"I really love being in the middle of where things are happening. Everybody knows that about me. And I usually am,” laughs Judy Farinet. Given that her office is the control room of the NBC Nightly News broadcast at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York, the veteran Associate Director is not exaggerating.
“We’re seeing it all unfold and putting it on the air for everyone,” she says. “I get a rush sometimes from knowing that we’re in the hub of things that are making history or affecting the nation and the world.”
Not that Farinet, who has clocked 42 years at NBC, and 33 as an AD, comes across as excitable. She takes a seasoned and practical view of her role producing the nation’s top-rated newscast. “To an outsider, it might appear nerve-wracking, but we know our jobs and what has to be done, and it’s comfortable,” she says. “The only thing that makes it nerve-wracking is that you have to make instant decisions.”
There have, however, been some notable highlights. “The night launch of Apollo 17 was totally thrilling,” she admits. “I was able to be right there at the launch pad for the taping, as opposed to seeing it on TV.”
A specialist in politics, she recalls the absorbing drama of the 2000 election: “It was Bush and Gore and back and forth, and everyone called Gore as the winner in Florida, and then it all turned.”
Her first convention, worked onsite as a PA, was the 1968 Chicago Democratic event, which had no shortage of drama as troops battled demonstrators protesting the Vietnam War. And she fondly recalls her work as an AD on the 1976 DGA Award-winning special NBC Reports: A Day In The Life of President Carter. "I have a picture standing at the desk of the president in the Oval Office, but they wouldn’t let me sit down in his chair."
A native New Yorker, Farinet entered the TV business with an assist from her father, then a press agent at CBS, who got her a summer job in media relations at NBC.
After graduating from NYU, she returned to NBC as a secretary, then did production work for the Huntley-Brinkley Report. A job as a vacation relief AD became permanent, and she joined the Guild in 1973.
“The DGA was a front-runner in having women as ADs, and a lot of those women were my mentors. But other unions had no women in production jobs,” notes Farinet. She joined a class-action suit filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that succeeded in opening doors. Since then, she says, “things have changed tremendously.”
But even several decades at the center of events hasn’t been quite enough for Farinet, who also directs for Dateline NBC and various live specials. “I hope to be doing this for a while longer,” she says. And while technology continues to evolve–the network just moved to digital servers–she observes there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: “So far, it still requires people to actually make the product.”