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15 June, 2016

GusRam Productions: Talent Coach at Your Service

 Are you a professional sports anchor or analyst looking to get to the next level? Maybe a college student looking to make your reel as good as can be. I can help.

  As a producer and coordinating producer at ESPN for 20 years, I worked with, learned from and coached some of the best talent to ever do the job. From SportsCenter to Baseball Tonight to NBA Tonight and many other shows, I was in the control room for thousands of hours of live TV. I know what it takes for an anchor to prepare a show and to execute a show at the highest level. I've seen every situation imaginable and seen how dozens and dozens of anchors handled them. I am now offering my services as a talent coach, to help you sharpen your on-air skills and take your career to the next level. There's only so much you can learn in school. I deal with practical applications of the job.  Here's where I can help make you the talent you want to be:

  • highlight reading - go from generic to dynamic with my tutelage 
  • interviewing - learn the key components to being a great interviewer in any setting
  • script writing and presentation - writing for TV is a different animal. I'll make you better
  • handling breaking news and "on the fly" changes to your show
  • I can help you get inside the mind of a producer to better understand the producer/talent relationship

  • I can provide insight on what companies like ESPN look for when they are evaluating talent. 

Here's what some of those with whom I've worked have to say about my abilities:

Steve Levy/ESPN anchor: "always thought Gus wound up on the wrong side of the camera but that has given him a keen eye for talent...
he knows exactly what tv execs are looking for because he's lived it."

Kevin Negandhi/ESPN anchor: When I arrived at ESPN 10 years ago, Gus helped me understand what was important about a highlight- how do you make it informative and yet entertaining for the audience. His producing experience and TV background were two big assets in my growth as he gave me the perspective and honesty I needed to get better. Plus, the man loves Rocky and Dr. J as much as I do, that qualifies him for recognizing great talent.”

Rich Eisen/NFL Network host: "Without question Gus Ramsey is one of most talented producers I've ever worked with, certainly in terms of helping me communicate with humor and in my own voice. Best of all, he's a delight to be around. Twenty years after first meeting him, I still consider him a great friend and not just because he pays well for me to say that. If you have a chance to work with Gus, consider yourself lucky!"

Jayme Sire/ESPN anchor: "To put it simply: Gus is the best. He approaches coaching with such thoughtfulness, such insight, such professionalism. As someone who has worked in the business his whole career, he understands the ins and outs, the challenges, and what makes good TV."

Jay Harris/ESPN anchor: "I've known and worked with Gus for many years. At his core, he's a writer and a storyteller. That's the foundation of what we do as journalists. When I need another set of eyes on my work, I call him because he knows his stuff. And I trust him to tell me the truth."

Chris McKendry/ESPN anchor: “Gus understands what works on TV and can easily identify someone’s strengths and weaknesses.
Gus was one of the signature producers during Sportscenter’s Golden Era.  His sports intelligence and subtle humor left a formula that many others follow to this day." 

Chris Carlin/SNY anchor: "Gus provides terrific insight into my on-camera work, both as an anchor and a debater. He's able to not just critique the writing, delivery,  and expression of opinions, but he finds where a slight nuance makes all the difference between good and outstanding. I can't recommend him enough." 

John Buccigross/ESPN anchor: "You can trust Gus to make you better. A keen eye for detail and an excellent feel for what works on TV."

Lisa Kerney/ESPN anchor: "Our business is about storytelling and no one has a better vision and way of teaching that than Gus. His ability to channel talent strengths, deconstruct scripts to reveal more efficient and effective writing, and his passion and advice for highlight reads helped me grow tremendously in our time together at ESPN. "

Jonathon Coachman/ESPN anchor: "Gus understands at the absolute highest level what it takes to become an anchor...How to properly tell a story so everyone understands and is entertained. If you want to have a chance to be great, or simply a chance to make it in this business - Gus Ramsey is an asset that you should not move forward without working with..."

Kevin Connors/ESPN anchor: "A lot of people in TV can coach. Very few know how to teach. If you're serious about pursuing a career in television, you won't find a better teacher than Gus Ramsey. The creative, the funny, the serious, the'll learn how to use the right tone for the right moments. With an expertise in writing, delivery and overall presentation, Gus will help you resist the "good enough" and help you discover your very best."

