Here at Indigo we had the opportunity to sit down with Mary Beth Anderson, executive TV producer/director, entrepreneur & absolute gem of a human with amazing goals and accomplishments. She had a vision when she was 12 of what industry she wanted to be in, and through hard work and achievable goals, she has made it there and beyond! MB, as her friends and fam refer to her as, is also in the midst of launching a new business and we cannot wait to hear more!
What drew you to the television industry? Did you always want to work in the field? Has it always been a dream of yours?
I was 12 years old when I decided I wanted to work in the TV industry. There was an in-school announcement show that was broadcast each morning to each classroom...and that was my first directing "gig." I loved it from the start and decided then and there that I wanted to work in TV. At that point I had had a unique view of the entertainment industry - as I'd been an extra in a TV show and had sat in the studio audience of some Disney Channel shows in FL - so I knew it was an actual job that I could pursue and make a living doing.
Let’s get into the timeline- what was your first job in the industry, and how did you work your way up to where you are now?
My first "real" gig was a 2-week internship stint on a show called "Trading Spaces." At that point, I REALLY wanted to work for that production company so even though I had already graduated from college - I re-matriculated into school and bought an internship credit. This was right after 9/11 and the job market was weird- no one was hiring and I had to think outside of the box in order to land a full-time job. I lived at my grandmother's house close to where the show was produced in Philly and I treated the internship as a real job with the objective to get an actual gig at that production company. If they weren't going to hire me if I walked in the front door - I figured I could sneak in the backdoor, prove myself as a worthy hire, and get a full-time job. It worked!
At this point, Trading Spaces was a relatively unknown series. I ended up landing a research gig on a Labor & delivery show for Discovery for a few months and then was brought on to season 3 of Trading Spaces as their "researcher" or homeowner casting person. My foot was officially in the door - and I worked my way up the ranks at Trading Spaces for the next 4 years - leaving as a senior producer/ director.
Do you feel as if you can express yourself creatively through your work on set?
100% I do. My job is 1 part creative, 1 part logistics, and 1 part management. I love all of the elements of it. I use "panning for gold" as my analogy for storytelling in the unscripted world. I always want the story to come across organically and uncontrived and I am constantly looking for the best "story nuggets." On a construction/ design site - there is a lot happening- so I'm constantly sifting through all of the action to see what storyline is worth following and highlighting. Sometimes it's super obvious- sometimes it's not and that's where I really get to flex my creative muscles.
I really try and make sure that the fun on the set comes through the camera to the viewer at home. If we're not having fun together on set, then the show won't be fun to watch. I'm all about the "vibe." I also want to honor the talent/ designers that I'm working with. How can we creatively tell their story and express their aesthetics point of view? How can we be sure that we execute their vision in a tight timeline with a relatively tight budget?
The shows I make each have lives of their own and it's really gratifying to know that people all over the world watch what myself and my teams create. I'm never not floored that there are fans of my shows in Asia, South America, Australia, and Europe. It's an honor to bring our home transformations and stories to people all over the globe and that it resonates in any language.
You’ve traveled a ton and hopped from city to city for Property Brothers, which city was your favorite to film in and why?
I've been in a perpetual state of travel since I started filming on location with Trading Spaces back in 2003. Back then we traveled all over the country (we even did castles in Scotland!) for 2 weeks at a time. Back then - my favorite city was the sleeper hit of Pittsburgh, PA...fastforward to ten years and I found myself back in Pitt producing an HGTV series with Leanne Ford and her brother Steve. I still love it there.
As for the Property Brothers - my favorite city was New Orleans, LA. I did a series for them called "Brothers Take New Orleans" and it was basically a love letter to NOLA. I got to film at some of my favorite local haunts and really feature the music, food, and unique culture of the Crescent City. Pittsburgh and New Orleans obviously left their mark as I now own homes in both cities. ha! I'm always getting asked by friends and family where they should travel to, where to stay and what to do in all sorts of locales...so I recently teamed up with my friend and fellow travel lover Monica Mangin and opened "Abroad" a travel service and community for women. Think of it as an Ipsy for travel.
When traveling on the reg, where did you find calmness in the day-to-day?
I wasn't always great at this - but in the past few years have gotten in the habit of waking up really early to journal, watch a sailing vlog series on YouTube and work out. If I don't take time for myself at the beginning of the day - I might not have time at the end of the day. Self Care is important. I really love the Future Self by "The Holistic Psychologist" Nicole LaPera. It really helps me find intention for my day. My favorite YouTubers are "Sailing LaVagabonde" I've been following them for almost 6 years and I find living a vicarious life with them on the ocean so fun. My goal is to one day live full-time on a sailboat. During the early days of the pandemic, I started sampling out different at-home workouts - and found Melissa Wood Health. Her pilates & yoga flows are really amazing - and she often incorporates some centering and breathing into her workouts. If you join her site she does a weekly schedule which I really like and keeps me on task.
Entertaining is a love for us all- do you have a go-to dish when having friends over? Favorite playlist/cocktail?
Oh man - I really miss having friends over. Hmmm- I really tend to mix up what I'm making based on who we're having over, where we're living, and what season it is. Maybe it's Spring in San Francisco - so we're eating artichokes with drawn butter and crusty loaves of sourdough bread. Maybe it's winter in New Orleans - expect a pot of gumbo when you show up at my house. Is it summer in Pittsburgh? Then we'll probably be feasting on local veggies from the farmer's market and locally raised steaks.
I love to stream and listen to local New Orleans radio station WWOZ no matter where I'm living. They focus on local musicians and incredible tunes from all over the world - the vibe is almost always right. I also have a running Spotify playlist with random tunes I discover online, or playing in stores, on videos, etc. I love it and it always puts me in a great mood.
If you could sit at a dinner party with three people, who would they be and where would you go?
Oh man! I REALLY miss hosting dinner parties and I REALLY miss my girlfriends from Philly. I don't think I could have made it through "high quar" without them. In a dream world - we'd have a dinner party on a roof deck in our old South Philly neighborhood with yummy food bought from the Italian Market and delicious champagne and red wine. Hmmm or maybe they'd all come down to New Orleans for a big girls weekend and we'd all stay at The Chloe Hotel on St. Charles Avenue? I miss my people. I can't wait to start seeing everyone again.
What is your number one piece of advice for anyone trying to enter the industry? Anything you would want to tell your younger self?
My two main pieces of advice for entering show biz is to be REALLY clear about what type of entertainment you want to make and what job you'd like to have. I really don't know that much about how a big blockbuster movie set works. If you want to make scripted films - don't get an internship or entry-level job in unscripted TV- and vice versa. I feel grateful that I had extreme clarity about what I wanted to make and with whom from a young age. It made jumping in way easier. Be picky!
The other main point of advice I would offer is to advocate for yourself. Tell people what the eventual job you want is and keep reminding them of it! I had a lot of moxie from the get-go...be willing to learn as you go and don't be afraid to grab up to the next wrung. You'll figure out what you need to do to execute on the job. Experience is the best teacher.