Ann Satkoski, co-executive producer at “Pickler & Ben,” came to Nashville by way of Minnesota, Chicago and California. Segueing from a booking agency to “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Ann got her start in the business as executive assistant to three women, one of whom is now “Pickler & Ben” Executive Producer Lisa Erspamer. A handful of years and gigs later, Lisa and Ann found themselves together in Nashville, producing a feel-good talk show they had been working on for three years. Thankfully, Ann fell in love with Nashville, and we have fallen in love with her. Her palpable energy coupled with the ability to execute big ideas make her invaluable to “Pickler & Ben” and to our community. Today, this now-Nashville gal talks about her work on the show, how she’s helped a 20,000-person flash mob on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue go off without a hitch and why she is happy to call Nashville home. Meet our newest FACE of Nashville, Ann Satkoski.
You are a co-executive producer at “Pickler & Ben.” What are the key responsibilities of this role?
I am fortunate to be part of the leadership team that helps come up with the creative and content for the shows. With a large and very talented team of people, we execute 130 episodes a season. That’s a lot! It averages about 20 guests per day from all over the country. We do it all — we’re equal parts variety/talk/DIY/cooking/lifestyle. We’ll be producing a segment with fire-breathers, and 10 minutes later, a world-class chef will be on set. It is constant idea generating — what can we do that we’ve never done before? There was this one day when my team pitched me a guest who competed in hobby horsing. What? I didn’t know this was really a thing people were doing. We had Ben and Kellie try it, and I thought it was an awesome segment! It was the perfect mix of funny and heartwarming since this sport meant a lot to the guest who competed in it. What I love about the show — every day is completely different and fresh. We try not to ever repeat ourselves, which can be challenging, but it’s also what makes the show so great.
What skills/talents do you bring to Happy Street Entertainment?
Happy Street Entertainment not only produces “Pickler & Ben” here in Nashville, but we also have an office in Los Angeles, where we produce scripted, unscripted and digital content, music videos and films. It was co-founded by Lisa Erspamer, who is my mentor, boss and a true innovator. We’ve worked together for many years, and her imagination and originality spark more creativity in me. I think what I bring to the table is a focused energy to all of the projects we work on. I’m good at taking a big idea and figuring out how to execute it.
What makes “Pickler & Ben” so successful?
Ben and Kellie’s chemistry! It’s like they’ve known each other their entire lives. They genuinely love what they do and love coming to work every day. They impress me to no end.
And, it’s the team of people behind the scenes too. We’re like family.
Lisa, our executive producer (EP), is the best in the business. Terry Goulder and Julie Simpson, the other two co-EPs on the show, are incredible. We all worked on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” together, so we know what it takes to do this job. You have to be committed and you have to love making TV because it is a lot of work!
And finally, it’s Nashville! It’s the place to be! This city is electric! There’s so much food and music and culture here — it makes for endless show material.
Do you have a favorite guest that has been on “Pickler & Ben”?
As a big fan of “American Ninja Warrior,” I have to say Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and Matt Iseman, the hosts, are fantastic guests that really bring the energy. They are up for anything. I also fan-girled over Sunny Anderson, who is one of my absolute favorite chefs. I love her food and her individuality. I’m a sucker for great stories from everyday people, too. People who have taken difficult circumstances and made the best of them. People who are out doing good things, like building tiny homes for homeless veterans or mowing lawns for single moms. We love to share those good vibes on the show.
You also worked on a Whitney Houston documentary. Can you tell us a bit about this project?
This was another brainchild of Lisa Erspamer, and I was fortunate to be along for the ride. I was an associate producer on the documentary Whitney, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May. It was many years in the making, and it’s a very powerful film about one of the best singers who ever lived. It premiered in theaters in July — it’s a must-see!
What has been the most memorable moment in your career?
The kickoff show for the 24th season of the “Oprah” show in 2009 was something I’ll never forget as long as I live. It was all Lisa Erspamer’s idea. We pulled off one of the biggest flash mobs ever with 20,000 people dancing in sync on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The mechanics of pulling that off were astonishing, to say the least. Not only did we have to teach 20,000 people a dance, but we had to have enough water to keep 20,000 dancers hydrated … and on and on. I was assigned the task of finding dancers and making sure the flash mob would work. We auditioned professional dancers to learn the dance, and then we taught as many other dancers as possible in advance of the show, who taught everyone else who showed up that day. Once it started, and I could see on the big screens that it was working and we were actually pulling it off, I was overcome with every emotion — pride, shock, joy, exhaustion … what a moment! What a rush!
What makes Nashville an attractive place to live?
I moved here from LA, so it was a big change, but when we started coming here a few years ago to work on selling the show, I fell in love with it. It’s grown tremendously, and there’s this feeling of excitement almost anywhere you go. And you can see live music, of any genre, anytime you want. It’s warm, welcoming and charming with a decent food scene and good hiking.
Where can we find you when you aren’t working?
I love this little airport that was turned into a city park — Cornelia Fort Airpark. It is super relaxing there, and you feel like you aren’t anywhere near the city. I also love Cafe Roze, which is down the street from where I live. And I’m obsessed with White’s Mercantile.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received, and from whom?
Both of my parents always gave the sage advice that you’ll never know if you don’t try. That has been very true my entire life and career. I have done things out of my comfort zone over and over again. Unless you give it a shot, you will never know what you are capable of.
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
My mom’s homemade pickles, flea markets and “The Bachelor”/”Bachelorette” TV shows, my favorite guilty pleasure
Thank you, Ann, and we’re thrilled you now call Nashville home! To learn more about “Pickler & Ben,” which premieres on Monday, September 17, visit picklerandben.com. Thanks to Ashley Hylbert for the photos of Ann!
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