For some television and film producers, their love of the craft stems from the adrenaline rush and the excitement of creating something new and successful that skyrockets ratings and boosts network views. For Mark Vertullo, it’s his love of stories and passion for people that drew him to become a producer.
“I just really love telling stories,” said Vertullo. “I was reading something I wrote when I was eight years old—It was like a Bonne and Clyde thing—and was like, ‘Wow, this kid is really good.’ I hope you guys keep everything you write.”
Last Thursday, Vertullo, executive producer of CBS’ The Amazing Race, came to PLNU to have a Q&A with film majors and anyone else with an adoration for production. The evening began with a viewing of an episode from season 28 and, as gears began turning in student’s heads what questions to ask, the storyteller himself walked in. Eliza Jason, a senior media communications major, asked how the producer got his start.
Vertullo, like so many other born and raised San Diegans, grew up surfing California waves. Upon attending USC, despite his innate desire to tell stories and the family’s tradition of regularly visiting Universal Studios, Vertullo decided not to major in film, but rather become a journalist. He interned with ESPN and professional sports teams, but in 1991, he found himself back in the production studios he fell in love with as a kid.
“I was so amazed by studio lots like Warner Brothers,” said Vertullo. “They’re just larger than life. I went from being eight years old at Paramount to having an office right next to the New York set.”
During his time working at Paramount, the young writer noticed that while the writers, directors and camera operators came and went on the sets, the executive producers were always there, always present. Eventually, Vertullo became one of the youngest execs at Paramount.
“They said, ‘You have a unique way of taking the money aspect and creative aspect and putting it together, and the way you work with people is fantastic,’” said Vertullo.
It’s been 12 years since the producer began working on The Amazing Race, “this travelling circus,” as he calls it, and the show is now halfway through season 30. Questions poured in from students about how many camera guys are assigned to a team, what the show does for disabled contestants and, of course, what Vertullo loves most about working on the show.
“It’s one of the most difficult shows I’ve ever worked on, but the thing I love about it is that everyone is a team,” said Vertullo. “The greatest part is the way that everyone works together.”
That evening, Vertullo’s creative heart not only produced laughs from his stories of dire hospital visits and rolling up pants to put race clues in fountains, but also inspired other young and hungry hearts in the forum to create something truly astounding.
“Whatever facilities you have, use them to make something that people can see, feel, talk about,” said Vertullo. “Put all the balls in the air because not all of them are going to make it. If a door opens, kick it down and run into that room.”
Over a dozen students waited in line after the Q&A to talk with Vertullo and, whether they needed advice or just wanted to meet the producer of their favorite show, he stayed to chat with them all.