Cate Burzynski, ’11, has helped track down two fugitives under arrest for murder, received physic readings from children with paranormal abilities, and recruited master tattoo artists and human canvases for a real-life competition in ink artistry.
These are “normal” responsibilities for Burzynski, an independent producer based in New York City.
Burzynski graduated from Buffalo State with a double major in public communication and media production as well as a minor in anthropology. She said a course in media production opened her ideas to careers in producing.
“The first course I took in media production changed everything for me,” she said.
“Television producers work directly with the people you see on the shows,” said Burzynski, who has held producer roles on In Pursuit with John Walsh (Investigation Discovery), Psychic Kids (A+E), and Ink Master (Paramount Network).
“Ultimately, my job on an unscripted series is to make people on the show feel comfortable, learn about their stories, and decide how they will be presented to the audience in a cohesive and compelling way,” she said.
Burzynski moved to Stamford, Connecticut, after graduating from Buffalo State to work as a producer, booking guests and framing daily storylines.
“Talk shows are such a different format of TV because you are taping in front of a live audience,” she said. Burzynski said she likes talk shows because of the exciting nature of filming in front of a live audience.
“There is no feeling like a show-day feeling,” Burzynski said. “There’s so much excitement and energy.”
Burzynski spent five years working in Connecticut, and her past two years in freelance production have taken her across the country to tell various stories.
“As a producer, you’ll get pulled into things outside of the typical production role,” she said.
She said working on In Pursuit with John Walsh was one of the most rewarding experiences of her career. The series highlights crimes in which the perpetrators are still on the run. Walsh was the longtime host of America’s Most Wanted.
“The show tells the stories of unclosed cases through the perspectives of the victims’ families and law enforcement,” she said. The real crime series uses interviews and reenactments of unclosed cases in the United States.
“After the show’s premiere, the FBI caught two of the men we profiled in episodes,” she said. “Basically, our team played a huge role in catching the bad guys, because our viewers actually called in tips because they recognized the men from watching our show.”
Burzynski is currently working for Sony Pictures as a producer on The Mel Robbins Show, which debuted in syndication in September. Robbins, a motivational speaker and life coach, is the author of The 5 Second Rule.
In addition to technical abilities, producers need to have interpersonal skills to work in a fast-paced, competitive field like television production, she said. “In my industry, networking is key. It’s all about who you know.
“Your personality, being willing to try new things, and having a positive attitude will help you be successful,” she said. “You have to go the extra mile—and always do it with a smile on your face.
“I learned a lot of creative writing and storytelling skills in my classes, but I also learned how to adjust lighting and use a camera,” she said. Her hands-on experience in the classroom and an internship at a production firm in Buffalo taught her how to be well-rounded in her skills as a producer.
“Every day at my job, I am able to jump in because of what I learned at Buffalo State.”
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