Laid off at the top of his game, video producer reinvented himself

By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 5, 2010; 10:31 PM

Joe Schreiber had the ride of his life for 23 years.

He was a producer for "The George Michael Sports Machine," a nationally syndicated TV show hosted by the WRC sports anchor and local icon.

Schreiber covered 23 Super Bowls. He interviewed big stars: Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Dale Earnhardt and Walter Payton. He won 11 Emmys. Had access to sports agents, league commissioners, team owners and took in up to $175,000 a year in salary.

Then came the day in November 2006, when Michael called Schreiber into his office at WRC on Nebraska Avenue.

"He tells us we're done as of March of '07," said Schreiber, recalling the news that "The Sports Machine" was being cancelled. "He says you will get a year of severance and benefits, and asked us to stick it out with him until the following March. The whole sports department would be cut down to size."

Entrepreneurs show their colors in many ways. And maybe this column is more about reinventing oneself than it is about building a business. But Schreiber's journey from being laid off to owning his own production company is the kind of lesson in self-discovery that I find instructive and motivating.

Schreiber, 49, a graduate of Boston College, now runs Mattmar Productions (named for his two children) from his North Potomac home. Mattmar has been on a three-year roll, grossing more than $400,000 last year.

The company films everything from 30-second commercials for a salad restaurant chain to Mother's Day and Father's Day shorts for CBS Sports to five-minute corporate Web documentaries.

Schreiber has a full-time employee, a stable of production partners he calls on for help and a piece of a growing film company with former Redskins place kicker Jess Atkinson.

Getting there wasn't easy. Schreiber had to figure out which of his skills were transferable and which weren't.

"All of a sudden, you are dumped. I was scared," he said. "I had never prepared myself for moving on" from Michael, who died last December.

For several weeks, he drove to a nearby Starbucks, where he sipped venti lattes, held sit-downs with video production pros and read "Radical Careering" by Sally Hogshead. The self-help guide taught him how to identify skills he learned from "The Sports Machine" and leverage them in a new job.

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