He’s not in Kansas anymore.
As president of the People’s Choice Awards, Fred Nelson is far from his small town roots at the helm of one of Hollywood’s most star-studded award programs.
“I was so naïve growing up,” Nelson tells Made in Hollywood of his showbiz career. “As much as I loved pop culture, it never crossed my mind that I could do that for a living.”
Jane Lynch will serve as host and viewers will see performances by Jason Derulo and Shawn Mendes, as well as appearances by Britney Spears, Vin Diesel, Kate Hudson, Jack Black and more celebrities when the People’s Choice Awards airs Wednesday on CBS (9 p.m.-11 p.m., ET/delayed PT).
“As president of the People’s Choice Awards I do everything… when the show is imminent, I’m focused on the production,” Nelson explains of his duties. “The rest of the year it’s the website (Peopleschoice.com) and working with sponsors. It’s very intense.”
The University of Notre Dame graduate says he began his career at an advertising agency in Chicago; it was his introduction to the world of magazine publishing.
What followed next were jobs at Esquire, Time and Entertainment Weekly—publications that him to network professionally and build the connections that led to his post at People’s Choice Awards. “At EW (Entertainment Weekly) is where I got to meet all the people at the studios, networks, labels and other award show people,” he explains. “That’s when I thought, ‘Oh, I could do this.’”
It’s that same enthusiasm and passion, he says, that will lead anyone to his or her dream job. “Do what you love—study what you love,” Nelson advises. “Whatever you’re doing interests you; you’ll be successful at it.”
Of course, to put an entire show like the People’s Choice Awards—which started in 1975—“it takes a village,” says showrunner and executive producer Jane Mun.
Mun, a University of California Los Angeles graduate who studied political science and has produced the primetime Emmy awards, is one of the many players who assist Nelson in executing the award program. Showrunners, she says, are “the ones that are in the trenches—we roll up our sleeves and get it done.”
“We make sure the big items get done—booking the host, booking performances, booking the venue.” Other duties, she adds, includes hiring “key department heads” like the show’s director, lighting designer and production designer.
As exciting as the position seems, Mun warns “doing live shows is not for everybody. You have to be okay with the unknown.”
Problem solving is a huge part of a showrunner’s career. Resolving issues like technology failure and other behind-the-scenes drama are just some of the dilemmas she has to deal with.
“As much as I’m on the creative end, I’m always troubleshooting something and figuring out the best alternative,” she explains. “Can you solve problems efficiently and effectively so that people in the line of fire don’t feel the sting so much?”
For the 42nd annual program, the stars will align at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles where production designer Steve Bass has customized the stage. “Every year the People’s Choice Awards responds to what’s in popular culture,” Bass shares about crafting the award show’s stage, adding, “this year it’s (the theme) pixels.” The University of California – Berkeley alum graduated with a degree in architecture. To bring pixels to life, Bass and his team emblazoned the stage with crystals. “It’s our version of pixels,” he explains.
To get the celebrities to appear onstage as presenters or performers—or even in the their seats—is the role of a talent producer.
“I also contact all of the nominees to see who can be in the house,” People’s Choice Awards talent producer Robin Reinhardt says. “I help book the host and performances. Any piece of talent needed for an award show, the talent producer books that.”
The Penn State alum who majored in math began her career as an intern at Spin and later worked as a talent assistant at MTV. “The initial internship I had and then being someone’s assistant really educated me,” she shares. “My first boss at MTV was such a stickler.” She explains that some of the most memorable lessons learned was how to treat talent and communicate. Adding, “I’m still learning things and just doing it is where I got to be where I am.”