Thursday, June 18, 2009

3Questions: Glenn Meehan - TV Producer

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Glenn Meehan, a television producer and co-owner of UR-MEE Entertainment.

HBAD: So, tell us about yourself. Who are you, what do you do, what does that position involve?

GM: My name is Glenn Meehan and basically, what I do, is come up with ideas for TV shows. I run a production company, UR-MEE Entertainment with Michael Urie (Marc on Ugly Betty). Together, we are constantly looking for new projects, personalities, and ideas. My background is in news. So, I wake up each day and read five newspapers (three of them online) and I go to several websites looking for new ideas, trends, personalities. There are a lot of people out there all looking for the next big thing. You have to be first.

You need to be taking the pulse of America everyday. I go to the bookstore once a week to see what’s on display, what people are buying, etc. I have a sales person at my local Barnes and Noble who I’ve befriended. She loves to tell me the new “hot” book of the week. One of the best bosses I’ve ever had, Roger Ailes, the brain behind Fox News, would ask me, “What is America talking about today?” I hear his voice every morning as I comb through the newspapers. Say all you want about Roger’s politics (disclosure: I’m a liberal) but he made Fox News number one.

You have to come up with several new ideas a week and hope one of them will sell. You have to believe in each project and personality. I had two mentors in this business, Chet Collier and Jack Reilly. Chet discovered Regis, Merv Griffin and Jack was my first boss at Entertainment Tonight. Both of them taught me that TV is all about personalities. Concepts come and go, but without a personality attached, you really don't have a show. ET is a great concept, but can you imagine the show without Mary Hart?

Michael and I have many personalities in development. You never know when you might hear about someone. I went to hear Obama speak at the First AME church in Los Angeles. He talked about his "good friend" Hill Harper and his books. I knew Hill as an actor but didn't realize that he had a book out. On the way home, I went to the bookstore and purchased Letters to a Young Brother. I was talking to his manager the next day. Hill is a "bigger than life" personality. He speaks to a whole lot of kids out there that feel like no one is listening them or no one cares. I believe that this man should be on TV everyday with his own talk show. If I didn't go to hear Obama speak, I would have never of known about Hill's books.

I have fun everyday. I am so blessed to have met so many great people. I am fascinated by them. I don't need to have a "focus group" to tell me what is good and what isn't. I listen to my gut. I remember where I came from. Too often Hollywood forgets about the rest of the country and creates TV for themselves. That is why we fail so often.

HBAD: How did you get your start?

GM: I went to the best possible college I could, Emerson College in Boston. Emerson is an incredible place. I still use the skills that the professors taught me in TV classes. Emerson has an incredible group of Alumni. After I graduated, I came to LA to visit relatives. I had a list of Alumns and called them. One of the people on the list was Director Jeff Goldstein. He was the top TV director doing Game Shows. He was working on Dream House, a game for NBC. I went to visit him, during lunch, and the production coordinator, Heidi Cain, asked me if I wanted a job. I said yes. I was working there the next week.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to become a television producer?

GM: 1) Always trust your gut. Take risks. If you are going to play it safe in Hollywood, you'll get nowhere. We all fail. I've have had my share of shows get canceled. I don't look at any of them as a bad experience. I met some wonderful people and I learned a lot. Often you learn more from your failures than your successes.

2) It's all about relationships. Remember everyone! Stay in touch with people. Be there when they need you, they'll be there when you need them. With email, there is no excuse for not touching base with someone. If you read in the trades that someone you know got a new job or sold a script, make sure that you are there congratulating them!

3) Be nice to the assistants. I am amazed how some people treat assistants in this town. They decide whether your phone message goes on top of the pile or in the waste can. I have known so many assistants who are now agents, producers, etc. It is so nice when they tell me how nice I was to them when they were working for someone else.

4) READ READ READ. Newspapers are folding. It is so sad. This is the only way to figure out what tomorrow's trend is going to be. Pick up magazines. Read them on line. Read the need to know what is going on at all times. You don't want to be out pitching a show the day that MTV announces the same thing. You'll have egg on your face. Knowledge is power.

5) We have to remember that are our work influences a lot of people. We have to accept responsibility for what we put on air. I still feel that we have the power to change lives... make sure all of your work doesn't make fun or hurt anyone. You can do TV that makes a difference.

6) Have fun. Too often we take ourselves in Hollywood too seriously. We are not out to find a cure for cancer. If the staff and crew is having a good time, that usually translates to the viewers. Remember, it's only TV.

7) Always say "nice to see you" when you greet someone, even if you feel you've never met. I was walking into a meeting at Disney and I said to the person I was meeting, "Nice to meet you." He said, "Oh, we've met before, you interviewed me for a talk show but you didn't hire me." I don't remember the rest of the meeting.

8) Dress nicely for a meeting. There is no such thing as over dressing. I am amazed how many people come to job interviews look like they just came from a play date at the local park.

9) EMAIL AND FACEBOOK. I interviewed a girl for a pilot that I was doing at PBS. She was very nice. I looked at her resume after she left and I read her email address... it was "sassypants.” Needless to say, I didn't hire her. I couldn't turn that resume over to the heads of PBS. Emails are free. Get a work email and a "sassypants" type address for your friends. I google everyone that I am thinking of hiring. I just want to know about them. The stuff that I often see on Facebook and Myspace sometimes is a little over the top. Look, I’m no angel, but remember, everyone can now peak into your world.

10) Pass it on... Jeff Goldstein gave me my start. I will forever be grateful to him. I once said to him, "How can I thank you?" He replied, "Just do the same thing for someone out of college...give them their first job. That is how you can repay me."

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