Tyler Branch wishes more students would take risks. Not the kind of risks one might immediately think of when considering risk-taking behavior and college, but the kind that pay off—big time—like winning not one but two of New York City's most coveted television internships.
Garrett Ford: Hey everybody. I'm Garrett Ford, a videographer and video producer with Appalachian Media Productions on the campus of Appalachian State University, and here with former intern Tyler Branch. Buddy, how are you?
Tyler Branch: Good to see you Garrett. Glad you came to visit.
GF: Speaking of visiting, where are we right now?
TB: We are in New York City. We're here at the Appalachian State Loft in New York. I'm actually up here on an extended stay because I'm interning in New York.
GF: Tell us a little bit about where Tyler Branch is from, where he got his start. Who is Tyler Branch?
TB: Tyler Branch started out as a child in a small town called Sawmills, North Carolina, not far from Boone. I started at a community college, transferred into Appalachian. I ended up finding my way to electronic media broadcasting concentration. I was interested in TV and videography. Started taking a lot of production classes, learning about making videos, making documentaries. I became a part of WASU. I worked there on some audio production. And all of that kind of led me to you guys where I interned for the summer 2011 with you guys at Appalachian Media Productions.
GF: We were the first. Let the record show that we were the first internship for Tyler Branch. But the next one was a little bit of a surprise. Where was this?
TB: Over the summer, when I was interning with you guys, I had been applying at the Late Show with David Letterman. I didn't get called up the first time, but I kept trying and over the summer I got called up for an interview. I get back to Boone about a week later and I end up finding out that I'm going to New York for the fall and I'm going to be an intern for the Late Show with David Letterman.
GF: Little bit of a jump... little bit of a jump from Appalachian Media Productions. Check it out.
GF: All right. We're here at the beautiful Ed Sullivan Theatre on Broadway, home of the Late Show with David Letterman, and your first stomping grounds here in New York. Tell us a little bit about the internship process, the interview process and how you even found out about it.
TB: OK. I've always been a fan of the Late Show with David Letterman. I remember when I was a kid and sometimes my parents would let me stay up late and watch Letterman. I've always been a fan. So when it came to picking internships when I was at Appalachian, I though "why not?" Why not take a shot at coming to New York and working at my dream place. And so I got on their website, read about the internship process, applied. They said that there were about 4,500 that applied and they only pick twelve of us. It was a dream come true.
GF: Alright. So, while you were here, what did you do?
TB: When I got here, I worked in the research department, helped prepare for guest interviews, helped prepare for the segments... just find all of the background information on the guests and have Dave completely prepared to interview someone.
GF: So, while you were here researching, you were also doing some dealing, making some contacts. What was the story there?
TB: Well, I always heard networking was the best way to get ahead in this industry—and probably any industry—and I ended up doing some networking. I met a producer who had a similar background to mine and from there I ended up being able to go from Late Show with David Letterman to Saturday Night Live.
GF: Have you said it since you've been up here?
TB: I haven't, but let's do it.
GF: Right there. (pointing at camera)
TB: Live from New York, it's Saturday Night.
GF: We're here in the offices of Saturday Night Live at 30 Rockefeller Center and, Tyler, the question is what do you do here?
TB: I work in writers research and post-production. I do research, I find clips, pictures, quotes... anything that the writers need to make a sketch happen. In post-production, I work in the control room, I record rehearsals. I also do post-production work on editing projects. I use Final Cut Pro, which we learned in my major at Appalachian State. You guys gave me a lot of experience doing real video projects, learning the ins and outs of the program, so I was able to come in running with it. I was able to apply that right when I started here. A lot of people here do a lot of writing in their programs and they do a lot of, just, theory, which is great—we get that at Appalachian. But I also received a lot more hands-on training at Appalachian. Maybe a lot of people aren't familiar with Appalachian and what we do, but I feel like we have a great program and I feel like I can represent it well here in New York, and kind of shown that Appalachian is not behind anyone, that if you put your mind to it and you're a student at Appalachian, you can come up here and succeed against any competition.
GF: How cool is this? How much fun is this?
TB: It's surreal. You just feel like you're in show business when you're in this building. You're going up the elevator, like so many famous people in history have, up here to the 17th floor and working at SNL. It's crazy because I did grow up watching it and so it's hard to believe that now I'm actually here seeing it go from the page to rehearsals, through blocking, lighting, rewrites... now to see how that all happens is just completely unbelievable.
GF: Tyler, with all of these internship opportunities that you've had through Appalachian, how have these internship experiences changed your career outlook?
TB: It's really broadened things. Sometimes, it's better to set your sights on the sky... the sky's the limit kind of situation. I would love to be a producer and I think that this has been the right career move to put me in that direction. We're going to see where this takes me and I'm really excited about what the future holds.
GF: There's a student at Appalachian, thinking about doing an internship. What do you tell that student?
TB: Internships, especially in this industry in the communications field—but I really think in probably any industry—gives you the experiences that are going to lead to that first job. It just gives you a different understanding of your education. It can be a little tempting when you're in college to just go to class and relax in your free time, but if you put an internship, even if it's a part-time internship, that is so valuable because you're getting to take these skills you learn at Appalachian and go out in the real world and show people what you've got. It's also a great way to measure yourself, to see where you're at, and what you need to do while you're still in college, while you can still work on improving of all these resources at Appalachian while you're there and putting them to use. Get the most out of your education. That's what internships really help provide.
Music provided by songfreedom.com. Walkin' Proud performed by APM. "Walkin' Proud" composed by Paul Lenart and Larry Luddecke. Courtesy of APM. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.