In his career as a producer and talent agent, Jorge Insua (@JorgeInsua) has worked for the #1 talk show on English-language television (The Oprah Winfrey Show), the #1 talk show on Spanish-language television (The Cristina Show), and the #1 talent agency in the world (Creative Artists Agency, the Los Angeles shop known for representing the entertainment industry’s greatest innovators). Presently, Insua is president of marketing and development of Cristina Saralegui Enterprises (CSE) the global entertainment empire helmed by Cuban television icon Cristina Saralegui.
1. How did you get started in the industry? How can someone who is interested in your work get started?
I started out as an intern right out of college with “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” I moved from Cleveland, OH after graduating from John Carroll University to Chicago for my internship. (He interviewed the talk show host as part of a senior project — after pursuing her publicist relentlessly for seven months. Winfrey was so impressed with his perseverance, she offered him an internship.) For six months I got “paid in experience” and did EVERYTHING that was asked of me WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE. I got coffee, would have to go up to the 11th floor of the WLS building (the ABC affiliate in Chicago) to do Diet Coke runs for all of the producers, I answered phones, and got everyone’s lunches. As a result, I became the intern who never went home. At the end of my 6 month internship, I was hired by Oprah to work for Harpo Inc. and stayed for 7 years working my way up the production ladder.
I would totally suggest that anyone interested in a career in broadcasting start by getting an internship. Not only does it show you the intricacies of the business but it may also show you that what you think you wanted to do in the business, may actually not be for you.
2. What do you think is the future of your industry?
I think there will always be jobs in broadcasting–whether it be in television, cable or the web.
3. What do you look for when you hire an intern or entry-level candidate?
You want someone with a good attitude. Someone who knows they are there to learn and pay their dues. Someone who is a go-getter and someone who is eager to learn.
4. What is one thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression?
Do everything that is asked of you with a smile on your face. No one wants to be around someone who is constantly complaining. I always knew that my “job” as an intern was to make the jobs of those around me easier without drawing too much attention to myself. If anything, the kind of attention you want to attract is that you are a team player, that you will go the extra mile, that no job is beneath you. People are totally observing you and seeing what kind of person you are. You want to make yourself so indispensable that at the end of your internship, they will want to hire you.
5. Can you share a positive internship story, and a horror story? No names needed…
Well I think the positive is obvious. I was hired by Oprah, put on her payroll and spent the next seven years working my way up the production ladder from receptionist, to mail room, to production assistant, assistant audience coordinator, audience coordinator, associate producer and finally producer!
My worst intern horror story has got to be one afternoon going to get lunch for the producers at McDonalds in the dead of winter in Chicago. I had to walk 8 blocks in the snow to get everyone their lunch. And, of course, people couldn’t just order off the menu–people had special requests (Big Mac with no lettuce, cheese burger with extra cheese, filet o fish with extra sauce–you get the picture.) I got everyone’s food and walked the 8 blocks back in the snow. As I was giving everyone their orders, there was one producer who did not get her hot apple pie (they had forgotten to put it in the bag.) So, I asked the producer, “would you like me to go back and get your pie?” Thinking in a million years would she make me walk BACK in this weather…guess what she said? “That would be great! Thank you Jorge.”
And, so I had to go back out and get that damn apple pie. I never forgot that. And, because the world works the way that it does…fast forward 15 years and I am now a motion picture talent agent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA–the largest talent agency in the world) and who ends up sending me an email to see if I could help her son who was interested in a career in acting??? You guessed it…the apple pie producer. I’m proud to say I took the high road and did what I could for her son.
People love their apple pie Amazing journey Jorge, hope you keep that photo on your desk! Interns, leave your favorite internship stories in the comments below.