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Q & A with Alexandra Nolen

Alexandra Nolen

BS film & video '14

Alexandra Nolen Headshot 300 x 300

Can you share your path since graduation that lead you to your current gig? 

The Drexel COOP experience set me up for success upon graduation. I was able to network with my former co-workers at 6abc WPVI-TV who put me in contact with Comcast SportsNet, now known as NBC Sports Philadelphia, for a summer internship program. While at CSN, I created relationships with the producers/directors in the broadcast trucks for the live sporting events. Once my internship was over, I was able to land a spot as a TV broadcast freelancer within CSN, serving as a Camera Utility/Runner in the field and as a Score Bug Operator in the truck. Given the flexibility as a sports freelancer, I was able to take on other part-time jobs at that time. My “sports cycle” as I liked to call it lasted for four seasons. From August to March, I was a Seasonal Production Assistant/Associate Producer with NFL Films, editing on their high ranked shows such as Hard Knocks, Inside the NFL as well as directing/field producing for their features show, NFL Films Presents. On the weekends in the fall, I continued to work for CSN/NBC Sports for Sixers and Flyers broadcast games. In addition, for every home Eagles game, I worked as a camera utility/operator for the Philadelphia Eagles. Fall was always a very busy time of year for me!

From April to July, I switched over to baseball, where I was a Seasonal Social Media Content Creator, taking photos and videos of all the best sights and sounds at Citizens Bank Park during the Phillies games for their Twitter/Instagram profiles while also continuing to work for CSN/NBC Sports for the Phillies TV broadcasts. All those years being a sports video/tv freelancer broadened my skillset and gave me the chance to figure out what I truly wanted to do: features. I left the sports freelance world and accepted a full-time job with the Philadelphia 76ers as a Producer/Editor. After working for a team for a few seasons, I wanted to challenge myself even more, so I took a chance and landed the opportunity with the Features Unit at ESPN which is where I am currently at now.


Describe what you’re currently doing and what’s involved with the position. What do you like most about what you do? 

I’m currently an Associate Producer II within the Features Unit at ESPN. Our department is truly unique because we have the opportunity to create features for multiple shows at ESPN. Some of those being SportsCenter, Monday Night Football and NBA Countdown. We’re also known for the platform SC Featured, which are longform features that air on SportsCenter. The process from start to finish on a feature can vary greatly depending on what the story is. Sometimes I can come up with an idea and pitch it to the management group or sometimes they will come to me with the assignment. We then collaborate and storyboard on how to make it the best story possible. These stories can range from short and long form features to creative teases or written pieces driven by narration. However, most of the time, we focus on short and long form features. Once we have a good grasp of the narrative, the next step is to make sure our interviewee subjects are on board with everything, hire a camera crew and then start coordinating all of the production logistics. Some of the logistics being … the shoot schedule, what is the tone/style/look that we’re trying to accomplish for the interview and what b-roll do we need to capture. On the day of the shoot, we focus on directing and field producing to make sure we are getting everything we need for the story. Sometimes there may be a reporter on the project so they would be handling the questions to either a professional athlete, coach or maybe a fan and their family but sometimes we as producers are tasked to ask the questions as well.

Once everything in the field is complete, the fun starts happening in the edit room. Sometimes, I have been fortunate to edit my features myself and then hand it off to an editor for graphics, color correction, audio mixing, and things of that sort. However, there have been instances where I will hand off the footage to the editor and we will work together to craft the story for air. I love telling stories and making an impact. When you have the opportunity to inspire someone with a story, there is no better feeling. My goal is to always connect with the audience, and get them to feel some type of emotion. Being a storyteller and earning the trust of our subjects to tell their story the right way is an honor and privilege. 

What are the key skills required to handle your job? 

Nowadays in our industry, it’s important to be well-rounded and know how to do everything to make you a better storyteller and producer, meaning, knowing how to shoot, produce, write, and edit. All of these things combined can set you up for tremendous success. Along with that, here are few key skills that are important for my job:

  • Knowing how to tell a story and the understanding of what makes a great story
  • Attention to detail
  • Creativity
  • Being personable and earning the trust of athletes & their families
  • Ability to handle multiple tasks at once
  • Confidence to direct camera crews and talent
  • Proficient in the post production process
  • Finding ways to draw emotion into your story to make the audience feel and remember 

Where do you see yourself in the future? What future positions could your current position lead to?

There’s no doubt in my mind that I am in the right profession. I see myself continuing to produce features and also trying my hand at producing teases, the 1 to 2 minute emotional spots that you see before sports broadcasts. The next step in my career would be to earn the position as a Feature Producer I, then Feature Producer II and eventually, a Sr. Managing Producer within our group. 

Are you working or have you ever worked with other Drexel alumni? How has the network paid off for you?

I haven’t worked closely with any Drexel alumni yet but I’ve been hearing that more film and video students are interested in pursuing sports television, so I have a feeling that I’ll be working with some talented Drexel Dragons soon!  

How did Drexel prepare you for getting to this point in your career?

Besides the great networking opportunities from the Drexel COOP experience, it’s the staff within the Film and Video department that taught me important work and life skills that I use today in my career. Learning all of the fundamentals of filmmaking…from shooting, editing, writing and producing… and also everything that goes into storytelling created a solid base for me to build upon. People skills and managing different personalities are also very crucial in this business which I learned how to navigate as well from the staff during my time at Drexel. The University also had opportunities within Drexel Athletics to join the video department as a student which played a key role in jump starting my career in sports.

What advice would you like to go back and give your undergraduate self? 

I wish I would have taken the time to enjoy more of my senior year which was the best year of the Film and Video program in my opinion. While it was smart in some ways to continue working part-time during my senior year at the company where I had my COOP internship, I can’t get that time back with my classmates. I was so focused and obsessed with jump starting my career during my last year of college that sometimes I forgot to have fun and didn’t focus on living in the moment. If you’re reading this, remember to take time for you and enjoy the journey with your friends and family!