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Dublin High School Class of ’10 Alum Deanna Hong Lands Emmy with NBC Rio Olympics Team

June 1, 2017

LOS ANGELES, CA–Since we last spoke to Dublin High School Class of ’10 and UCLA Class of ’14 alum Deanna Hong, she was on the Emmy-winning NBC Rio Olympics team and produced a short documentary on Gold Medal Gymnast Jordyn Wieber that has been viewed over one million times. We caught up with Deanna to learn more about her Emmy-winning experience and building a career in video production.

ABOUT - FULL What did it feel like to hear that the team you were on had won an Emmy?

Deanna Hong: “We found out we were nominated a few months ago. I worked for NBC Olympics, covering the Rio 2016 Games, and didn’t learn until after the winners were announced that we’d won. NBC hadn’t won this particular category since 2008.

“I was at home, in my living room, and I had forgotten it was the day of the ceremony! Several friends, a colleague, and my boss at UCLA Gymnastics texted me that the team I was on had won an Emmy. It was exciting; we opened up a bottle of champagne and spilled it all over the living room!” Tell me more about the work the team did that led to the Emmy.

Hong: “I worked on NBC’s coverage remotely from Stamford, Connecticut where NBC Sports is headquartered. There was a staff of about 2,000 people in Stamford during the Olympics, plus the crew that was on the ground in Rio. We had studios and control rooms – everything we needed was on site. I worked on a digital, daily gymnastics re-cap show called The Daily Dismount. There are multiple ways you can watch the Olympics now; what used to be the main way, primetime coverage, is no longer the only way to watch the Olympics, especially because social media makes it very hard to keep the results a secret until prime time. I was working on digital coverage of the live stream, for fans that don’t want to wait for the prime time coverage. Our 30-minute re-cap show would start 90 seconds after gymnastics coverage ended each day, and we’d be producing the show during the live stream.”

NBC OlympicsFar left is 2004 Olympic medalist Courtney Kupets, and on the right is 2008 and 2012 Olympic medalist Jonathan Horton. They hosted “Daily Dismount,” which is the digital show Deanna worked on. Given the number of cameras involved and hours of live stream footage, how was the team able to pull together a 30-minute show just 90 seconds after the event ended?

Hong: “My official title on the team was ‘Production Associate’ and I worked with the EVS operator (it helped that I’ve been an EVS operator for years) and the Assistant Director. Coming from my career with UCLA Gymnastics I had a more gymnastics knowledge than most others on the crew. They were the best in their field at broadcast production (as they do the figure skating coverage during the Winter Olympics), but in terms of gymnastics knowledge it was just me and one other person who really knew the sport.

“I would sit with the EVS operator and we’d watch the competition together, watching anywhere from five to seven feeds, and created video packages on the fly. We’d build storylines and tried to figure out ‘is this person going to win’ or ‘is this a big upset’? We’d look for the story and anticipate what we’d want covered during the re-cap show. At the start of competition each day we’d have seven or eight possible storylines in mind and tried to anticipate who would land on the podium. As the competition went on we were crossing people off, but making sure to have packages ready for any of the remaining possible stories.”

“In theory you want to be ready to go immediately after the competition ends. We do have time during the medal ceremony, while people are still watching the live stream, to finish everything up. The Daily Dismount announcers were also the live stream announcers so they’d have to sprint to the studio from the live stream booth to do the re-cap show.”

UCLA Gymnastics - EllenUCLA Gymnastics was invited on The Ellen Show due to the viral fame of Sophina DeJesus’s floor routine in 2016 (Deanna front row, far right) Do you get to enjoy the moment at all, or are you so focused on production that you can’t really ‘watch’ what you are watching?

Hong: “Because I wasn’t the EVS Operator for this production (I was assisting the operator) I was able to watch the event while it was happening. My co-workers would make fun of me because I’d get super into the competition! Once the re-cap show went on air my job was pretty much done and then I could truly sit back and watch.” It’s been a few years since we last spoke. What are you up to today?

Hong: “Last time we talked I was interning for the UCLA Athletics Department. That grew into my becoming the UCLA Gymnastics Team’s videographer. UCLA Gymnastics is now the most followed Women’s NCAA team in the country, which is really cool. It’s been a terrific platform for my work and a way to build my career. We have multiple former Olympians in the program. A year before the Rio Olympics I started reaching out to a few Olympics athletes I had connections with and produced short documentaries under my own production name, Deanna Hong Productions, starting with Kyla Ross, and followed by Charlotte Drury, and Jordyn Wieber.

“Having the platform of UCLA Gymnastics and the ability to work with top athletes in the sport caught the eye of an NBC producer, who tweeted my Charlotte Drury video. I saw that as an opportunity to fulfill a dream of working with NBC during the Olympics. I tweeted her back, we ended up talking on the phone the same week, and she’s the person who helped get me on to the NBC team. It felt good that taking the initiative to make those documentaries on YouTube helped further my career.” What have you learned about athletes and in particular gymnasts, and what they go through, from your view behind the lens?

OlympiansFrom left to right: 4x Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist Kyla Ross, Deanna, All-American Katelyn Ohashi, 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist Madison Kocian, and UCLA Gymnast Giulianna Pino

Hong: “I’ve worked with college gymnasts at UCLA, who in many cases have come from elite gymnastics, and I’ve learned that gymnasts are the most beat-up athletes in all of sports. It’s ridiculous how much pain they compete with, how many surgeries they’ve all had; it’s a really tough sport that is super mental. It’s also a really weird sport for someone who isn’t a gymnast (I played lacrosse). It’s weird because gymnasts compete against each other but can’t interfere with each other. In lacrosse you can check a player or a goalie can block a shot, but in gymnastics no one will heckle you or block you. You get up and perform, and that’s it; it’s all on you.

“More than anything else, though, I’ve learned that athletes work really hard.” What have you learned about making the transition from college to working full-time?

Hong: “I was thinking about that this week. I’ve reached a point where people are approaching me for projects after years of needing to chase people to give me an opportunity. This week a television producer invited me to lunch, a student newspaper at UCLA reached out, you contacted me and a pro sports organization asked if I wanted to work with them. I feel like this week in particular has made me feel more established, that I don’t have to chase quite as hard!” What advice do you have about chasing opportunities – whether that’s a summer job in high school, or an internship during college, or the next job after college – what have you learned about being effective when building a network and chasing opportunities?

Hong: “You have to remember that the worst thing anyone can ever say is ‘no’. You should never be afraid to ask, because there are so many things you won’t know until you ask. Now that I’m in a position where I can help other people, I want to help them, and I’m realizing that the same applied to me when I was asking for help.

“Having a clear goal in mind is very important when asking for help. I’m currently evaluating my next steps and during a recent discussion with a TV producer I was given feedback to be more clear on where I want to go next. I’ve seen the same when people reach out to me – it’s always easier for me to answer specific questions. I went to lunch with a young woman recently who didn’t have a particular goal in mind so I felt like I was talking in circles, and I wasn’t sure if I was being helpful.”

We close with Deanna’s inspiring documentary of Olympian Gold Medalist Jordyn Wieber:

[UPDATED 1/19/2019] Deanna filmed this extraordinary 10.0 Floor routine by UCLA Gymnast Katelyn Ohashi:


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