Like anyone who is now growing and finding success in their field, there was a time in their lives where their dream was only a vision and they had to learn how to build their goals.
I've been receiving a lot of requests asking me to explain how I got into hosting. It's a thrill to be able to share my journey with every aspiring host out there. Trust me, I was once in your shoes. Still, to this day, I'm always seeking the advice of FAR more accomplished hosts than I, so someday I can reach their level as well. Success is a process and constantly learning is a requirement for that journey.
So, to each of you who have asked me to give some tips and explain my path: I commend you for even taking the first step and reaching out to someone you can learn from.
DISCLAIMER: Let me take a second to say that I'm no where near the level of success I want to be at in my field. While I've added a lot of lines to my resume, I still have a far way to go. But, I think I can teach you a thing or two anyway. So, let's dive in.
So you have this brilliant idea to become a TV host, now what?
Honestly, good question. Hosting is a career that doesn't have a clear trajectory. For lawyers, they get an undergrad degree, study for and pass the LSAT, go to law school then pass the Bar. For us, our routes can vary greatly from person to person.
For me, I knew I wanted to do lifestyle, travel or entertainment hosting. So, that's what I focused on. Once I got accepted to a school that offered a reputable broadcast journalism program, the University of Southern California, I dove head first into building my hosting credits.
At USC, I signed up and volunteered for every on-campus show I could find. Luckily for me, USC has an amazing student television station that housed numerous shows that required hosts. For my first year, I served as a producer on two of those shows. Then, by my junior year, I became a correspondent and senior producer for the live, entertainment talk show. And, by my senior year I was the Executive Producer and host for the show.
It took me three years to get to the point that I wanted to be at with that show, but to this day those three years are what have offered me some of the best lessons on becoming a host that I've ever gotten.
My advice to you is to find programs like this and devote yourself to them. Once you find one, work tirelessly to build a reel. This reel probably won't be any good... AT FIRST.... and that's ok.
Newbie hosts will quickly discover that the role of host isn't as easy as it seems. You will have to overcome stage right, learn to control the pitch and tone of your voice, develop strong interviewing skills and become a master at stand ups and live reporting. It's not easy. If you were to go back and look at some of my first reels you would be greeted by overly orange fake spray tans, a high pitched voice and a jittery presentation. It takes time, but with the years you will grow into yourself and become comfortable on camera. I promise.
So, find a program or a show you can join - even if it's at a lowly assistant position at first- stick with it and build a reel out of it. Go to as many events, red carpets, premieres etc. that you can and always film a standup and a close at each one. PRO TIP: Say your name in every standup... this will be helpful when building your future reel.
What if a school program isn't an option for me?
Ok, so obviously hosting while at college is a clear way to build yourself as a starter host. But, what if you don't go to college or your University doesn't have these opportunities? Don't fret.
If opportunities aren't available to you, make them yourself. Luckily thanks to the digital age we live in, we have endless tools at our fingertips to produce our own shows and videos. These videos, even if no one watches them, can be used to build your first reel. Here's how to do this:
1) Come up with a show concept - what will you talk about? Music? News? Politics? Doesn't matter... just choose a niche and stick to it. Mine was entertainment, hence the whole Lights, Camera, Kate! theme.
2) Buy equipment- Yes, I know we're all poor, starving artists, but I can't tell you how necessary it is to invest in some equipment.
- You can use the video from your iPhone starting out, or you can buy any type of camera that has both audio and video capabilities. I own a Nikon D3500, but that's a legit camera that took me years to afford. So, smaller options are totally fine too.
- If you don't have a super cute apartment or house you can use as your "set", buy a green screen. Green screens are on Amazon for as cheap as $20. I bought a green screen, backdrop support system, and some clamps to tighten the green screen. I started hosting my videos just in my bedroom to give it a relaxed, personable style, but if you are looking to use your self-made videos for your reel, I'd heavily suggest using a green screen and editing in a background instead.
- AUDIO IS KEY- If your video doesn't sound good, future employers and casting directors won't take you seriously. So, invest in a lav-mic that connects to your camera and then is fastened to your clothes to pick your voice up without echo from the surrounding room.
- And of course, you have to learn to edit. I personally use Final Cut Pro X, which I LOVE, but there are other editing softwares out there you can play around with like iMovie or Adobe Premiere as well. Buy the program and use YouTube or take a course to learn how to use it.
3) Share your videos with the world- Promote, promote and promote some more. If you can get a following of people who enjoy the videos you produce and star in, then all the better. Casting directors and employers love to see that a host can bring their own, already developed audience over to any show they're casting/hiring for. So, make good use of social media and make sure all your videos are hosted on a nice, little website like mine (I use SquareSpace).
