Media, Darling: Mackay Taggart

Mackay Taggart lives for early mornings, if for no other reason than the excessive napping they permit.  After getting his start as a high school radio intern and part-time traffic reporter, Taggart headed east to attend university.   
After four years in Halifax, Taggart graduated with a Political Science and International Development Studies degree from Dalhousie University. He returned to Toronto as the evening and weekend talk show producer at NEWSTALK 1010 CFRB
In 2008, Taggart took a year-long hiatus from Canadian radio to work in Sierra Leone with the NGO Journalists for Human Rights.  Upon his return from Africa, Taggart rejoined the team at NEWSTALK 1010 to co-produce Moore in the Mornings with John Moore and serve as the Assistant Program Director.  
In the spring of this year, Taggart left radio to help produce The Morning Show with Liza Fromer, which debuted on Global this fall. The Morning Show airs weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. 


Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
The short answer: Yes. I’ve always been a news junkie and always wanted to be a part of the action. The beauty of working in news media is that you feel like you work in whatever field is dominating the headlines that day – politics, finance, sports, entertainment – it’s always changing.  I studied political science in university and used to think that I might want to work in diplomacy…little did I know, working with TV talent often requires more diplomacy than any other type of career.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’d like to still be working in a capacity where I get to be creative and inventive in my role. I love working in Toronto media, though I’ve often thought of one day going abroad and seeing another part of the world through a journalistic lens. 

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Reach out to people. You’d be amazed how easy it is to get access to some of the top people in the field simply by picking up the phone and asking people to lunch. If your objective is simply to pick someone’s brain, you’ll rarely encounter resistance. The key to having a successful career in media is being smart, being curious and being engaged. All the other skills will fall into place. 

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Tough question! There are a lot. I tend to get great local ideas from talk radio.  I pick up the magazine Monocle for the production value and the aesthetics. I find online news aggregators like The Daily Beast really helpful, and I rarely let a Sunday go by without watching 60 Minutes and downloading the latest podcast of the public radio program This American Life

Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
I had the chance to interview a lot of Canadian athletes while covering the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  Their passion, enthusiasm and dedication was inspiring.  You’re going to have to get a couple beers in me if you want to hear about the worst!

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Work hard and play hard.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Know the show/outlet you’re pitching. Don’t simply go on the website, consume the product and pitch accordingly. Be short, be direct and don’t be afraid to follow up.  

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
There have been many – usually involving last minute requests and great executions on the part of publicists.  Most recently, I remember we had a high-profile guest bail at 9 p.m. from the next day’s The Morning Show. I happened to be out at an event when I got the last minute email stating the cancellation. A couple of minutes later, as luck would have it, I ran into Michelle Lewis of Fleishman-Hillard. I began venting about our drop out and within 15 minutes, she had two or three great back-up guests standing by. Not sure if I mentioned it to the rest of our production team, but she was definitely the one who saved the show that day.

I hate?
Hearing my alarm go off at 2:15 a.m. every weekday (worst part of working in morning television).

I love?
Fresh powder on a ski day.

Reading?
A bio on former Pan-Am CEO Juan Trippe – a fascinating look into a business icon, but I’ll be honest: I was inspired by watching the cheesy TV series. 

Best place on earth?
Lamu Island, off the coast of Kenya.

Dinner guest?
Don Hewitt, creator of 60 Minutes.

Hero?
My dad is pretty awesome.

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)? 
Drink Owl.

Pool or ocean?
Ocean.

Voicemail or email?
EMAIL!!!!

Media, Darling: Bonnie Laufer-Krebs

I have been working in the entertainment/news environment for more than 25 years with extensive experience as an interviewer, executive producer, writer and reporter. Before taking a job at Tribute, I ran the entertainment department at Canwest/Global Television for 10 years.
I have been employed at Tribute Entertainment Media Group as executive producer, writer, interviewer and coordinator for Tribute TV since August 2000. For most of my career I have spent a great deal of time in airports. I travel the world (OK – mostly Los Angeles and New York) to interview some of the biggest stars in the entertainment business. When I am not traveling, I oversee production of weekly entertainment/movie segments, interviews and features for tribute.ca. I conduct all one-on-one interviews for exclusive web content and produce weekly entertainment radio spots for Z103FM radio. 
I am also a senior writer for all Tribute Publishing properties, which includes lining up interviews with some of the world’s biggest stars and directors. In addition I write, edit and produce promotional spots, produce and write numerous half-hour and varied length movie specials for web/ broadcast. Plus, provide interview content to various websites like msn.ca and Tribute affiliated sites.
I also coordinate, set up and conduct interviews every year for the Toronto International Film Festival.
I’ve been married to my husband Jeff for 23 years.We have two boys, Jared (15) and Ethan (19) who is just going into second year at Ryerson in the Radio and Television Arts program, following in my footsteps.