   And, if you are an analyst, I can help you too. I've worked with multiple analysts in all the major sports, helping them take their abilities to another level. If you want to be an analyst that gets people's attention and makes an impact, I'm your guy.

Tim Kurkjian/ESPN MLB analyst: “When I first got into TV, Gus Ramsey helped me more than anyone with delivery and presentation. I always told him that he should be on TV, he’d be great.’’ 

Bruce Bowen/ESPN NBA analyst: "Gus helped me to be authentic, without losing myself trying to be someone else. He gave me great feedback, with a push to be better. Receive his instruction and watch what transpires!"

Eduardo Perez/ESPN MLB analyst: "As easy as it may look to sit in front of a camera, it is not. My first day on the job at ESPN my heart was beating just as fast as my first big league at bat. My nerves had taken over and I realized I needed much more training. I was fortunate to that Gus was there to show me how to communicate with the television audience with confidence in a clear and concise manner. I knew then and still know now that my career is a lot better for having him on my team. "

   I charge a 1-time fee for a full written evaluation of your reel, as well as a follow up phone call to discuss the feedback and your career. I also offer the option of a 6-month retainer where my feedback and consultation services are available for 6 months at one additional cost. 

   If you are interested, please leave your email in the comments section and let me know where you currently are in your career. These comments aren't published and can only be seen by me, so your information will be protected. I look forward to helping you become the anchor or analyst you want to be!

30 November, 2015

Now and When

   Now: at the present time
   When: at what time 

  The Denver Broncos season has boiled down to two simples words: Now and When.

   When Peyton Manning was the Broncos starting quarterback the offense struggled through most of their games. Yes, the wins were coming weekly, but the running game, the deep pass, the familiar hum of the Peyton Manning machine was no longer there. There were flashes, like in the Packers dismantling when Manning went 21-29 for 340 yards, but that kind of game, once a given, now seems more like a blue moon. For the first half of the season the defense was carrying the team and, in theory, buying time until the offense found their way.

   Now that Brock Osweiler is quarterback, opposing defenses have to cover the whole field.
   When Manning was making the throws, whether it be because of injury or father time sitting on his throwing shoulder, defenses didn't have to concern themselves with passes outside the numbers or deep down the field. When Charles Woodson picked off Peyton on a pass down the sideline in Oakland earlier this year, he bailed on the deep route and jumped on the intermediate route because there was no need to worry about the receiver going deep. He was willing to gamble that Peyton couldn't get it there anyway. People talk about Manning's diminished arm strength, but I have been alarmed by his arm accuracy on deep balls. He can still throw it 50-55 yards in the air, but it's rarely on target. I can think of a dozen times this season when he overthrew Sanders or D.T. but just as many when a deep ball was 3 yards off to the left or right. 
   Now that Brock is under center the deep ball is a real threat. One need look no further than the missiles he dropped through the snowflakes and into the hands of #10 and #88 on their last drive of regulation against the Patriots Sunday night. Or how about the laser he drilled into Sanders on a crossing route last night, over two defenders and in front of another? And now that defenses have to worry about the entire field, it creates more space for the running game. Denver has piled up 349 rushing yards in Brock's two starts. 

   When Manning lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl, the defense was statistically very good, but it wasn't as dynamic as it is now. 
   Now they are an explosive unit that can win games. They've added Talib, Ware and Ward. Chris Harris has developed into an elite corner. Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson and Sylvester Williams seem to be flourishing in the 3-4 scheme. And they've added Wade Phillips who is one of the better defensive coordinators in the league and has been for longer than Peyton has been an elite QB. You can't waste a D this good with poor quarterback play. I'm sure the injuries had a lot to do with Manning's 5-20, 4-pick poop-bomb he dropped against the Chiefs, but most defenses would have allowed 59 points that night, not 29. You can't have your defense turning around two minutes after they got off the field and ask them  to go right back out there and defend a short field time and again.  

