Sometimes the road to success is a meandering one.
In 2009, Colby Gaines and Brent Montgomery's Leftfield Pictures scored a hit with Pawn Stars, a reality series about a family-run pawn shop in Las Vegas.
Two years later, Gaines struck out on his own with Back Roads Entertainment. His company's credits include BET's 50 Central, Cooking Channel's Big Bad BBQ Brawl, MTV's Joking Off, DIY Network's Lake Life and Yahoo's Culinary Beats.
For Gaines, it all started with a job that paid $5.15 an hour — as a camera operator at the CBS affiliate in College Station, Texas, which he held down while studying journalism at Texas A&M.
With that experience under his belt, Gaines headed to New York, where a fellow alum told him about a job opportunity at Fox. "They were starting a half-hour show called 212, profiling interesting New Yorkers," he says. "They said I could be a production assistant, gave me a camera and said, 'Go shoot these eight-to 10-minute profiles.'"
Later he worked on Beach Ambush, a game show set — yes — on a beach. "I was a game producer," he recalls. "I was shooting, doing game challenges, even casting. When you start out in unscripted, you're wearing 47 different hats, but I was 25 and it was fun!"
Next stop: the A&E reality series Growing Up Gotti. "There wasn't a clear career path," Gaines explains. "I ascended from one job to the next and started to get a basic understanding of all the different roles within unscripted."
Around the same time, he and Montgomery co-founded Leftfield Pictures. Their first break was a branded-content web series called Cube Fabulous. "It was basically 'Pimp My Cubicle,'" he says. "It was paid for by brands that entrusted us to shoot five-minute videos. We got lots of experience from the 20-episode run, and all of a sudden we had a reel to put out there." In 2009, Pawn Stars put them on the map.
But Gaines wanted to focus on comedy — scripted and unscripted — so he started Back Roads. To date, the company has completed more than 30 projects and is currently in business with some eight networks.
"I didn't know how long it would take to transform from an unscripted reality-driven production company into a comedy production company and brand," Gaines says. "I feel like we're becoming who I wanted us to become. We're just taking the back roads to get there."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 5, 2018