From chimps to celebrities—a whole lotta fun
on an adventurous road. February 21, 2017
by Kathryn R. Burke
Her goal was to be an executive producer. “That’s every producer’s dream,” Sharon said, “to earn that title” and get to wear the gold badge that goes with it.
Along the way to executive producer, moving onwards and upwards in a “sometimes wacky profession,” Sharon had a lot of adventures and a whole lot of fun.
Her career (and first adventure) began at a Chicago television station: WGN (now a ‘super station,’ broadcasting out of Denver, too). Sharon was associate producer of a circus program there, one with a live audience and lively performers, including clowns, a band, and animals (mostly chimpanzees). The show was so popular, it took seven years to get tickets. She had a great time. On the downside, her boss took long lunches—the kind where he never returned at all. So, Sharon was left to deal with performer issues, including a lion in a cage that was slowly sliding away from the loading doc and a chimpanzee that “got a hold of my leg and wouldn’t let go. “People don’t realize that chimps get ornery when they get older,” she explained. And this one was a little over the hill. Nonetheless, “there was a lot of fun involved.”
When she left WGN, Sharon joined a new company formed by someone who had also left the station. They started out in a warehouse, and wound up with offices on the 25th floor of the Standard Oil Building in downtown Chicago. “We did some pretty impressive productions, there,” she said. During this tenure, she learned film and video editing and working with live animation. It was “another adventure, and a lot of fun.”
Next adventure was a short one, where she produced training videos for teaching computer-programming languages. “It was a learning curve,” she explained, but I had some fun there, too. She was a writer, editor, photographer, and producer, winding up in a corner office with windows on two sides. “That was kinda cool,” she noted.
But when the company was bought out, Sharon moved on. She answered a want ad and found herself working for the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), which is a premier association for financial planners. “It was the best job ever,” Sharon declared. “This is where I became an executive producer.” She produced “business theater live events,” which included video, as well as lining up motivational speakers and event venues around the world. She especially enjoyed organizing MDRT events in Asia.
Working with MDRT, she met and worked with celebrities, politicians, entertainers, and members of the sports community. “I got to hang out in the ‘green room’ with most of them,” she noted, including people like Christopher Reeves (whom she considered one of the most inspirational), Colin Powell, Queen Noor of Jordan, Judy Collins, Barbara Bush (“a sweet lady,” Sharon recalls), and Scott Hamilton (Olympic gold medalist ice skater).
“As executive producer, I got to select the speakers and entertainment, and direct the process,” Sharon said. “It’s the most fun anybody that works in production can ever have. You’re not in the middle of audience group you get to watch what they did!
“It was a real rush, she said. “I miss it. But at some point, you have to wind down.” And for the Nevilles, that meant retiring and moving to Ouray and becoming involved in the community. Sharon is co-president of the Woman’s Club, and enjoys her activities here.
Sharon will talk about her adventures when she speaks to the Woman’s Club on February 21st, sharing her “Road to Executive Producer in a sometimes wacky profession.”
MDRT, The Premium Association of Financial Professionals. https://www.mdrt.org/about-mdrt
Monthly meetings are held at 1-3 p.m. at the Ouray Community Center, San Juan Room. Now in it’s 7th year, and created by Club VP Barb Morss, most meetings feature a unique program presenting guest speakers who are . . . “uncommon women” and who lead . . . “uncommon lives.” Following a break for refreshments, a short business meeting is held. The public is welcome.