MNN Diaries: Will Sanchez

And we’re back! After a brief hiatus, our popular monthly blog series “MNN Diaries” returns today with the story of a producer many of you likely know: Will Sanchez.

Will fell into producing at MNN almost by accident—which you’d never guess, given the prolific resume he’s been building here ever since. Will is the executive producer and host of “Gotta Run with Will;" co-producer and editor of “Community Board 8 Speaks;” technical director and editor of “herFLiX;” editor of “New York Living;” and crew member on more than a dozen other of our network’s shows.

Needless to say, Will pours his heart and soul into this stumbled-upon career of his, and that passion has been matched with huge success: Will’s work makes its festival debut this month with “Save the Putnam Nature Trail,” a documentary short derived from the first on-location episode of “Gotta Run with Will.” Watch the doc's trailer here.

Read on as Mr. Sanchez describes how one serendipitous opportunity can set into motion profound life changes, the importance of putting your guests at ease, and how the revitalizing nature of community access makes MNN a whole lot like running.

What led you to MNN?

Serendipity! A colleague wanted to revive a monthly show my community board had been doing called “Community Board 8 Speaks.” He must have asked me three times and when my wife agreed to part of the team I followed them to MNN and I have never looked back!

What have you learned—about the craft, about yourself—while creating a TV show at MNN?

I learned that you cannot cram for a show if production value matters to you. I gave myself a year of crewing with a variety of producers before taking the next step. I learned what works and developed a sense of best practices. One of the best shows for learning how to think outside the box is “Minding Your Business"—June and Ed Middleton make it look natural because they simply lead by example. I loved that June would invite her guests to perform creatively, usually singing or playing an instrument, after interviewing them on entrepreneurship.

Despite that preparation, one of my early hosting stints went so poorly that I almost gave up. It only works for me when I’m with people who want to help me succeed. I soldiered on when my director offered to fix the recording in post-production. I realized then that I had to adjust my expectations and that I needed to learn post-production skills like editing. Being in front of the camera required that I simplify the workflow for my crew so that I could concentrate on my guests, who were nervous being in front of cameras. Fortunately I was a guest on “Conversations with Harold Channer” very early on my MNN career. From Harold I learned to keep it conversational to put the guest and me at ease.

How would you like your show to impact your audience?

The pitch for “Gotta Run with Will” is to feature guests who have used the gift of running to transform their lives and to better the lives of others. Many of them were late bloomers in discovering their talents. Some were basket cases in their youth but all have learned to improve themselves. The takeaway is that it’s never too late to get moving, as fitness means freedom to do more, and it is so much fun to do what you thought was inconceivable.

How has MNN changed your life, present and future?

Profoundly. I was a computer nerd walking into MNN. MNN opened my soul to the creative process of producing shows. Every time I’m in the bullpen, or crewing a musical or a movie review show, or at the new Firehouse facility, I’m constantly learning and meeting new producers. I feed off the energy, my legs feel lighter and my feet are in constant motion, and I feel tremendous joy paying it forward by playing so many different roles. Examples include being at the birth of shows such as “PhotoTalk” and “New York Living,” and discovering long-running gems like "Diamante,” and taking a robust role with “herFLiX.” At “herFLiX,” every time I’m working with media in various formats, and because it’s a movie or film festival review show, it all must be completed and uploaded to MNN’s servers to meet the air-date deadline. It’s a rush! The most recent episode covered the 2013 Emmy nominations.

Working on “herFLiX” led me to my current project, a unique episode of “Gotta Run with Will.” It’s a documentary called “Save the Putnam Nature Trail.” This has been the most challenging and personally satisfying work I’ve done. I used my experiences as a Community Board activist, my technical skills, and my entree to the running community to pull together dozens of voices and hundreds of clips to tell a powerful story of environmental justice. While MNN was undergoing its technology upgrade, I did my first on-location hosting by traveling to the Putnam Trail in the Bronx to record users of the trail, documenting what made this mile-and-a-half dirt road so special and beloved by its community. My production team was comprised of folks I worked with at “herFLiX.” I’ve seen their talents and knew they would commit to the success of the project. A film festival director, while visiting MNN, saw the piece and immediately commissioned a short version to showcase at the third annual International Film Festival Manhattan. Our world première is planned for Sunday, October 20. Just like the gift of running, MNN is a gift that enriches my life, and I use that to better the lives of others through filmmaking.

In three words, why do you love the work you do at MNN?

It’s steady joy.

Watch "Gotta Run with Will" every Thursday at 9:30pm on MNN3 and MNN.org. You can check out what the program has covered to date on Will's YouTube channel.