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Posts Tagged ‘KWWL’

Last Friday I went to hear Entertainment Tonight co-anchor Mark Steines speak at his alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), here in Cedar Falls, Iowa. His basic message to a couple hundred mostly Electronic Media students was simple;

“Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? It’s as simple as that.”

I might add that it doesn’t hurt to look like Tom Cruise, as Stienes did when he was starting out, and still does today. That played a big part in some opportunities that came his way in the 80s and lead to what has turned into a 15 year stint at Entertainment Tonight.

Yesterday, I drove through Steines’ hometown of Dubuque, Iowa which sits on the Mississippi River. He was an all-state full-back in high school and got a football scholarship to the UNI where he became a tight end. After knee & back injuries, he turned his attention to electronic media and got an internship at the local TV station KWWL in Waterloo, Iowa. His goal was to be a cameraman, but the co-anchors at the time, Ron Steele and Liz Mathis encouraged him to give it a try in front of the camera. They also mentored him along the way. And the rest is history.

To make a long story short he was hired by KWWL and while covering the Republican National Convention in New Orleans in the 80s he was confused as being Tom Cruise and Entertainment Tonight did a story on Steines and that got him some good exposure and lead to three job offers, He took one in Springfield, MO where he was the sports anchor for three years. That eventually lead him to a sports reporter job in Los Angeles at KCAL where he won his first of three Emmys. Being in LA he also studied acting, worked on voice training at the Kalmenson & Kalmenson Voice Over School for Actors, and also studied improv at The Groundlings.

In 1995, seven years after the ET spotlight on him looking like Tom Cruise, he was hired by Entertainment Tonight as an entertainment correspondent and eventually became co-anchor with Mary Hart.

He comes back to Iowa from time to time to speak at UNI as a way of paying back what has turned into a long, fulfilling and prosperous career in an industry where that combination is not easy to find. It helped give clout to his words that he was on his way to London to be on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Cedar Falls one day, hanging out with Johnny Depp the next day.

Steines talked about the importance of standing out, and how that’s hard to do in Iowa. That the industry is in LA and that’s where many opportunities are—as well as the competition.  He spoke about the need to have passion, commitment as well as rock solid skills. He also said that didn’t guarantee success in Los Angeles.

Steines spoke about the changes in the business and if he were coming up today one thing he might try is being a one-man band where you knew how to shoot and edit as well as software like After Effects. Maybe produce a little segment that was of interest to yourself and send to producers and tell them you did everything and  that would get attention.

As I’ve said many times on this blog, these are good times to be a jack-of-all-trades. That was not the message preached to me when I was in college. But the majority of 20-somethings I work with today are fearless when it comes to multitasking and performing many production skills.

And lastly, Steines talked about the difficulties of juggling career and family, because when something happens to Britney or a celebrity dies then he has to rush to the set for an update. Steines comes across about as grounded and laid back as you’ll probably find in Los Angeles. He talked about the need to give back and said as much as he loves L.A. he sometimes misses his life back in Iowa. (But don’t look for him to be moving back here any time soon.)

Scott W. Smith

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Today is show and tell at Screenwriting from Iowa and I brought one of my Christmas gifts—a signed picture of Mark Steines from Entertainment Tonight. It was given to me by an editor I work with, Josh McCabe, who did an internship with Entertainment Tonight over the summer.

Having just mentioned that Jason Reitman’s new film Up in the Air features Dubuque, Iowa in a key scene you may be interested to know that Steines was born and raised in Dubuque. But before he became the co-anchor of Entertainment Tonight and started hanging out with Hollywood celebrities, he got his on-camera start in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area. A football scholarship brought him to the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) where he graduated with a degree in Radio and Television.

He started as a cameraman here at KWWL and eventually found his in front of the camera as a sports reporter. That lead to opportunities at KSPR-TV is Springfield, Missouri and then to KCAL-TV in Los Angeles where he picked up two Emmy Awards. In 1995 he began work as a correspondent on Entertainment Tonight and since 2004 has been the host of the show along with Mary Hart.

While Steines paid his dues, learned his craft, and worked his way up the ladder like everyone else—it didn’t hurt that when he was starting out that he looked like Tom Cruise.

After Steines arrived in LA he also began studying acting that has provided various acting opportunities on TV programs. He also has a photography book out from pictures he took on a trip to Sierra Leone with Lighthouse Medical Missions earlier this year. Steines is one more example that even if you come from a place far from Hollywood (like Dubuque, Iowa) you can still make an impact in Hollywood. But like all that have gone down that road before, he was faithful in doing the little things.

Visit www.marksteines.com to learn more about his photobook, work & life.

Thanks Josh and Mark for the photo.

Scott W. Smith


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While Josh looks in this photo like an American Idol contestant I don’t even know if he can sing. He’s been helping me out at River Run Productions the last couple months doing freelance editing. He’s a student at UNI here in Cedar Falls but heads out to L.A. today to work as an intern for Entertainment Tonight over the summer.

So next week when those of you in Southern California see him driving to or from CBS studios in his Mini Cooper you’ll think he’s just an another L.A. hipster, but it’s really another talented kid from Iowa finding his way to California to work in the biz.

So how does a kid from Iowa end up working on the set of Entertainment Tonight? In part because of another kid from Iowa has paved the way. ET co-anchor  Mark Steines was born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa and attended UNI on a football scholarship and earned a B.A. in radio & TV. He got his start in broadcasting here at KWWL before eventually joining ET in 1995. So he’s opened the door for others to follow in his tracks. 

And speaking of American Idol, I finally sat down last night and watched  my first (almost) entire program of the popular show. I jumped on the bandwagon just in time. It didn’t feel like 2009, but more like 1979 as they featured a who’s who of people I listened to in high school back in the day; Rod Stewart, KISS, Lionel Richie, Queen, Carlos Santana  and even a cameo with Steve Martin on the banjo. 

My favorite quote of the night was when runner-up 27-year old Adam Lambert said he had been working on his singing dream since he was 10. That’s a 17 year journey. I imagine that winner Kris Allen’s story is probably the same. There probably won’t be too many screenwriting blogs talking about American Idol, but I’d like to point out, that like top screenwriters there’s a lot of talent and hard work to make it to that level. Congrats to both Adam and Kris. 

I enjoyed the commercial during American Idol with Iowa-native Ashton Kutcher promoting the Nikon D90. That’s the camera I’m shooting with these days including the above photo. (Along with a couple SB-800s flashes for those of you technically minded.)

And I might as well send out congrats to another Iowa native (and Olympic goldmedist) Shawn Johnson who won the Dancing with the Stars competition on Tuesday night. And I really should mention that The Official Shawn Johnson Website is powered by my buddies at Spin-U-Tech who I share office space with right here in beautiful downtown Cedar Falls, Iowa.

So you see, Iowans are not really out of the entertainment loop. And as I like to say about Iowa itself — “It’s conveniently located between New York and L.A.”

 

photo & text copyright 2009 Scott W. Smith

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