Bonnie with Andy Samberg.



@movi_boni


Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?

It’s funny. Throughout high school, my sights were set on was becoming an entertainment lawyer. When I went to university, I started taking media and television courses and changed my mind thinking a career in the media was my real destiny.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
After winning the lottery? On a beach somewhere. Really? Running my own freelance company – supplying interviews for my award-winning entertainment website.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Intern, intern, intern and be willing to WORK HARD. So many young adults come in expecting to meet Brad Pitt and George Clooney after working for two days. Be open minded, offer your help in any way you can. The more initiative you put in, the better the opportunities. Be open to criticism and never burn bridges! Learn how to create, design, develop a website. There is no doubt in my mind that having that experience under your belt will be invaluable.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
There are some great entertainment websites like IMBD, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter for research and movie info. I find the Internet the best place to look when I want to know what’s going on, or for research. Still, there’s nothing like a good magazine. I can’t live without my Entertainment Weekly and Vanity Fair

Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?

So many great interviews over the 25 years I have been talking to celebrities. Favorites that come to mind are Colin Firth, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Gary Oldman, Clint Eastwood, Colin Farrell and my very favorite has to be director Joel Schumacher. Having the opportunity to interview Joel for 90 minutes at a Toronto Film Festival over 10 years ago has to be one of the highlights of my career. He is just so honest and real. I still want to pen his biography if he’ll let me!

Worst: Chevy Chase for Christmas Vacation. Arrogant, pompous ass. Enough said. I’ll take Tommy Lee Jones any day.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
You work to live, you don’t live to work.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Don’t get stressed out (ha ha). Family is my NUMBER one priority. And count to ten before responding to emails that piss me off.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Please – I beg you – return my emails or phone calls. Even if you can’t help me out, just RESPOND!!!!

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
As I mentioned above, I have been producing and conducting interviews for 25 years. There are still some PR folk that I have been working with for the same amount of time, so it’s a comfort zone because we know each other so well and know what to expect from each other. 

The best PR pros (and YOU know who you are) are the ones who are honest with me. If they can’t accommodate a request, they are straight about it. No BS! The best PR pros are the one’s that will bend over backwards to help you out, call you back or return your emails. The best PR pros are the ones who understand what I need and know that I will do my very best to help them in return.

I hate?
When someone asks me for my information (what’s your circulation, where does your stuff air, etc.) over and over again. I gave it to you already. Can’t you keep this information in a file? If anything changes I will make sure you get an update. Sheesh!

I love?

My family. And, when I get upgraded on long flights for work. And, watching one of my favorite TV shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Reading?
Haven’t really had the time lately to dig into a good book, but I’m just in the middle of Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and The Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller. Before that I finished reading ROOM.

Best place on earth?
In Mexico, on vacation with my family during Christmas break.

Dinner guest?
Tough one, but I think having Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino over for dinner would be amazing. Can you even begin to imagine the stories?


Hero?
Wonder Woman. I can relate to her. 🙂

Favourite app? 
Google Sync, a great invention. And Blackberry Messenger.

Pool or ocean?
Pool.

Voicemail or email?
Email. No doubt about it.

 

Media, Darling: Paul Boynett

Veteran producer Paul Boynett has been working in the entertainment/television industry for over a decade. He got his start in the showbiz industry at Much Music, were he worked as an overnight tape operator, had a few editing and producing gigs at Much Music and StarTV, then finally settled at Bravo! as an Associate Producer. He is addicted to anything by The Beatles, Clash or Led Zeppelin, is a self-proclaimed Ontario craft beer expert and thinks that Jack White should produce every record made. 


Other fun facts about Boynett: opera makes him cry, he loves when Norah Jones goes country and he takes his single malt and blended Scotches seriously. 

With the bearded dragon (the lizard, not Boynett).
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
No. I was either going to be a screenwriter or an air traffic controller.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
On the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Don’t expect to start out doing what you want. I wanted to be a producer but when nothing was available I took an editing position. Although I wasn’t great at it, it gave me a better perspective on storytelling (I knew what worked and what didn’t) and when I did become a producer, I had a much better idea about how to do the job.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Setanta, HBO and anyone showing soccer. I am addicted to The Onion A/V club.  A must-visit site for pop culture junkies. I listen to NPR’s “All Songs Considered” and “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” (a very funny look at the week’s news headlines styled like a ’50’s quiz show).

Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
Stephen Colbert in Montreal was the best. I got to talk to him alone for about ten minutes while camera was setting up (this was about three months before he left The Daily Show to start The Colbert Report) and he told me a great story about how when he was growing up, he was embarrassed by the stigma of being from the south. So much so he tried to hide his accent when he went to college at Northwestern. A very, very smart guy – as all great comics are.


Wilford Brimley (the diabetes commercial guy) was the worst. He thought I mistook him for another actor (which I didn’t) and it became very awkward.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was an editor and got tense as deadlines approached, a senior editor told me never to panic – it always gets to air.


What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Never discuss politics with friends.

Never say something behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Don’t waste your energy reacting to someone who is nasty or negative.


What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Tell me why whatever it is you are promoting works for my show(s). With an email inbox that sometimes is bursting at the seams, it is easier if I know immediately why something is a good fit for us. 

Also, although my hair looks like Einstein’s, I am no genius. Sometimes there is an angle to a story or event that is not obvious to me, so show me.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.  
Anytime someone arrives at an interview with all the materials (clips, photos, etc.) I need to put my story together makes me happy. Having to follow up and wait for story elements is frustrating and sometimes means missed deadlines.


I hate?:
Waking up before 10 a.m.  Oh yeah, also, gardening.

I love?:  
Waking up after 10 a.m. Manchester City Football Club. My dogs. (Two Italian Greyhounds and a Chihuahua).

Reading? 
Among The Truthers by Jonathan Kay.

Best place on earth?
It’s a tie – Austin, Texas and Venice, Italy.

Dinner guest? 
Hero?
Hank Williams.


Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)? 
NPR App (is this sounding pretentious?).

Pool or ocean? 
Neither, I am deathly afraid of sharks and I hate chlorine.

Voicemail or email?
Email.

Media, Darling: Chris Perez

Chris Perez has been working in television for over a decade – and for the last five years as a producer for CTV and Canada’s top rated entertainment magazine show, etalk. Chris is usually found immersed in hours of tape, interviewing famous types or on the phone pushing publicists for “exclusive access.” He covers a wide range of beats, but his current focus is on special projects, the most recent being a backstage prime time special featuring Lady Gaga. 



Twitter: @lespanman , @eTalkCTV


What was your favourite class in high school? Why?
Grade 12 English. This is probably thanks to a certain Dead Poets Society/“Professor Keating” type named Mr. Geddes who gave me my first flash of passion for the arts and social science. From there on life outside a lab didn’t sound so bad.


How did you get your start as a producer?
I began my career as a hobby. An occasional co-op placement at a local community television station turned into a part-time volunteer ‘gig’, which evolved into actual paid work, which grew into an unexpected full-time job. I know people say it’s good to have a separate job and hobby. I say life is pretty awesome when you’d do your job for free! Just don’t tell my boss that.


If you weren’t a Media, Darling, what would you be doing right now?
Probably pursuing my side interest in Human-Computer Interaction and Sociology.


Pitching or follow up: Phone or email?
Emails give me time to think of ideas and speak to the ‘right people’ about making a story happen, so I prefer them for the initial pitch. Follow-up emails are good too, but once in a while it’s nice to put a voice to a name.


We know irrelevant pitches, calling you the wrong name and eight follow-ups are no-no’s; what else should publicists avoid doing?
It’s easy to dismiss a pitch because it’s too dense, doesn’t get to the point quickly or is too broad and doesn’t target me.  

An ideal publicist is direct, considers my audience and respects my objectives. Also, publicists who act as ‘middle-men’ and aren’t empowered on behalf of their clients are hard to work with. I prefer to deal with publicists who are organized, effective and are tightly connected with their clients so they can speak on their behalf.


Sunrise or sunset?
Mid day. 🙂


Scent?
Coconut.


Cookie?
Yes, please.


Flower?
Leaf? Mint. It’s gum, it’s tea, it’s anything you want it to be.

Ticklish?
Very.


Shower or bath?
Shower.


Film?
Lost In Translation.


Crush?
My fiancée, followed by Alicia Keys.


First job?
A half day of telemarketing when I was 16. The room was smoky and filled with cranky 40-year old men. I took an executive lunch and didn’t go back.


