I am pleased to kick off my series of interviews on creative careers, beginning with Peter Gordon. Peter has enjoyed a career of over twenty-five years in creative work, including television, theater, journalism and creative writing. He is currently an executive with a media production company and blogs about creativity at www.myprogramidea.blogspot.com. Thank you, Peter, for talking with us!
CM: What is your title (formal or informal)?
PG: I am currently Vice President and Executive Producer for Armada Sports & Entertainment.
What kind of creative work do you do?
I’m a television producer and in the past headed programming for networks, local stations, and production companies. I’m also a published journalist and poet.
How long have you been doing this kind of work?
I’ve been involved in arts all my life. I received an MFA in theatre directing from Carnegie-Mellon and directed in New York and regional theatre before working in television.
Why did you decide to leave that [theatre] career?
I wanted a creative career with more regular hours where my work was able to reach more people.
What or who has been your inspiration in your creative work?
I’m inspired by everything — you have to bring life into your work.
What did you do to prepare yourself for this type of creative work?
I enjoyed reading, going to theatre, and watching movies since I was young. I was lucky to grow up in New York City and have access to great live theatre. I admired the work I saw and hoped to be able to create it one day.
The best preparation for a creative career is to create things. You’ll make a lot of mistakes, but eventually you’ll learn how to do it.
What was your first job in the business you are in now?
My first job in television was as a legal secretary for NBC.
Do you indulge in other types of creative work or play?
My poems have been published in some publications. I am also a member of two writers groups. I play guitar and harmonica for fun, and when I want people to leave me alone.
Did you know what your “career path” would look like in this creative arena? If not, how did you figure it out?
I didn’t know what the career path would be when I started. I learned by watching and speaking with people in the business that I admire and seeing how they got where they are.
Was there someone who showed you the ropes in this line of work?
There were many generous people who mentored me througout my career. I would say that my biggest influence was my boss at the Golf Channel, Bob Greenway.
People often think creative careers are unstable. What has your experience been?
I was fortunate to work at one network, Golf Channel, for almost 15 years. But that is the exception. Even at the network level, most creative producers move around. The creative life is inherently unstable, but then, so are many other lines of work these days. As one of my actor friends put it, “you can get laid off by a bank or GM as easily as a theatre. Where do you want to work?”
Was there a turning point or an “aha” moment when you realized you could make it in this line of work?
It was when I got hired as the Assistant Manager of Programming for Cinemax. Over 100 people applied for the job and they picked me.
What is the downside, if any, to this career choice?
The hours aren’t regular. Sports programming in particular is a weekend job, and requires a lot of travel. It’s very difficult to put the work aside and just relax — you’re always thinking about your projects, even when you’re sleeping.
What do you love most about your work?
It’s very difficult to put the work aside and just relax — you’re always thinking about your projects, even when you’re sleeping. And when you’re done, you’ve created something that hadn’t existed until then.
What advice would you give someone who would like to do what you do?
Start doing it immediately. Get a liberal arts degree so you learn how to learn and explore all different kinds of media. Get an entry level job doing anything on a production or at a network, ask questions, and learn. Even before you get a powerful position in the business, keep a notebook or file with stories you want to tell.
Remember that today, there are no gatekeepers. If you believe in your story, you can take it directly to the people via the internet.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing from Peter as much as I have. His last point in particular really resonated with me, as we (and many others) are illustrating this through our blogs, Twitter, YouTube and other social media. Hear more from Peter on:
Peter’s blog: www.myprogramidea.blogspot.com.