We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Bateman-Mercado and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Mary, how do you think about risk?

Taking risks has been integral to my success as a television producer. This is an incredibly competitive field. Someone is always ready and waiting to take your job, and often, willing to do it for less money. My first job in TV was as a production assistant running the teleprompter. My goal was to become a news writer, so I studied other producers’ scripts. I approached the weekend producer, who I noticed was constantly overwhelmed and understaffed, and asked if I could come in on the weekends and help write scripts for free. He was thrilled to have the extra help. I really had no idea what I was doing but it was a risk that paid off. Once I worked through the first few awkward scripts, I started to get the hang of it, From there, I built a portfolio of writing samples that helped me eventually land a job as a stringer (freelance reporter) for the Miami Herald.

As my family grew, I began freelancing for a variety of publications and also worked as a part-time news planner for an ABC affiliate in Portland, OR. Once my children were all in school full-time, I was ready to dip my toes back into the broadcast world.

Our family had just moved to Detroit, MI. I had no contacts in the area. So, once again, I took another risk, called up the local ABC station, and asked who hired their news writers. With the name and email address of the executive producer in hand I wrote this crazy, outlandish letter touting all my amazing skills and again offering to work for free. I held nothing back. My letter was creative and bold — and it did the trick. I got an interview and was eventually hired. That executive producer tells me he still has that letter to this day. He said he had never received anything like it.

I worked as a news writer for a year and a half before the local programming executive producer approached me about producing a wedding planning TV special. I had no idea how to produce an hour-long show but I realized it was an incredible opportunity, so I said ‘yes’! I watched past episodes of this show, studied old scripts and rundowns, and put together my first TV special That led to a string of local home improvement and makeover shows, community event and townhalls specials, political debates, sporting events specials, and eventually a gig as a line producer for the nationally syndicated Rebecca’s Garden (which also aired on HGTV). When I gave my notice to the news department that I was leaving to produce a show for HGTV she asked me, “How does it feel when your real life exceeds your dreams?” I have to say it was beyond my wildest dreams, but it was also because I took big risks, moved through fear, and figured out how to do my job.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

I am a multiple Emmy award-winning broadcast producer, writer, and entrepreneur. I have been a part-time field producer for ABC News/Good Morning America for the past seven years and own my own production company, Mercado Fresh Media. Just over a year ago, I discovered ballroom dancing. As an offshoot of my new passion, I am also about to launch a size-inclusive dancewear business called Drest Couture. While there are plenty of dancewear companies that cater to smaller sizes, we quickly learned finding dancewear for average and plus-sized women was hard to come by. So, we’re hoping to fill that niche.

Over the past 20 years, I have produced dozens of TV shows including working as a supervising producer for a food/restaurant show, Goodtaste with Tanji Patton, which airs all over the state of Texas. Another career highlight includes working as a line producer for HGTV’s Rebecca’s Garden.

As a producer, I create the look and feel of the show, write scripts, hire and supervise the crew, and oversee the entire production from start to finish. In many cases, I also do interviews just like a reporter.

I believe my ability to organize large amounts of information into a compelling story and my ability to connect with people has led to my success as a TV producer. I have interviewed dozens of politicians and Fortune 500 CEOs, famous actors, celebrity chefs, musicians, and sports heroes. I have also interviewed ex-convicts, grieving families, and survivors in the middle of the night moments after a tornado ripped their house off its foundation. I have learned to find something in common with everyone I interview, find humanity in every story, and bring dignity to every person I meet.

One of my favorite parts of my job is the collaborative process of working with talented videographers, editors, and graphic designers who can take my interview or script and make it sing.

Over the years I produced several large, live, community event specials in Detroit. There, I worked with an incredible broadcast director who believed in all my crazy ideas. When I told him I wanted to do a show with multiple costume changes, a live band, a flash mob, a rolling live car cam, a chopper cam, and ten other cameras covering 15 miles of America’s first highway he said, ‘Yes!’, and made it happen. My favorite part of the process is laying down the idea and then seeing when other talented artists pick it up and create a product that exceeds my wildest expectations.

One of the most challenging parts of my current role with ABC is arriving in the wake of a devastating human tragedy like the Uvalde Robb Elementary School mass shooting, the Sutherland Springs church mass shooting, or the Dallas police shooting when seven officers were gunned down. It is the most surreal thing to witness something like this firsthand. The grief is palpable. Yet, the story needs to be told. So, we do our best to bring compassion and respect to the situation. What makes any of this tolerable is seeing the helpers take action, seeing the makeshift memorials form, and seeing the goodness in strangers bringing food and comforting those in need. What this has taught me personally is to act when I see a need. If you ever think someone may need a meal, a listening ear, or a warm embrace, just do it. Kindness in the wake of tragedy goes a long way.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.

A few of my favorite spots in Houston include Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston owns Bayou Bend. The historic home once owned by civic leader and philanthropist Ima Hogg is packed with antique furniture and stunning artwork, and it is surrounded by 14 acres of spectacular gardens. I recommend visiting in the springtime when the tulips are in bloom.

I also can’t get enough of the contemporary wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. This new section of the art museum was added in November 2020. It showcases the museum′s international collections of modern and contemporary art.

When it comes to dining, I can’t say enough about Houston’s wealth of diverse eating options. Having produced a food show for four years I was able to enjoy the best of the best. Some of my favorite spots include the romantic Flora with dozens of chandeliers inside and a sprawling patio nestled next to Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston.

I often take out-of-town visitors to Irma’s Original Mexican Restaurant tucked behind Minute Maid Park. At Irma’s, there are no menus or prices and that is half of the fun. You just get what the abuelas are making back in the tiny kitchen. Usually, that includes some of the best mole sauce you will ever taste. The guacamole is outstanding, made every day by the 80+-year-old Irma herself.

Another go-to for me is Phat Eatery in Katy’s Asian town. This unassuming spot in a strip center near H-Mart serves up sensational, James Beard-nominated Malaysian fare in a hip dining space that transports you to Kuala Lumpur. You must get the feathery light Roti Canai with curry dipping sauce and the award-winning beef rendeng.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

My shoutout goes to Marla Drutz and Diane Charles who gave me my first opportunity to produce a TV special and eventually work on a nationally syndicated show that also aired on HGTV. Marla was the programming director and Diane was a local programming producer for WXYZ in Detroit. Both are mothers and work full-time. I have five children. They got it. When they invited me to work on the show for HGTV Marla said, “You can do most of this job from home.” This was in 2005 way before ‘work from home’ was a thing. I still had an office at the TV station, but Marla arranged for me to take home the big DVC Pro editing deck and station laptop. Then she arranged to set me up with a secure VPN connection so I could log into the station’s network and build my show rundowns from home. I still had an office at the station and would come in for meetings and work full-time there in the weeks and days before a big show aired. This allowed me to be home when my children came home from school and the flexibility to work when it was best for me.

Beyond that, a big shoutout goes to Tanji Patton who took me on a journey to Texas’s best restaurants and introduced me to the chefs behind them as we told their stories together on her show Goodtaste with Tanji Patton for six seasons. Tanji gave me the creative freedom to build the show with her from scratch and empowered me to make food sizzle on screen.

Finally, to Ms. Barbara Walters who broke the glass ceiling for all of us women who work in TV. Without her, none of us would be here.

Website: www.mercadofreshmedia.com

Instagram: @iproduce5

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mary-mercado-38124911/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/calli.mercado/

Other: drestcouture.com @drestcouture

Image Credits
Edina Kobor

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