting because each day brought new opportunities and challenges. My duties were ever changing, but most of my tasks revolved around researching, interviewing and writing treatments and other documents. My research can be broken down into several different forms: For one, Danny would instruct me to research and find people for shows that the company was developing.  Examples include searches for cowgirls, businesses run by sisters, and high-end costume shops run by over-the-top characters. Danny also encouraged me to do my own searches in areas that I was interested in. For these kinds of searches, I would research people that fit the description that Danny provided me. I would then mass email hundreds of people asking them if they fit the description and if reality TV was something they were interested in. Out of the hundreds of people that I emailed, I would get responses from about a quarter of them, and then it was my job to conduct an initial interview. I would set up a time for a phone call to get a sense of their personalities and to gauge their interest and potential for reality TV. At first I was nervous to conduct interviews and I doubted my ability to decide who would be a good fit for reality TV, but after the first few phone calls, I became confident in my ability to judge someone’s fitness for being a reality TV personality.  Bryan helped me with the first few to give me a sense of what questions I should be asking, and his advice to simply go with my gut feeling was one that aided me well. Phone calls usually lasted around twenty minutes if the candidate was promising, and afterwards, if I had a good sense about the person I had talked to, I would set up a Skype session with them so that they could meet Danny, Bryan and me. If I was on the fence about the person I had talked to, I would send them an email with some questions aimed at really pinpointing what aspects of their lives would be most interesting for TV, and then I would review their responses with Danny and Bryan. Skyping the potential talent was always fun, mainly because Danny is amiable with a large personality and has a way of instantly connecting with anyone he meets. The Skype sessions would be recorded, and afterwards, if all went well, Bryan would edit them down into casting tapes to shop around to production companies.

In addition to working on project ideas that originated from our company, I would work on assignments that production companies and networks asked us to work on. For example, a major network asked us to research interior designers who specialize in wacky designs (think those that you would see on 4 Houses), and the production company, Fishbowl, asked us to research private autopsy services. The process for researching and interviewing was the same for these kinds of research projects. A third kind of research I did was compiling stories, images and videos that could be assembled into making a package for a show to be sold to networks. For instance, I worked on assembling stories, images and videos of people who have obsessions with celebrities. I found a story of one man who had 15 Miley Cyrus tattoos, a girl who made a YouTube shrine for Justin Bieber, and a couple who had an elaborate Twilight themed wedding and changed their last name to Cullens, just to name a few. I worked on this my last week of work, and Danny is already pitching the idea to production companies. Another project I worked on was assembling videos for a show about young adults who are part of wacky subcultures that their parents do not approve of.  The premise of the show is that the child will bring his parents to a convention/concert/festival and try to change his parents’ minds about his lifestyle. After compiling clips from YouTube of alternative events like Burning Man, The White Party and steampunk conventions, they were sent to a production company that edited the clips into a sizzle tape for the show. Danny emailed me yesterday saying that a network has purchased the show idea, which is very exciting to hear.

Interning at Crybaby Media was an eye-opening experience that taught me a lot about the reality television industry and important lessons about conducting business. I learned about the relationships between production companies, networks and development agencies, like Crybaby Media. Before working at Crybaby Media I had never heard the term sizzle tape and I did not know how long and arduous it is to sell a show. Hearing Danny’s conversations with talent, lawyers, production companies and networks made me realize the complexity involved in creating a show. I learned that the process is sometimes a slow one that has many setbacks and challenges. For instance, Danny and Bryan had partnered with a production company and created a sizzle tape for a show about men who scoop dog poop for a living, and after many months of negotiation, the network passed on the show.

Aside from logistical lessons, I learned about conducting business. I learned to trust my instincts when it comes to interviewing people and to be confident in my abilities. I also learned the value of casting a wide net when researching. Whenever I ended an email or phone call I asked whoever I was talking to if they knew anyone else who fit the profile I was looking for or might be good for reality TV. This method of casting a wide net led me down some interesting paths, and I discovered a lot of interesting talent that may not have fit our initial description, but was better than what we could have dreamed up.  This approach of casting a wide net comes from Danny’s philosophy of “taking every meeting.” Each day was packed with meetings, and some proved to be nothing more than encounters we laughed about and shook our heads at, and some turned out to be great networking opportunities.

Another lesson I learned was to have good follow-up skills. Scheduling meetings to fit around people’s hectic lives was difficult, and in order to make these phone calls and Skypes actually happen, I had to be organized and have good follow-up skills. A final lesson I learned was that while it is important to be diligent and focused, it is also important to have fun. Reality television is an exciting industry and I now see that many of the people in this industry not only cast big characters but are big characters themselves. There may be more serious firms out there, but I appreciate Danny’s fun and candid approach in building strong relationships with talent and other workers in the industry.

All in all, the internship was an incredible experience and I would highly recommend it for a JHU student who is interested in working in television. Danny and Bryan are helpful and kind and Danny has extensive connections within the industry and says he is always happy to help students break into the industry. The internship is rather unstructured, so a student should expect to do a lot of independent work, and for the student to get the most out of the experience he/she should have initiative. Each day presented a new task, and I loved the unpredictable nature of the job. I enjoyed the freedom and trust that Danny gave me and his periodic feedback about my job performance was extremely helpful. 

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