  When Peyton is running the offense the team is trying to combine what he likes and what Kubiak's system is. It's been very hit and miss. The number of times Peyton has thrown it to the other team hasn't helped. 
   Now that Brock is the man they are running Kubiak's system. It's only been two games but you have to like what you see. 
   When Peyton is running the show, it's all about mind games and trying to out-think the guys on the other side of the ball. It's obviously been hugely successful for a long time, but with injuries and fading attributes, there are only so many Jedi moves left in the bag. 
  Now that Brock is in there, it's about executing the system. It's a challenge given the issues they have with their offensive line, but they've found a way to make it work so far. As an aside, I also like that Brock has targeted 8 and 9 receivers, respectively, in his two starts. He's not locking in on one or two guys.    

   This storyline, Old Warrior vs Young Gun, has been around since sports started being played. I'm sure there were some Romans who were in the ring with the lions and there was some dude who outsmarted the lions for a long time, but eventually that guy got eaten because he wasn't quick enough to get away anymore while the younger guys ran around and survived on athletic ability alone. Do you play the Hall of Famer when he's healthy or stick with the "heir apparent" who is performing well? It's got to be one of the hardest lines for a coach to walk in sports. I don't doubt for one second Elway and Kubiak had a conversation during the hiring process that went something like, "Look, we're done with Peyton after this season. Just come in and manage it for a year and then you can do your thing." But the injuries have allowed Denver to accelerate the process and the future may be now, regardless of when Manning is healthy. If you're asking me who I'd go with, I still think a 100% healthy Manning at this point is better than 100% Osweiler, I just don't think 100% is in the equation for Peyton anymore. 

    The Wizard of Os has come out from behind the curtain and all of Bronco Country is paying attention to him. Denver has a championship-caliber defense and, in Osweiler, it appears they have a QB who can handle the bright lights. For most Broncos fans wondering if this is Brock's team the question is simple, if not now, when? 

