Going from the family farm near Sibley, and the little TV studio at Buena Vista University, to working with Tom Cruise and other famous celebrities - you could say it's been quite a year for Courtney Kemp.
Not so long ago, trying to decide what to do with her career, Courtney was talking with her parents at the dinner table on a Wednesday night in August 2005 and told them she wanted to move to California and try to get a job with a television show. "My parents said if I didn't go then, I would probably never go. They were very supportive. So the next day I packed my car and on Friday left for California."
Courtney, who had learned broadcasting at Buena Vista University, had applied to NBC 's page program, but heard no response. She stayed with relatives and got temp jobs at a bank and as a nanny while she waited for a break.
In September, she was called to NBC for an interview and was notified in late October that she got the job. She started working in the page program two weeks later.
"I think one of the reasons they called me for an interview was my persistence," she comments. "The fact that I grew up in the Midwest and attended school in Iowa also helped me to get the job. They are very intrigued with the Midwestern work ethic and I feel that this has helped me to create a standard for myself. I use my hard working values to enter each day with a great attitude and I think that has really shown. Each day, I feel that I am creating relationships that will help me to get a permanent job with NBC in the near future."
Pages are in the program for one year, she explains. "Basically, you have one year to prove yourself."
"There are about 30 pages in the Burbank Page program at any given time," she says. "I would estimate they get from 1,500 to 2,000 applications a year."
When Courtney started, she gave visitor tours and worked in guest relations for the first three months and was then allowed to apply for assignments. She had worked on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Last Call with Carson Daly" before getting the assignment with the "Tonight Show."
A typical day at work for Courtney starts around 10 a.m. with a rundown of the events for the day and a quick walk-through of the dressing rooms to make sure they are cleaned before the guests arrive and that any special requests are handled properly. "Whether it is a skit for 'Ross the Intern,' or a skit with Jay, I make sure that things are going smoothly and alert whoever is in charge if there are any problems. I check in the guest band and other guests as they arrive throughout the day and let the segment producers know who has arrived, and assist with anything the guests may need."
Rehearsal starts around 2:30 to 3 p.m. (Pacific time) and the show starts at 4:30 p.m. (4 p.m. in the summer). "During the show, I assist the stage managers with getting guests ready to go on stage. Most of the show is shot live to tape though any swearing, and occasionally a joke that really bombs, are edited out," she says.
Working with a variety of stars - including Tom Cruise, Ringo Starr, Michael Douglas, Orlando Bloom and Dennis Quaid - she admits she was a little 'star-struck' at first. "I kept track of each celebrity that I met. However, at this point I am meeting with two or three celebrities a day, so I think I am now past that."
Outside of work, Courtney enjoys socializing with the other pages. "All 30 of us are about the same age and are in the same boat. We love to go to the beach, the movies and do the touristy things from time to time."
"My job puts me right in the center of all the action," she says. "One of my responsibilities is getting to know everyone on the staff, including writers, producers, actors, talent and everyone on the production staff. It's a very friendly working environment."
Courtney also works closely with Leno. "I probably see him 10 times a day and I am one of about five staff members who stand with him backstage for about three or four minutes before he goes on stage," she notes.
So if you happen to be watching the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" this season, you won't see Courtney, but you can be sure she's been busy backstage.
Courtney was a Dean's Fellow and graduated with honors at BVU. She feels that she has made a good choice to take a chance in the field of her dreams.
A career in television has been a goal of Courtney's for a long time and she says her education at BVU played an important part in getting the chance at NBC.
"My experience working on the University Cable Network gave me the opportunity to learn all aspects of the television production process, from the technical side to the organizational side," she comments. "I feel that I have a much broader expertise than many of the other NBC pages who went to larger universities and weren't even allowed to touch a camera until they were seniors, if at all."
At BVU, Courtney had also interned with KCCI Channel 8 television in Des Moines and at Iowa Public Television, and also spent a semester in London where she interned for a music video production company.
During her senior year, Courtney meticulously worked for three months on her resume and cover letter for her application to the page program. After graduation, she moved back to her parents' home and worked for a month in July 2005 as a production assistant for the "Three Wishes" television show when it was taping in Le Mars.
From the family farmstead near Sibley to hobnobbing backstage with Tom Cruise and rock stars, it's been a good start.