Ms. Shanelle Dennis works as a Production Assistant (PA)/Production Coordinator (PC) and has covered events from Broadway to the White House! She started her career at just 19 years old, working for the BET news network but just last year decided that she wanted to completely change her career path… Learn more about Shanelle’s story of “reinventing herself,” to achieve her dreams below…
You are always working and attending events all over… what exactly do you do and what is your role at these events?
I freelance in the field of TV and Film Production. Depending on the event, I typically serve as a Production Assistant or Production Coordinator.
A Production Assistant is responsible for assisting the Production Coordinator, Production Manager, and Producers with whatever they need in order to get the job done. There are several different departments that a PA can be confined to; I typically serve in the office. There, I assist the Production Coordinator with the management of petty cash, permit parking, and catering. I also work closely with the Line Producer assisting him/ her with Payroll and Per Diem.
A Production Coordinator is responsible for the set up and management of the location Production Office. This person secures street permits for parking and filming, manages petty cash, hires and manages a crew of Production Assistants, secures vendors, manages crafty and catering (meals and everyday items kept in the production office throughout the entire length of an event's production), the list goes on (lol).
You have worked on some pretty big events lately, please share some details regarding them.
In 2015, I worked a total of 8 televised special events and 2 corporate web broadcasts. The TV events that I worked on are:
In Performance at the White House: A Gospel Tradition
The National Memorial Day Concert
A Capital Fourth
In Performance at the White House (IPWH): American Creativity
The Mark Twain Prize Honoring Eddie Murphy
TED Talks LIVE on Broadway
Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Honoring Willie Nelson
The 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors
Out of all of these events my favorite was IPWH: American Creativity. This was a concert that we produced in the East Ballroom of the White House. Musical Guests included: Usher, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Smokey Robinson, Buddy Guy, and more. Besides the fact that it was the White House (I mean seriously, the WHITE HOUSE?!) it was an amazing experience because it was the first time that I saw the music that I identify with the most embraced among that type of crowd. There were people in suit and ties in the room that were seen singing along to “Hey-Ho” lol (A song entitled, "Cha, Cha, Cha," by recording artist MC Lyte). It was a surreal moment for me indeed.
When you are working these events, what does a typical day consist of? Please share details of your day's itinerary.
A typical day for me varies. However, for the most part I will start the day with ensuring that petty cash receipts are balanced, copied, and filed. From there, I check in with the Production Coordinator and Line Producer (If I am a PA) to see where we are on our list of things to do.
If I am a Production Coordinator tasks really depend on need. Each day will be different.
Please share some insight for someone who may be interested in getting into the TV and Film industry. What would you tell them, what insight would you share?
The biggest thing to know if you are trying to get involved in this industry is that no task is [should be] beneath you. This is definitely a "pay your dues" industry. I started when I was 19 working for BET Networks as a Digital Producer. Eventually, I made my way to NY and had some success there as well. However, In 2015 I decided to switch directions. I loved working in digital but I wanted to produce. I wanted to be the person responsible for your favorite TV shows and movies! So I had to tuck away my pride and start all over... from the bottom. No one cared about where I previously worked. To them I was a stranger; therefore I needed to prove myself just like everyone else. It took some humbling on my part for sure. However, when you finally have your "light bulb moment" and you realize what it is that you really want to do with your life, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes. Stay committed, make as many connections as you can, and work harder and smarter than you did the day before.
The one thing that has worked for me is that I never allowed myself to become confortable. People would tell me all the time to “make the best of your situation” but I ignored them. I knew that they just didn’t get it. I knew in my heart that I was meant for something far more fulfilling than the life I was living. I knew that the minute I allowed myself to become comfortable that I would start to diminish in spirit, ambition, and courage. So I didn’t allow it.
I prepared and planned for an opportunity that I didn’t even have yet. However, in my mind I knew it was coming (call me crazy lol). I cut back on expenses because I knew when my opportunity came I would need money to re-locate. I kept my resume and cover letter updated so that it was ready to go. I bought a new wardrobe of business casual attire. I even changed the signature on my email account to reflect my “new position.” I am not saying you have to go to the extreme that I did, but you have to see the opportunity first so that you are ready for it when it comes.
What are your ultimate goals in this industry? Some personal goals for the new year and what can we anticipate coming from you in this new year?
Ultimately, I would like to be a Producer or Line Producer where I will have a lot more control over the logistics and execution of a particular show. Recently, I just started working on an HBO late night series entitled “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”. So for 2016, my goal is to make as many new connections as possible so that hopefully when I leave this job in a year (when the series season has wrapped) I will have some leads that will take me into that next step up position.
Be sure to follow Shanelle and all of wonderful endeavors on Instagram at @_shanelle_ or feel free to add her on Facebook: Shanelle Dennis.
We KNOW this will not be the last that you will hear of her and we are excited for what is on the horizon!
Thank you, Shanelle for being the very first woman to be highlighted on “Women On The Grind!”
Pictured: Shanelle and some of the crew who worked an event hosted at The White House