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE HIRED BY A SHOW TO START BUILDING A REEL AND PRODUCING CONTENT. Make your own content.
Yay! You have a reel! What's the next step?
Ok, so you've worked tirelessly to make a reel and get some content to show to employers. Nice work! Now you need to start getting some gigs to make an even better reel and get hired by even more people. I mean, that's the goal right? Obviously.
Here's what you need to do: if you live in L.A. or any big casting hub, sign up for Actors Access, L.A. Casting, Casting Frontier and Backstage Casting. Check these sites daily for open hosting positions and submit your reel etc. to them.
If you don't live in an area where casting is prevalent, sign up for and search local job listings for any employers that are hiring a host/reporter/anchor/spokesperson. I use Indeed.com and they email me daily with open host positions. Other great options are tvjobs.com, LinkedIn and Craigslist. Be diligent and search often.
Let's Talk Agents
It took me years before I got my first agent and still my agent today is geared more towards acting, rather than hosting. Once you get to the point where you have a solid resume and updated reel, you can start submitting yourself for representation to agencies.
Go to Google, type in "top host, broadcaster, on-camera or reporter agents" and start contacting them. Send them a brief bio about yourself saying you're seeking representation, along with your headshot, reel and resume. Short and sweet is best. Some agencies have other specific things they'll want you to send, but all that can be found on their website.
Don't be discouraged if you don't hear back for weeks, or at all. This world is competitive and an agent may not be interested in you simply because they already have too many people your age, or with your same hair color, on their roster. It isn't always personal. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be sending them your best materials- it just means you shouldn't beat yourself up if you don't hear back.
Practice Makes Perfect
Another tool that helped me grow into myself as a host was hosting classes. I studied first with Marki Costello for a year and then Suzanne Sena after that, both in L.A. These classes will teach you how to handle a teleprompter, what it takes to conduct a good interview, how to deal with a co-host or panel discussion and so much more. Find a class like these in your area and I promise you'll come out ten times more prepared and confident.
- Build your social media! Sadly, today, casting directors will hire a host with more followers over one with more skills. Welcome to the real world. So, constantly work on your Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and so on. It's practically a full time job in itself.
- NETWORK- I mean, this is self explanatory. The first job in college I got was at The Discovery Channel and I got it by being talkative with the man standing next to me on a red carpet. My "thing" is to pass out at least 5 of my business cards to people at any event I attend. Hate to say this, but often it really is who you know.
- Build a website- Your site will serve as your portfolio and will be an easy, compact little link you can send over to anyone who's interested in hiring you.
- Develop your writing skills- I know hosts who have been hired for on-camera gigs because they can write, not because they were the best host in the room. Employers want someone who can do it all.... so, do it all.
Ok, so those are my top tips to becoming a host! Now, I'll tell you a bit about my background and journey.
I'm originally from a small town in Michigan and grew up acting and writing. When it came time for me to choose a college major, I decided to combine those two loves and came up with the idea to become a broadcaster. So, after a year as a journalism major at Michigan State, I applied to the top broadcasting school, USC, and to my shock, I got in.
I moved to L.A. to go to USC and while there, was very involved in our student TV station and news outlet. Through the years I was a host, reporter and anchor for the school platforms.
While at USC, I also interned in entertainment, reporting, writing and production for The Discovery Channel, E! News, E! Online, The Hollywood Reporter and more.
After graduating, I chose not to move to a small town to pursue hard news reporting. Coming from a small town, the appeal just wasn't there anymore. So, I stayed in L.A. and decided to take a risk and not get a full time job, but pursue hosting full time instead.
I got numerous side gigs to afford staying in L.A. - everything from bartender to babysitter- and went on countless auditions in the meantime. During the two years since I've graduated, I've landed a role as a host for an ABC syndicate show, have hosted for dozens of outlets including AARP the Magazine and InStyle Magazine and have done more day gigs than I can count for places like Zip! Japan (yes you can see my face on the news in Japan).
When I'm not hosting, I'm now the Creative Director and Editor-in-Chief of a media agency in Santa Monica called Red Cup Agency. I've also started acting and modeling more because luckily, hosting is a field where you can easily explore other avenues.
Well, that's the short version of my story, hopefully some of my tips will help you with your path. Leave me a comment or message me on Instagram if any of you reading this need more help. And just remember, gaining success in this field takes a lot of hard work and time. Don't be discouraged if you are not at the same level that some of your peers might be, everyone has their own path that takes their own time.