Want To Create Your Own TV Show? Host & Entrepreneur Howard Henley Will Help You Take Your First Steps
From his first media job with The Blaze 1260 AM at Arizona State University to covering entertainment news straight from Hollywood on TheWrap, television and web host Howard Henley has a mile-long resume with enviable jobs that any aspiring television personality and entertainment writer would kill for. But instead of resting on his past successes in Los Angeles, Henley is looking forward to creating his own rules as the executive producer, creator, and host of The Culture Club.
We get the scoop from the LA-based host and producer about his start in radio, becoming a self-made entertainment content creator and advice on how you can create your own television show from scratch.
MadameNoire: Please describe your current occupation and what it entails.
Howard Henley: I am the host and creator and executive producer of my show, The Culture Club. Wearing all of those hats entail different tasks: I am the talent, fund the project, and am the creative driving force behind each episode. I also write the show, cast it, find guests, work with the distribution company (Dish Network) to find advertisers, and coordinate shoot dates. So as you can imagine, wearing every single hat is fulfilling, yet extensive.
MN: Where do you find the funding for The Culture Club? What have been your obstacles in securing funding for it as a media entrepreneur?
HH: I got a bit lucky. I lost my job at Verizon Wireless. I was working there for about five years, part-time, which provided great job security, while I was pursuing an acting career. But I ended up getting laid off, along with 1,500 other employees. We all got a severance package, which I used to fund the pilot of The Culture Club. I also got lucky in the sense that I booked a national All State commercial, so I used some of my commercial money for the filming of the show as well.
MN: How have your training and education put you at an advantage versus someone who may have not studied for your same career path?
HH: At a very early age, my mom and dad instilled in me and my three little brothers that it is extremely important to get an education. I ended up going to Arizona State University and majoring in Broadcasting and Film. I had a chance to work at the college radio and TV stations and completed internships with local news stations. All of that helped me practice my skills in front of the camera as a host and reporter and also taught me how to produce a show.
MN: When would you say that your journey as a freelancer first began?
HH: When I first graduated high school, I walked into my college’s radio station, before I was even a student at Arizona State, and asked if I could volunteer and do things behind the scenes. They put me on air the next week. This experience gave me an idea of what it would be like to pitch a show or have an idea and produce it. Since then I’ve always had a part-time job for supplementary income, but I have been freelancing without any source of outside income for the past six months. It’s terrifying, but when you’re working at a job and all you can think of is being in front of a camera or producing a segment, then that job is really not for you in the long run. Being laid off couldn’t have come at a better time because it really gave me a chance to 100 percent focus on what I wanted to do. I consider it a blessing.
MN: What made you decide to start producing your own content and becoming a media/entertainment freelancer in your own right?
HH: While I was working at Verizon Wireless part-time, I was booking commercials and some television shows, but my career wasn’t taking off as much as I wanted it to. One day I was on my way to an acting class, driving down Hollywood Boulevard, and I noticed a really nice, all-glass building to my left, and noticed that a TV show was being filmed inside. I decided to investigate, found the name of the network from the Internet, and read that they were looking for TV show submission ideas. Still, I wanted to get in touch with someone in the company directly, instead of sending website submission. I connected with the network’s head of comedy on Facebook, who remains a good friend to this day, and pitched my idea to him. He liked it and pitched it to the head of programming. From that point, my idea turned into an actual show on the network. That experience eventually ended, but from it I created The Culture Club with deeper knowledge about television production and entrepreneurism.
MN: What are some of the pros and cons of being a freelancer, especially in the worlds of media and entertainment?
HH: A pro is that The Culture Club is my show. I don’t have to worry about anyone coming into the mix to change, dilute, or shake things up. I get to do what I want and I listen to my panel (comprised of three other hosts). I take their ideas and implement them into the show. I’m my own boss and creator, which is so powerful. A con would be that there are no health benefits. It’s a huge risk, especially in this economy where nothing is ever guaranteed. But no risk, no reward.
MN: Have you pitched The Culture Club to any angel investors/sponsors?
HH: I spoke to a venture capitalist a while ago about the show and the distribution company that is behind the show is currently doing their part to get more investors involved. One corporation (to remain nameless for the time being) that is interested is a major telecommunications company.
MN: What would be your top tips for someone who wants to become a freelancer or entrepreneur?
HH: My commercial acting coach, Killian McHugh, said it best: “Leap and the net will appear.” Go for it, whether you’re laid off, fired, or if things are just not working out with the job you have now. Thank God, because that job was not what you were supposed to be doing. You can use the time that you aren’t at work to follow your passion and if it doesn’t work out, you can live knowing that you tried and find a new job. Take a risk because a lot of us don’t. We cheat ourselves out of dreams that can become realities. Don’t be afraid to do what you want in life and be involved with good people who you know are trustworthy. Always, always, always have a contract. You can create your own contracts with those who you work with.
I also want to add that it is very important to check up on people who you decide to do business with. Do your research and make sure that they are legitimate. This is the biggest lesson that I’ve learned so far as a business person.
MN: What are your goals for The Culture Club?
HH: The sky, honestly. I never like to say “The sky’s the limit” because I want to go beyond that. I see myself having a show that is up there with Entertainment Tonight and Dish Nation –– visible and syndicated to a wider audience. I want nothing but success for myself and the people that are involved with me in this venture. I really have to give credit to my family because they inspire me every single day.