21 October, 2015

ESPN - Thanks for the memories

   When I was 12-years old and living in Greenwich, Connecticut, ESPN opened their doors. Cable television was a mystery world back then. Somehow it meant there were more channels to watch and a greater variety of content coming into my living room. When I heard there was an all-sports TV station opening just an hour north of where I lived, my mind was blown. I daydreamed about some day being able to work there.
   15 years later, ESPN opened their doors to me. I had been producing local news in Orlando and had worked with Stuart Scott. He helped get me an interview and in December of 1994 I was hired. My career began as a producer of the overnight show, which was then a half-hour show that came on at 2:30 in the morning. I worked with Craig Kilborn, Brett Haber, Gary Miller and Karl Ravech. The hours were tough but we had a lot of fun and I was learning on the fly. I provided the guys with some catch phrases that stuck and developed a good relationship with those guys. In the immediate years that followed I worked with Bob Ley, Charley Steiner, Robin Roberts, Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann, Kenny Mayne, Steve Levy, Linda Cohn, Bill Pidto, Rich Eisen and Stuart Scott. It was virtually impossible to not improve as a producer working with people like that. Being an anchor was what I had really wanted to do with my career but when ESPN offered the producer job, I decided going to the major leagues as a producer was a better career path than trying to be an anchor in some super small market. Because of my desire to be on air, I was always drawn to those people and their craft. Over the years I dedicated a lot of my time trying to help the talent be better at their jobs. In fact, just a few months back I was given the role of talent coach and was really enjoying that exciting new opportunity. My dad was a teacher and a coach, so in some way I was kind of following in his footsteps. The last six weeks of my time at ESPN ended up being some of the most rewarding work I ever did there.
   When I look back on my 20+ years at ESPN I am grateful for the opportunities working there provided me. I was at the Daytona 500 when Dale Earnhardt finally won that race. I worked multiple Final 4s and the US Open at Pebble Beach when Tiger obliterated the field. I was at the '96 summer games and produced our live coverage of the bombing in Centennial Park from the moment the bomb went off around 1:20am until well into the following afternoon.
   My 7 years on Baseball Tonight allowed me to attend pretty much every All-Star game, Hall of Fame induction and World Series from 2000-2007. The highlight came when I was standing on the field for batting practice before game one of the Mets and Yankees World Series. I called my dad, the man responsible for teaching me to love baseball and a man who grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan (later to convert to the Mets when the Dodgers skipped town) and I said to him "You know where I am right now? I am standing on the field before game one of the Subway Series. Thank you for making me a baseball fan." I still get emotional thinking about what that moment meant to me.
My last year producing the inductions in Cooperstown I had my dad go up there with me and was able to take him behind the scenes and meet all of the Hall of Famers. It was my way of paying him back a little for all he did for me. It was a great weekend for both us. I could never have done that, or experienced all those other great moments, without my job at ESPN.
   Over my time in Bristol I have been blessed to work with so many talented people, both on air and behind the scenes. I thank all of them. The anchors, analysts, producers, directors, production staff, the researchers, news editors, assignment desk workers, talent bookers, TDs, ADs and all the others who contribute every day. As a producer you walk in the door every day with a vision for what your show will be, but it takes dozens and dozens of people to help you execute that vision. It's hard work, but it's incredibly rewarding when everyone gets on the same page and it goes well. In my 20+ years the successes far outweighed the non-successes (I refuse to call them failures) and that would not have been possible without the efforts of so many talented people.
   It's hard to have thick skin about the shots people take at ESPN when you live inside those walls and understand the determination and dedication we put into making a product that people could enjoy. There was never a day that I walked in the door at work and said "I need to make sure today we ignore west coast sports or don't talk about hockey." The goal of any television station is to get people to watch. If the ratings go up when we talk about the Red Sox and Yankees, then we'll probably talk more about the Red Sox and Yankees. If McDonalds doesn't sell many Filet O' Fish, they probably dial back on how hard they push that product.
   Were there people with agendas? Of course. But in the day-to-day grind of doing shows, my objective and the objective of the people I was working with was to produce the best show we possibly could. That's something of which I will always be proud. And for those of you who have grown to "hate" ESPN for various reasons, at the very least you have to recognize what a pioneer the company was. All the other sports channels you watch, all the regional sports networks and ESPN competitors exist because of ESPN. Many former ESPNers work in those places now, applying the skills they learned in Bristol to make high quality programming for other networks.
   When I started in 1994, ESPN was still a relatively small operation and over the next 20 years it grew into a world wide corporation. That process is going to come with growing pains, missteps, bad decisions, struggle and setbacks. It also allows for growth, creativity and ingenuity. It was a great time to be with the company and be part of all of that. It was basically the puberty of my professional career minus the acne and awkward conversations with teenage girls.
   I forged many great relationships over the years with my co-workers. Some of the best friends I have, I met at ESPN. That can never be taken away from me. And for all it's warts and issues, ESPN rallies around it's employees when they are in need in incredible fashion. When personal tragedy strikes you can count on the ESPN family to come out in full force offering their support. And when we suffer our own tragedy, like we did when Stuart died last January, we bonded together to help each other get through it. It's easy to forget stuff like that when a company decides they don't need you anymore, but I'll always appreciate that about ESPN.
   When I first started producing SportsCenter, a weird sensation came over me. I realized I could never watch the show the way I had over the 15 years before I got there. I had peeked behind the curtain. There was no turning back. The wonderment of being a fan was gone. Now, all these years later, I'll be watching it differently again. I'll always be proud of the mark I made. I'll always be glad for the friendships I've made. It will always be an honor to have "ESPN 1994-2015" on my resume.
   I've never been let go before. I'm still processing it. A lot of good people were let go today, many of them had been there longer than me. Many of them I had worked closely with on projects I am quite proud of. It sucks. I know everyone goes through it, some multiple times. But it's new to me. I'm not bitter, not yet anyway. I hope I never am, but I can't blame any of the others for feeling that way. At first blush, I am grateful for my experiences over the last 20+ years. I can't imagine what my life would have become if I opted for the other path.
   It's hard to mentally put myself in a place like I was in 1979, dreaming of what might lay ahead some day, but I'll get there. Who knows what's next? Not me. All I know is getting off exit 31 on I-84 in Bristol isn't part of the journey anymore.