Inspiration?
The idea of learning something new and experiencing something new as often as possible.

TIFF’10: Media, Darling: Sholeh Alemi

Sholeh Alemi is a Senior Producer at Entertainment Tonight Canada, and the show’s Project Manager for the Toronto International Film Festival. She has managed ET Canada’s film unit for three years. Prior to her current show, she worked for a variety of programs and genres including Fashion Television, Doctor in the House, and the documentary series Women Behind The Badge.

When she isn’t producing stories from red carpets and movie sets, or interviewing Hollywood’s famous faces, she keeps busy with ballet, container gardening and learning Italian. This year she will be nine months pregnant at TIFF – and producing her biggest story yet!

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
By keeping it simple, clear and relevant to the show I am working on.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Publicists who “get it” and understand the needs of a TV crew so we all end up with a final product we can be happy about. Some of those needs include having enough time to set up to make it look good, having a location that is visually interesting, interviewing a person that is media savvy or media-trained, and having supplemental footage readily available in a timely manner to add more interest.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Not doing their research before coming to me with a story idea. We are all very busy people and it is important to know the show you are pitching to. For example – I work for ET Canada so if someone is going to pitch me an idea for the show there has to be a celebrity angle to it. If it doesn’t, it won’t be something that will air on my show. Pitching to me so that you can check it off your list is a waste of time for both of us and I’m less likely to pay attention next time.

Your pet peeve (pertaining to PR)?
Publicists who have never watched the show I am working on. I have worked on shows in the past that are harder to watch because they have been on specific channels, but my current show is on every night. PR people should be watching it fairly regularly if they want to come to me with story ideas. Watching once last year doesn’t cut it since things change.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
I work very closely with publicists and I couldn’t do my job without them. The best publicists, in my opinion, seem to have a thorough knowledge of media, are on top of their own client list, understand my needs and get back to me quickly.

Meet Our Client: Jennifer Podemski

Born and raised in Toronto, Jennifer Podemski began her career at age 10, and has since dedicated her life to the performing arts, film and television. Her big break came when she landed a supporting role in the screen adaptation of Margaret Laurence’s acclaimed novel The Diviners. Since then, she has appeared in numerous television series and stage productions, including a starring role in Bruce MacDonald’s Dance Me Outside and the TV series spin off The Rez (nominated for a Best Actress Gemini Award).



Podemski also owns and operates an independent production company, Redcloud Studios, where she writes, directs and produces. She is currently executive-producing the award-winning National Aboriginal Achievement Awards for the fifth consecutive year, just signed a book deal with Fitzhenry & Whiteside, and has a feature film in the works with The Canadian Film Centre (CFC).


She can currently be seen in her seventh season of Degrassi: The Next Generation and has a supporting role in Sarah Polley’s highly anticipated second feature film, Take This Waltz, co-starring Michelle Williams and Sarah Silverman.


What do you do?

I am an actor, producer and director.


How long have you worked with rock-it promotions?
I was one of their first clients (10 years)!


What do you love most about your job?
I love working with so many different kinds of talented people. I feel so blessed that I am surrounded by creativity and imagination.


What do you like the least about your profession/industry?
Having to watch my weight!


What’s your next big goal?
To spin my ass off, literally. I am counting down to a nude scene.


Why is PR important to you (and what you do professionally)?
It’s like a reference letter. If you’re in the paper, or if someone is interested in writing about you, it puts you in the public consciousness and could bring in new work.


Any other thoughts you want to share about your public relations experience?
I’m good at talking about other people who I believe in, rather than myself. That is why PR is so important. I am grateful for rock-it promotions and all they have done for me.



A little more from the fourth floor:
Website? www.mothering.com
Designer? Angela DeMontigny.
Store? Breds Custom.
Book? My Life So Far, Jane Fonda’s biography, had a profound impact on me.
Snack? Rice chips and hummus.
Season? Fall.
Sexy? Yes I am, thanks!
Inspiration? My baby girl Willow.
Drink? Water.
Motto in two words? PAY IT FORWARD.
Idea of perfect happiness? FEELING LOVED and GIVING LOVE every moment of every day.
Indulgence? Coffee.
Greatest achievement? My daughter.

*Full disclosure – our boss lady Debra and Jennifer have been best friends since childhood; however, their relationship as client/proprietor is strictly professional. Well, most of the time.

Photo credits: Nadya Kwandibens, Bengamin Stevens