Hustle and Heart: An Interview with Michele Dotson Purcell

Michele and Andy Purcell, Neyland Stadium

Michele and Andy Purcell, Neyland Stadium

Today I get the opportunity to interview a "family" member, and I'm very excited to share with you her story.  She is married to my cousin, Andy Purcell, and they live in Knoxville, Tennessee.  

Michele is the Executive Producer, Digital Home and Travel Scripps Networks Interactive.  She has a really interesting job that takes her to locations around the world, and I love learning more about how she got into this industry.  I think you will too!

Did you always know you wanted to work in television?

As a child I was adamant that I would become a teacher. When I reached high school everything changed. My parents sold the business they owned, and my dad decided he wanted to pursue a career in auto racing. This led to us traveling around the country for him to race and in doing so I became exposed to a lot of very interesting and successful people. Some of those people were in the industry. I became interested in video production during this time and was fortunate to be able to work in the press room and with ESPN during the race weekends.

Michele in her ESPN days

Michele in her ESPN days

What inspired you to choose this career?

The experience of traveling around the country with my dad for his races and seeing how ESPN brought their traveling circus to each race with a hundred people behind the scenes making it all happen- that was definitely my inspiration.

Michele behind-the-scenes with Laurie March, host of HGTV "The House Counselor"

Michele behind-the-scenes with Laurie March, host of HGTV "The House Counselor"

As a TV producer, you don’t have a typical 9-5:00 job in an office.  Can you share what a day is like for you?

Because I'm on location with a lot of our productions, time spent in the office is filled with meetings with various team members about the status of all of our various projects or brainstorming about upcoming video series. When I'm in town I work from home on Fridays and try to keep those days meeting-free. I spend that time reviewing scripts or giving notes on videos that are the final stages of production.

Being on a shoot is an all-encompassing thing. We work 10 hour days in production and when you include travel to and from the location, it makes for some long days. Other out of the ordinary things I may end up doing are buying wardrobe for talent, going to Big Box stores to research a sponsor product we might be using in an upcoming video series or scouring social media platforms for influencers we might want to work with.

Picture Michele took on set with HGTV personality, Dan Faires

Picture Michele took on set with HGTV personality, Dan Faires

I know you’ve worked with the HGTV Dream Home.  What has been your favorite one so far and why?

From 2006-2008 I produced the TV shows and from 2009 until now I've supervised production for the videos that appear on HGTV.com and social media sites. My favorite house is 2008's home in Islamorada, Florida- for sentimental reasons. My parents live in the Keys, about an hour and half from Islamorada. I love that area and it was great fun to share my passion for the Keys with our audience. There's a funny thing that happens with the HGTV Dream Home- every year we all walk in the house and are blown away by the location, the architecture, the beauty of the spaces in the home. I think I end up saying every year- this one's my favorite. I liked the bedroom of the 2017 home so much I bought the rug while we were shooting. When I got back from the shoot My husband painted the walls and now we have our own "HGTV Dream Home bedroom."

HGTV Dream Home, Islamorada, Florida; Photo Credit: HGTV.com

HGTV Dream Home, Islamorada, Florida; Photo Credit: HGTV.com

What’s it like to work on that particular project?  Can you give the readers a little insight into that process? 

It's a year-round affair. Just this week the TV show crew will be surprising the winner of the 2017 home and we had our internal kick-off meeting about the 2018 house. The project touches many different departments, but we all have a different part to play. The HGTV Dream Homes are very popular and the audience will tell you what they like. I really enjoy the evolution of our content for the website. Each year we take a look and see what we can do to fulfill our viewers needs and keep our approach fresh. This year we started doing 360 degree videos, which is a very new medium, but it works because it gives you such a great view into the house that you can't get with a normal camera.

You’ve worked with the Property Brothers before.  What project(s) did you work on with them? 

I was lucky enough to work with Drew at Vidcon a few years back. He and his girlfriend (now fiancee') were there just for fun. I was there with our HGTV Handmade talent (our YouTube channel dedicated to crafts and DIYs) and he was game to shoot with our team. His Brother JD and I have worked on a few projects together, including a fun video series we shot in Las Vegas called "Can I Come In?"

