We caught up with Shawn Palmer, a caption editor and videographer in Los Angeles and proud graduate of Specs Howard School of Media Arts. You may have seen him recently on television as a wedding guest on "Up All Night" or maybe as a bar patron on "Whitney" but Shawn is more then just an extra, he told Specs what it takes work in production.
- How did Specs Howard help prepare you for the workforce?
It really was “real life” experience. The hands on approach is the best method of learning in my opinion. Making sure you learn each aspect of production is has a big advantage. It means being able to know what you are being asked to do on a set, if you can accomplish it, the amount of effort it will take, and if it’s actually able to be completed in the time frame given. You will encounter out there people asking you to do outrageous tasks because they have never worked outside of their comfort zone, down in the trenches, and just expect miracles to happen. There really is no substitute for learning all aspects of production.
- Did you always know you wanted to work in media arts, or did you change career paths? If so, why?
I didn’t realize communications or broadcasting was actually a career until I was 26. I was drifting, doing basically nothing but working in the service industry in Kalamazoo while going to WMU part time. I found the communications program at Specs Howard online. It was close to my hometown and I came home to take tour. I saw how much hands on advantage they had and signed up. That was the beginning of a new chapter.
- How do you feel Specs Howard is different from other schools?
I was your above average student in grade school up until high school. That’s when I starting drifting a bit and not concentrating on school. I just wanted to have fun with friends. That went on for 7 years. Going nowhere. I needed a direction and Specs came up from nowhere. I can say for the first time in my life I was excited about school. I showed up early and stayed until they kicked us out. That had never happened to me before. For the first time in a long time I was interested in what I was working on. My first instinct was to go on radio. I have a bit of an anxiety issue and didn’t want the pressure of being on live TV. I got an internship at 94.7, got on the air with Uncle Buck to debate Pink Floyd or Led Zepplin, made pancakes from a can, and covered the Zepplin reunion in England live. You would think that would cement a career choice for me, but still wanted more. That would be the choice for a lot of people, but I’m more of a sports fan and wanted to be part of the action. Specs had that to offer. After trying my hand in radio, there was still opportunity to get my hands on the video industry. They let me take a camera out to events working our own projects. There was this invaluable experience of making your own decisions and creating your vision. There is something very self-satisfying about having an idea in your head, putting it to paper, and then having it come to life right in front of your eyes. It is an experience like no other. Specs really does offer you the tools, the question is what are you going to do with it? There are people who show up to Specs and just go through the motions. Then there are people who show up and take advantage of everything Specs has to offer. It truly is what you make it.
- What is your favorite part about your current career path?
My favorite part about this career choice is the vast opportunity it has to offer. You won’t see everything there is in our industry until you go out to LA. There are aspects of production I still have yet to discover. I fell into caption editing out here by chance and didn’t even know it was an option. My passion is being a part of production, and, to me, there is nothing more exciting than being there to capture an event. I worked for the Detroit Lions as their video intern for the 2008 season. I had my own locker in the locker room, shot practice for the film room, was able to traveled with the team. I was on the sideline for all 16 losses, ran prints during the game, and camera 2 for Detroit Lions Weekly. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Daunte Culpepper held the elevator for me before we signed him, that was a big deal at the time. I did well at my job and they brought me on for the 09 season in the broadcast department for four games. I went on to work for Shelby TV for four years, including two TV shows and all sporting events. I started a production company with a friend for a quick minute, making a TV pilot for Brewmasters and shooting a commercial we are still proud of today. Myself and three of my RTV-10-07 grads covered the Junior League World Series in Taylor from 08-10. I moved out to LA in August of 11 after exhausting all my resources in Michigan and since have been a background actor on 50 TV shows, one movie. PA on a Wale video, PA on “The Choice,” PA on several student films, and currently working full-time with benefits as a caption editor. There are 100 different productions going on here everyday. Completely different world from Michigan, but Specs gave me the tools to make it out in sunny California. One thing I will tell everyone about Specs and my choices is that it’s not too late. I don’t care how old or young you are, if you have the passion for broadcasting or production you will make it happen.
- What else would you say to someone who is considering classes at Specs Howard?
If you are looking for a fun career opportunity, Specs can train you for that, but you have to put in the time and effort. They will let you get your hands on the equipment to get you started in the industry. They are a great introduction into the industry, but ultimately it is up to you. If you have an interest in sports, radio, production, writing, music, or just about anything to do with media… you can find an outlet for it at Specs.
- If you hadn’t attended Specs Howard, where do you predict you would be?
Man, I don’t even want to think about it. I would probably still be slangin’ pizzas out of Hungry Howies or Papa Johns.
Best of luck to Shawn out west in "sunny California", and we hope to hear back real soon about his next big break!
If you would like to tell us your story go to our Alumni Update section of our site.