Molly Shanks

Shanks tried Hollywood; now part of ‘Chicago’s Best’

Written by Sarah Rogers
CAS Intern
Molly Shanks

Molly Shanks has transitioned from a self-motivated, charismatic student to an Emmy-nominated television producer.

During her time at Miami, she majored in journalism with a double minor in English and communications. Following graduation in 2012, Shanks immediately moved to the Los Angeles, Calif. area to hit the ground running in the fast-paced environment of show biz.

Initially, Molly worked for Original Productions in Burbank. She served as an associate producer for a reality show called “Ax Men,” which airs on the History Channel.

After six months, she decided that her heart was still with the Midwest and moved to the Chicago area for a position at Oakbrook productions. There, she worked for a television show entitled “Chicago’s Best,” which is a food-focused program that airs on WGN. After one year, she switched over to “Living Healthy Chicago,” which is a show within the same company with a different focus.

However, Shanks returned to “Chicago’s Best” after less than a year as an associate producer. During her time in the position, her team earned a Midwest Emmy nomination for the episode entitled, “Best of Ogden Avenue.”

She was recently promoted to lead producer at the end of August. “This show highlights independently-owned restaurants in the Chicago area,” Shanks said. “It’s fun and unscripted; it’s all about showcasing the authentic personalities of the restaurants. The goal is to emphasize why they’re unique to Chicago and show how the great people behind them work day-to-day.”

Although Shanks facilitates the show with two fellow producers and two hosts, the content is based on the viewers’ wishes and their social media interactions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Viewers utilize the social media outlets of “Chicago’s Best” to suggest intriguing restaurants to be featured on the show.

Shanks said she really enjoys the development process of each episode. She has the opportunity to do a little bit of everything in her role; she physically visits the restaurants, cooks in their kitchens, talks to customers and then returns to the office to write the segments and put the show together. “I just stepped into this new role and it’s a true blessing,” Shanks said. “I get to eat food for a living, which definitely has its pluses!”

With regard to future career plans, Shanks is always open to trying different jobs in different places. However, for the time being, she’s very happy and content in the Midwest and with her new role of lead producer. She knows that things are always changing and moving in the television industry, so she is always open to new opportunities in the field as they present themselves.

Clinical Professor of Journalism, Joe Sampson, was one of the most influential professors to Shanks during her undergraduate experience and really taught her how to tell a good story.

Sampson admired her for her talent and motivation. “I’ve always said that great students make me look like a much better teacher than I really am. Molly is one of the best students I’ve had during my 12 years of teaching journalism at Miami,” Sampson said. “She was naturally gifted as a writer, reporter and producer in my classes, but what set her apart was her work ethic. She didn’t rely solely on her natural gifts as some do; instead, she demanded more of herself and her work. She was also seeking ways to improve.”

Sampson was also greatly impressed by her energy and passion about the field. “She brought a wonderful attitude and enthusiasm to class and her smile and laugh were infectious,” he said. “When she graduated, I knew she would make her mark professionally and she’s certainly proving that to be true.”

Shanks said she believes networking is the most meaningful factor during the post-graduate job search and advises current students to constantly seize opportunities to make genuine connections within their industries of interest.

“I never had a formal job interview for any of these shows. They were all informal conversations and getting to know people.”

She said she also believes being a likeable person goes a long way in the workforce.

“The best piece of advice anyone ever gave to me was that when it comes down to it, a lot of people are qualified, but you have to be someone that people like,” she said. “You have to be kind, appreciative and a hard worker. That goes such a long way.”