Every two years, Lizzie Turkevich—freelance television producer—goes to the Olympics. For work. (Yup, seriously.) In fact, she was in the midst of a 30-hour trip to South Korea as she was answering these questions.
Turkevich has produced videos for the summer and winter Games since 2006, and she claims it was purely a matter of fate.
“In 2006, I was a journalism student at The George Washington University,” she shares. “NBC Olympics was recruiting students to be hospitality interns, and my roommate got an interview. At the time, I was studying abroad, but I asked her to pass along my resume. She did, and I got incredibly lucky. Someone looked at it and gave me a call to work on the TV production side!”
When she spoke with the recruiter, he asked her what she would most like to do if she had the chance. And rather than shrugging and saying, “Oh, you know, whatever the company most needs” (as my 20-year-old self would’ve done), she answered honestly.
“I told him I wanted to work on feature stories—the ones that are beautifully packaged together and air before competition,” Turkevich says. “Lo and behold, they hired me as an intern to work on their quick-turnaround feature packages.” And, while fate may have landed her the gig originally, she must’ve done a darn good job. Because, 12 years later, she’s a producer for that very same team.
Needless to say, this recurring assignment is really fun. Turkevich just loves everything about the Games. And this year, Turkevich is specifically looking forward to figure skating, (“It’s been 20 years since Tara Lipinski won gold, and now she’s commentating!”), hockey, and the halfpipe (“for all of the crazy tricks!”).
Read on to learn more about Turkevich’s Olympic experience (including some of her athlete crushes).
What’s Your Day-to-Day Like as a TV Producer?
I research a story or topic I’m assigned and then help coordinate the logistic and creative elements for a shoot. At the shoot, I’ll make sure everything’s going as planned, direct other personnel (like camera and audio), and keep track of timeline and budget. Sometimes, if we need to film an interview, I’ll ask the questions.
When filming’s done, I’ll take all the visual and audial elements and write a script. I’ll collaborate with an editor who makes the script into actual television and, lastly, after a review process and approval from a superior, it goes to air! (And, well, there’s some very boring and unglamorous paperwork to do after all is said and done.)
At the Olympics, my process is pretty much the same but at a much faster pace. Many times, I’ll receive the assignment just a couple days—or hours—before it airs. My team’s responsible for covering breaking news, so if a timely event happens, it’s up to us to produce a piece on it. We also want to show the world the latest and greatest footage, so if an athlete trains or competes the day we’re airing a piece, we’ll rush to include that footage in the story.
What’s the Best Part About Working at the Olympics?
Olympic athletes have some of the greatest stories to tell, and I love putting the pieces of a story together in a fun, entertaining, and creative way. Another wonderful component is the excitement. You feel it as soon as you touch down at the airport and it continues all throughout the games. The host nation has spent years planning for the world to arrive, and by the time I arrive, there are scores of volunteers buzzing around to welcome you.
I just really cherish experiencing each country that I’ve visited for the Games—Italy, China, Canada, United Kingdom, Russia, Brazil—they’re all as different as can be!
Any Favorite Athletes You’ve Met?
I think my favorite was Shaun White (two-time Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding). This was 2010, in the midst of his “flying tomato” days, and he was the most popular athlete on the planet. I got to interview him for a snowboarding story another producer was doing, and he was super nice and down to earth.
I’ve also had a couple of Olympic crushes—speed skater Chad Hedrick and hockey player Zach Parise. I made the mistake of letting a colleague know about these crushes, and then this colleague made sure I’d get to meet them when they visited the broadcast center for other interviews. So embarrassing, especially since I wasn’t prepared for either encounter at all. But it was totally worth it to meet them. Both were super sweet.
Any Favorite Non-Olympics Projects You Want to Share?
I just produced the inaugural Dog Bowl for Animal Planet! This was a great project for me since it’s the very first one. And, the message of getting older animals—not just puppies and kittens—into loving homes is an important one.