In the fall 2006 issue of UPbeat magazine, a story ran about an accomplished LU communication student who had already broken into the entertainment industry at age 22. Ten years later, Joshua Yawn is still working in television and has moved back to Southeast Texas where his production company, Joshua Productions, is about to begin its fifth year.
“Southeast Texas feels like home,” Yawn said.
The Lamar grad spent his final semesters at Lamar honing his craft for his future career in the television industry.
“During that last year I was a little more relaxed because I’d gotten stuff out of the way, so I got to focus on what I was passionate about,” he said. “I made a lot of really close friends, really strong relationships that I cherish. They are really a big part of what I’m doing now so, it all worked out. As a broadcast major I wanted to be a TV host — I aspired all my life to do that.”
At a young age, Yawn had a one-of-a-kind experience that solidified his passion for TV production.
“I was a big fan of Marc (Summers), growing up on ‘Double Dare.’ So back in the late ’90s, when people had their AOL profile as a sort of precursor to social media, I had on mine that I wanted to do (TV hosting) for a living and that my hero was Marc Summers,” Yawn said. “I said all this stuff about what a big fan I was, and in July of 2000, I was 15 years old and sitting at home when the phone rang. I said, ‘Hello,’ and a voice said, ‘Is Josh there?’ and I said, ‘This is he,’ and the voice said, ‘Hi, this is Marc Summers.’”
Summers had been searching his name on the internet and found Yawn’s post, then fate took over.
“This is a really good story,” Yawn said. “(My family was) planning on going to Universal Studios Orlando on vacation, and Marc asked, ‘Have you ever been to Nickelodeon studios?’ I said, ‘Oh, well, my family is actually planning on going there in a couple of weeks.’ Marc said ‘Double Dare 2000,’ which was the revival of ‘Double Dare’, which he was a producer on, was going to be in production that week, and told me to hold on.
“So he calls the executive producer on three way and gets her on the phone and says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a friend that’s coming’ — and he doesn’t know me from Adam, never met me! (He says) ‘I’ve got a friend that’s coming and I want him to be able to shadow you for a week while he’s there.’ She said, ‘OK, Mr. Summers,” and so I actually got to do that.”
Yawn says the experience was one in a million.
“That was my first time ever in a TV studio,” he said. “It was weird enough that Marc Summers called me, but super weird that the timing worked out that I got to go shadow the executive producer on the show.
“I have just the best memories of being 15-years old and just sort of being a kid in a candy store. One, the show that inspired me to get into TV — I’m like, here — and then two, just absorbing everything that I could about the business that I wanted to get into.”
Since then, Yawn’s professional career has been one project after another.
“I worked in series TV for almost a decade — at the same time I was in college, in fact, and I was traveling,” he said. “I was a host briefly on the Game Show Network in LA. I worked two seasons on a show for Nickelodeon, behind the scenes, which was called ‘My Family’s Got GUTS,’ a revival of the original ‘GUTS’ show, so I worked on that.
“I worked with the casting department for ‘The Biggest Loser,’ ‘Last Comic Standing,’ ‘Supernanny,’ and several other shows for NBC and ABC, and then just decided, after 10 years I wanted to be at home. So I came back and started my company, Joshua Productions. The first thing we did was a game show called ‘Family knows Best.’”
Yawn’s company produces TV commercials, safety videos and long format videos, and he is working on a documentary with Summers about his life and career.
“The documentary is the first thing, movie-wise, I’ve ever done,” Yawn said. “I never really aspired to do anything movie related, and this just sort of came up, but because it was Marc (Summers), it really appealed to me.”
Yawn said he is thankful for being busy and the growth that the company has had over the past four and a half years,.
“The original goal was just to be a production company, but someone said, ‘We want to advertise on your show but we don’t have a commercial. Can you make us a commercial?’ So we did — and the phone kept ringing,” Yawn said. “Quickly, we realized that was the avenue that was serendipitously given to us to follow — so we did. That kind of organically molded the company and dictated our trajectory just by happy accident.”
Visual media isn’t the only thing Yawn produces. He had a successful career as a DJ and lecturer that he says helped him in is career as a host.
“I cut my teeth as a DJ and then ended up producing a series of instructional things for DJs and writing a book for DJs, and then ended up giving seminars and workshops for DJs in Vegas,” he said. “It was one of those things that you do for a season and then you move on.”
Yawn also makes time in his schedule for his other passion — restoring vintage arcade games.
“From time to time I think about opening up a second business and having a true, old school ’80s-style or ’90s-style arcade, because I have a storage unit with 40 or 50 arcade games,” he said.
But a second business isn’t the reason he works on his games.
“It’s kind of fun, at the end of the day, to just go home and get dirty, to get your mind off of problem solving for someone else — whether it be through marketing or advertising or trying to write a good script or edit something just so and things like that — and just wrap your heard around a different kind of problem solving,” Yawn said.
Though his video game hobby may seem like a total departure from his company, Yawn said the two actually mingle very nicely.
“We have (an arcade game) in the office, and it’s completely branded to the company,” he said. “I did a refurb, and it plays like 30,000 games. I always say we don’t have bad days in the office, we just have days where we play the arcade a little more.
“Clients come in and say, ‘I want to play this game, I bet you don’t have it,’ and it’s on there. It’s a great way to level the playing field and build rapport. It’s actually gotten me work.”
Yawn has accomplished a lot in the past 10 years, and said he is grateful for the opportunities he has had.
“A lot of these projects overlapped in weird ways,” he said. “If you really stacked them end to end, it would seem like I’m 80, but a lot of these things have happened at the same time.”
“It takes time to build up a body of work and a portfolio and in (Joshua Production’s) first couple of years we didn’t do a whole lot. But I’ve recently looked back and it’s like, ‘Wow. We’ve actually done a lot.’ I’m not patting myself on the back when I say that. I guess, since you focus on one thing at a time, you really are building a body of work.”
Yawn said ending up in Beaumont was not originally part of his plan.
“If you would have told me 10 years ago, when I was coming out of Lamar, that 10-years later I would be here, doing this now, I probably would have said there is no way it’s going to happen,” he said. “I was in LA, New York, Orlando, and sort of scattered around all sorts of different places. I really had my eyes set on things that were not here. I did those things, and they were fine, but I’m happier now being back in Texas. If I hadn’t done those things elsewhere, I wouldn’t be equipped to do what we’re doing with Joshua Productions.
“Career wise, I’ve had a great run in everything that I’ve done. I feel like if I never hosted again I’ve accomplished what I dreamed of accomplishing. If I never did anything else voiceover wise, which was never a big passion, then I would be fine with that. I feel like the stuff that I did do was enough, so that made it fairly easy to walk away from that and do what I’m doing now.
“I have never dreaded a single day going into the office or going to work, or going on a shoot or doing what we do. I sincerely love it.”
Even though the production community may not be as large as that in LA or New York, Yawn says the talent and passion is just as plentiful.
“It’s insane the number of people that have gone off and worked on huge projects, and also choose to live in southeast Texas — it’s unbelievable the amount of talent that is here,” he said. “People that are here are here by choice and so I think that their level of passion and the level of commitment is a lot stronger than your average freelancer out West or out East. There’s a great energy that can’t be duplicated — not that I’ve found anywhere else, anyway.”
Yawn said that having a true passion for what you’re doing is important.
“Being really good at what you’re doing is also really important,” he said. “So I think equally important to that would be building relationships and realizing that the person you’re sitting next to in class, you never know who they may end up being one day.”
Yawn said he is excited to see where his career goes from here.
“And I’m looking forward to being in UPbeat in another 10 years,” he said.