Today’s Notable Young Professional is TSN Feature Producer Mike Farrell, whose work has been met with acclaim across the country, been awarded a Gemini, and contributed to awareness and education of important mental health issues…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I am a storyteller. As a feature producer, my job is to pitch, shoot, write and edit the most interesting and compelling personal stories from the sports world. I travel all across North America interviewing everyone from the biggest superstars to the ordinary sports fan with an extraordinary story to tell. I see the entire process through, from the idea in my head to the final product broadcast across the country.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I always grew up believing that one of the keys to happiness and fulfilment in life was to find a job you are passionate about, and that you love; I have always loved sports. I watched TSN all the time as a kid, and was always the one sitting in front of the television doing the play-by-play for my own hockey video games. I knew that if I was able to incorporate sports into my career, I would be engaged in my work and ultimately more successful. I have been at TSN for eight years now and I have to say, I am just as passionate about what I do now as the day I started.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The most challenging part of my job is the logistical ballet that takes place before every shoot. Setting up locations, coordinating schedules, obtaining permits, and booking travel are all necessities of the job, but man it is so annoying sometimes! My passion is the story, the creativity, and it is definitely a challenge to take time and energy away from that to draft schedules. But I also realize without that, there would be no story to get creative with.
The best part of being a feature producer is the pride I feel when a project is done. Some of it has to do with the personal involvement I have in every stage of the process, but it is more about the people you meet. They put an enormous amount of trust in you as producer to tell their story honestly and tastefully. They are often talking about some of the most personal, and in some cases tragic, moments of their life and it is up to me as a producer to treat that with the utmost respect, both in the field and on the screen. To get an email or a call from the subject of a story saying how happy they were with the final product is an awesome feeling.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would like to continue to tell stories, but in a more long-format setting. In five years I would like to be producing more documentaries where I have an opportunity to get really in-depth and artistic with the subject matter. I also want to be working on stories with a wider cultural and social scope.
What does success look like to you?
I have always believed that success is not measured by salary, title, or promotions, but rather by your own personal fulfillment in what you do. I feel like I am successful because I have found a job that I love, and one that I actually think has the power to do a little good in the world as well.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
In 2010 I produced a story about Terry Fox and Jay Triano that won a Gemini Award for Best Sports Feature Segment. The Geminis, now called The Canadian Screen Awards, are awarded annually to the best in Canadian television, and to win one was a great honour. It sits proudly in my living room.
Another project that stands out was a documentary I produced earlier this year called “Talk to Me” dealing with the suicide of my best’s friend brother, and the golf tournament that continues to this day in his honour. This was a difficult but completely unique opportunity to tell a story very close to my heart. I was extremely proud of the final product and it received an overwhelming response from people all across Canada. It was written about in newspapers, I was asked to appear on a number of radio and television shows, and I was even invited to a screening of the film with the Prime Minister’s wife, Mrs. Laureen Harper. Most importantly, though, I believe the message of the doc helped to make a small impact on ending the stigma associated with mental illness.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
My simplest, but most crucial piece of advice is to find a line of work you are passionate about. That is the key. Regardless of the profession, if you love what you do, work will not really feel like work and you are more likely to find success.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I support the James Peek Memorial Golf Classic, the tournament held annually in honour of my best friend’s brother, and the event on which my documentary was based. In the 14 years that it has been held, the tournament has raised over $300,000 for local mental health initiatives in the GTA. It is important for two reasons; the first is because I am very close with the Peeks and they are a tremendously generous and strong family; the second is that I believe the issue of mental health to be one of the most important charitable causes of our generation.
What to you is notable?
Notable is doing something you can be proud of.
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