How has your job changed over the years?  I know over the last few years you have focused a lot on the online aspect of HGTV.  How is that different than taping for TV?

I started as Production Assistant- holding cue cards and booking the audience in for a show called "Club Dance" on The Nashville Network. It was like a country-western "American Bandstand" with a dash of soap opera thrown in. This was before computers so I personally talked to everyone on the phone before they came to a taping. I spent the next few years honing my skills and eventually was promoted to Producer on a show called "Interiors By Design." I traveled around the country interviewing designers in their client's home, giving tips and info on design styles. For the past 9 years I've worked on the digital side of our business, focused on shorter, more tip-oriented videos for our websites and social media outlets. My role has expanded in the past year to include digital videos for the Travel Channel, as well as DIY and HGTV. So my career has definitely evolved. Jumping from TV to Digital was a big shift and a learning curve, but I was at a point in my career that I was ready to learn something new- find a new way to use the skills I had honed as a Producer and show runner. We've spent the past few years talking about all the ways our fans watch our videos- on our website, on facebook, YouTube, snapchat- I'm always looking around the corner for the next way we will be tweaking our formats to suit where our audience is going to watch our videos. With TV there's a beginning, middle and end to the project as you go through planning to shooting to having the show air. With digital video once you make it it's out there forever.

Michele representing HGTV at the Anaheim Convention Center

Michele representing HGTV at the Anaheim Convention Center

What is your favorite part of your job?

At my core I am still a producer- I really like the entire genesis of a project- taking it from an idea, collaborating with others to make it a reality and then seeing how the audience interacts with the finished product.

This picture is special because it features not only Michele, but my also my cousin Laura Kaufmann (a very talented kitchen and bath designer in Chicago, Illinois).  She was featured in a project that Michele and her crew filmed on location.

This picture is special because it features not only Michele, but my also my cousin Laura Kaufmann (a very talented kitchen and bath designer in Chicago, Illinois).  She was featured in a project that Michele and her crew filmed on location.

What’s the best location you’ve been to?

The most exotic place I've been for work is Tahiti. But sometimes it's not the location that makes things so fun or rewarding. One of my most favorite nights I can remember was sitting in the driveway of a home we had just shot and laughing and talking with the crew about our crazy week. There's nothing glamorous about that.

What is something that would be surprising for people to learn about you?

I'm constantly test marketing- asking friends and family about what projects they are doing around the home, what destinations they might be going to soon. Everyone is a potential viewer.

Did anyone give you advice that still sticks with you?

"Never miss an opportunity to learn something new." As you progress in your career it's easy to think you know more than others who aren't as experienced. It's dangerous to close yourself off like this.

Favorite Quote?

Haha- "You can't get away from crazy"

If you weren’t in television, what would you be doing?

I think I would be doing something with crafts or handmade items or working in a clothing resale shop. I love clothes and fashion and I love finding a sale or getting a deal. I think later in life I could totally see myself working as a tour guide or in a welcome center.

What advice would you have for someone that wants to pursue his/her passions? 

There are so many ways to research what your passion might be and great online tools you can use to connect with others who share that passion. Definitely finding like minds is the first place to start. I'm a huge fan of podcasts and I have a revolving door of ones I listen to that are about media and tech. And then I use the search function to find interviews with people I'm interested in.

Michele on set...literally watching paint dry!

Michele on set...literally watching paint dry!

What’s one thing they absolutely must do?

If you want something to happen you really have to work at it- spend quality time laying out a plan and a timeline- have milestones to track your progress and keep you motivated.

Michele, thanks so much for stopping by and visiting with us.  I have loved learning more about what goes on behind-the-scenes at networks, like HGTV.  I love that you pursued your passions early on, and have continued to evolve in your career.

For those of you who want to see some of Michele's work, check out this link to her latest project: HGTV Smart Home 2017