A Passion for Production
"Television production isn't a career, it's a lifestyle," says Laura Schweigman (liberal arts/technology video '01). "I work 14- hour days, five-plus days a week. You're always on call, it's your entire life for so many months while in production, and then you have a couple weeks or months to catch up on life before starting production on the next season or project."
It's a good thing she loves what she does for a living.
Schweigman, currently an Associate Producer for the HBO series "Treme" (pronounced "Truh-may"), says that while she schedules and organizes various elements of production throughout the season, "Mostly what I do is look ahead, trying to solve problems before they become just that. I take care of legal issues, contracts and clearances, and foster positive community relationships."
Community outreach is particularly important, she adds. "Our take is that while it is inconvenient to have a production in the neighborhood for the short term, a film company contributes more to the city long term financially by hiring crew locally and spending money with local businesses. 'Treme' is unique among most film companies because it gives back to the community through fundraisers for local charities and contributes time and resources to groups in need. We did the same on our Baltimore-based series 'The Wire.' My goal is to leave a positive mark on the communities in which we work."
Schweigman, whose role also extends to hiring, conducting research, dealing with the media, and more, says that her start in the industry came from a Villa Julie College internship. "My faculty chair, Sally Harris, said, 'You'd be great for this opportunity,'" which was an internship on the show "Young Americans," a spinoff of the popular "Dawson's Creek" series. "I came in at call and stayed until wrap, as long as they'd let me, and I learned as much as I could."
After graduation, she worked as a production assistant for commercials and corporate and music videos. Eventually she joined Video Press of the University of Maryland, School of Medicine, working her way up to a freelance Assistant Producer for the Discovery series "Critical Hour"-yet she knew she wanted to enter the realm of union television production.
Then she got her wish: Starting with the first season of "The Wire," she worked a few days as a set production assistant while still with Video Press. Then she was hired second season to be a writers' assistant.
During the third season, until the beginning of "Treme," she worked with David Simon as the writer/creator's assistant. "That position really gave me a push into what I wanted my career to be about: producing," she says. "Through David and his partner Nina Noble, I learned what a producer should be."
The third season of "Treme" will air in September on HBO and she's still waiting to hear if there will be a fourth-and final-season of the show.
Past that, Schweigman says, she'll see what evolves. "There is no such thing as a five-year plan in a creative industry. I want to produce television. I'm in the beginning of my producing career. Nina Noble still says she learns every day. Every show is different, every location is different, and I enjoy the fact that every day is different. Above all," she adds, "I'm telling stories, which is what I really love doing most."