Southeast Missouri State University senior Heather Leslie of Bartlett is taking the fall semester off to continue traveling across the nation, working on the Discovery Channel’s “Street Outlaws: Memphis” and “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings.”
Leslie, a double major in mass communication, TV and film option, and theater, works as a production assistant with the Pilgrim Media Group, which produces reality shows on drag racing for the Discovery Channel. When the opportunity to travel and make connections in the industry came up, she couldn’t resist.
The “Street Outlaws” franchise follows drag racers across the country, capturing their struggles as they compete for trophies, cash and bragging rights. “Street Outlaws: Memphis” features a group of racers that compete with other groups on the streets. “Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings” features racers that compete on untreated tracks.
Leslie explained how she got started. “I was hired on because I reached out to a friend who was asking for help via social media for help filling in on set. After that, I just kept being called back to work! I have since found my own niche in the crew. I have made myself a valuable asset to the production by knowing the ins and outs of my specific area. I take my job very seriously, and I love every minute of it.”
A typical work day? No such thing, Leslie said. “Some days I start work at 7 a.m. and go until midnight, and others I start at 4 p.m. and go until 7 a.m. I handle all legal and release paperwork for the show so that we don’t have to blur any faces in post-production. I work outside in rain, heat and wind, and I run all over chasing down racers who need to do paperwork. At the end of the day when all of my paperwork is completed and in order, it is such a sigh of relief, knowing that I beat all the odds to keep it together. I love my job, in particular, because I get to work with the drag racers and their crews. I never knew I’d come to love drag racing cars and the people and fans of those who drive them!”
She also is getting a better understanding of her skills and work preferences. “I’m learning that I’m really good at paperwork – really good. I love the feeling of holding a clipboard, and having a walkie-talkie on my belt. I am learning the challenges and rewards of working on a long-term traveling show and that being organized and prepared is so important in this industry. Communication skills are crucial. On any given day, I might be talking to a kid who may have been on camera, drag racers, managers, producers and even executive producers. Having a positive attitude and respect for others goes such a long way, and it may be the difference between getting a job or not. This is a learning experience on how to live on the road. The most important aspect of this job are the connections that can be made. You never know who might be the next person to help you get a job.”
Her job’s travels across the U.S. are a bonus. “This job has given me a chance to see parts of the country that I have never been before. I have literally traveled coast to coast because of this job and experienced lots of adventures along the way.”
So far, she has been to California, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland. Her move recent travels were to New York City, N.Y.; Philadelphia, Penn.; and Chicago, Ill. In the months to come, she will be in Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas.
She credits her college for helping her make this dream come true.
“The faculty at Southeast has made this opportunity possible,” Leslie said. “They have done me a major courtesy by working with my schedule to allow me to film throughout last semester, and that’s one of the reasons I was able to make such good connections. I give the highest accolades to Dr. James Dufek, Fred Jones and Anthony Scherer in the Department of Mass Media for teaching me what I needed to know to allow me to stand out as a candidate for this job and for aiding me in résumé building and field broadcasting work. The theater and dance faculty have taught me how to hold myself as an industry professional as a performer and how to market myself as a valuable individual. I am blessed to attend a university that is so willing to aid in student success.”