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How did you discover your interest in videography, and what sparked your interest in live broadcasting? My interest started at a very young age. As far as I can remember, I was always making films with my friends in our garages. I was often the one who took the lead with filming, directing and editing.

The film school I attended was much more practical than theoretical. We were thrown into making short films and projects very quickly. I enjoyed the process, the hustle—all the moving parts that have to come together cohesively to make a project successful. That sealed my fate: I was inspired, and the passion was there for me.

I’ve had a versatile career starting in a post-production house producing commercials to spending years managing reality TV shows and documentary production. After many years spent hustling in varied media, I was drawn to the immediate and the bold. I love how live broadcasting is just that: it’s happening live, and it’s instantly consumable. There is something so exciting about that to me. Throw in the added layer of extreme action sports, and my passion married my personal interest.

What’s the key to creating live-event action sports productions? Your team! Surround yourself with people who have the same passion as you, who are experts in their fields and will stop at nothing to deliver the best product to their clients.

In any live production, there are a lot of moving parts. You must love the thrill of curveballs, problem solving and the entire creative process.

With the added layer of a sports production, you have the thrill of never knowing the outcome. You can anticipate, but when you watch all the hard work you’ve put into the preproduction transpire and unfold right in front of your eyes—well, that’s where the magic happens.

Our job at Uncle Toad’s is to make an event digestible and stand out, as well as to deliver a broadcast both unique and authentic. We pride ourselves on doing just that.

Your work takes you to very remote locations. What kinds of tools are necessary for producing live events in these locations? Proper preparation is key whether our team is working on a remote glacier in Alaska or an island in Fiji. We typically start the preproduction and planning process six months to one year before each event. When working in a remote location where you don’t have the luxury of running out to the local camera shop to find a broken part, you must anticipate all possible hiccups that come your way. You must be creative and able to pivot quickly when those hurdles do come your way. You must become comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Those remote locations are always the most challenging projects but never fail to offer the most incredible returns.

If we can cover an event and deliver it to the audience in a way that keeps them wanting more, we have done our jobs!”

What was one event that was particularly challenging to shoot, and how did you overcome it? A marathon in Monza, Italy, where we produced a live broadcast for Nike. We had several days before the event to load in and rehearse. An event of this magnitude takes multiple days to set up and test to pull off flawlessly. The day before the live event, there was a storm that flooded our control room. We had to take apart all the work we had done in the last 72 hours in a matter of minutes to ensure the gear was elevated and away from potential water damage. But like all storms, whether they are literal or metaphorical, it subsided. We banded together, pushed through and put everything back in the wee hours of the night, and then pulled off one of our most celebrated—and awarded—broadcasts to date. The wrap party from this event was extra special to us all. We had been through the wringer, and celebrating with people you’ve been in the trenches with for more than a year—well, there is nothing quite like that payoff. Especially when it comes with an Italian feast.

How has working on action sports events informed Uncle Toad’s work on music events and ads—or vice versa? In action sports, the outcome is unknown. You must be creative with your storylines and be able to adapt quickly. In my opinion, this makes us well-rounded producers who tend to think outside the box because we must.

In media that are a little more predictable, like music events, we have the luxury of spending more time producing creative coverage. But as with all live events, unpredictability is part of the fun; you never know what’s going to happen. We love those edge-of-your-seat moments. If we can cover an event and deliver it to the audience in a way that keeps them wanting more, we have done our jobs!

What do you think of the industry at the moment, and where do you see it headed? The world of live broadcasting is changing rapidly. With the accessibility for anyone to go live across multiple platforms, you might see an average joe with a cooking show via Instagram live. This, in my opinion, will never take the place of high-quality broadcast television, but it confirms the desire for digestible content. Everyone wants it immediately because it’s so accessible now. In a lot of ways, this is going to open the door for a lot of growth and changes in our industry.

I also think we will see a lot more with user activations where the audience can be a part of the broadcast from home. I look forward to seeing that all transpire.

What has been one of your favorite Uncle Toad projects to work on? There are so many, but I had the honor of being part of the Natural Selection Tour this past year, which was the first-of-its-kind backcountry freestyle snowboard event and the brainchild of professional snowboarder Travis Rice. We worked with the Natural Selection Tour team for more than three years before the live broadcast came to fruition in 2021.

We love working with clients that dream big and want to push the envelope. Any projects where we come in as creative partners—and our clients want to invent a new style of a sport or rewrite the way it has been covered in the past—that is a challenge we will always be up for.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Find someone you admire and work for them. Become indispensable, which will take a lot of time and hard work. But if you are passionate about what you do, it really won’t feel like work at all.

When it comes down to it, we are all professional problem solvers in our field. You might have to grow some thick skin to manage the defeat of the many things that won’t go your way or the inevitable fires we all must put out. But how you deal with the conflict and come out of it is far more important than the conflict itself.

Find balance early on. In our industry, if you’re not careful, you can burn out easily. Pay attention to what brings you balance, and you’ll be able to bring your A-game all the time. ca

Keely Wallis is director of production at Uncle Toad’s Media Group (UTMG), an award-winning production company specializing in live broadcast, content creation and creative storytelling for professional action sports, music and live events. Wallis has a robust knowledge of the industry due to her multidimensional background. She started in a motion graphic post-production house producing commercial spots for brands like Walmart. Wallis continued to diversify her career through production roles on feature films and music videos. She was also previously production manager at World of Wonder Productions, managing more than 20 multimillion-dollar reality TV shows and multiple Emmy-nominated documentaries for clients like HBO, Bravo and VH1. Her love for sports, the outdoors and entertainment collided when she began her career with UTMG nearly a decade ago. At UTMG, Wallis has been a humble, effective leader who believes endlessly in the idea that leading by example and with dedication and transparency is of the utmost importance. She thrives on creating an environment at UTMG that is conducive to maximum productivity, creativity and innovation.

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