Stephanie Buxbaum ’93 wanted a challenge, so she picked up a video camera. A professional actress and musical theater performer, Stephanie decided she wanted to be on the other side of the camera, so 10 years ago she taught herself how to shoot and edit.
A look at her IMDB profile
shows that Stephanie has been busy ever since working on a number of different projects as a producer, including many reality television series, or “documentary series,” as she refers to them. “I love documenting real stories happening to real people,” she said.
After graduating from the University of Southern California, Stephanie worked in musical theater, film and television for a number of years as an actress. But during that time, she also started learning about and working in production…
Once her production interest was sparked, she decided to teach herself how to edit using 70 hours of behind-the-scenes raw footage she shot while performing as “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast on Disney Cruise Line. Feeling unfulfilled by the monotony of stage performing, Stephanie left acting permanently and landed a gig on CBS’ Big Brother, her first big network TV job. She said the show was great training, fast-paced and her boss there taught her important production skills.
Stephanie’s boss on Big Brother then brought her with him to The Amazing Race 4, where she worked as the associate producer, a travel researcher and a production coordinator. She was in the right place at the right time and eventually got bumped up to the edit bay when another producer was fired from the show. She said that many of the skills she learned as an actress helped her in producing. “You’re still telling compelling stories, whether they’re true or fictional,” she said. In addition, Stephanie was the Supervising Producer on the first season of Gene Simmons Family Jewels, a hit series which led to A&E picking up 28 episodes and several subsequent seasons. She was also the Co-Executive Producer on the first season of Discovery Channel’s series Sons of Guns, which follows a firearms business.
Besides production, Stephanie also spent a year under contract as a Development Producer with Endemol, the same company that created international hits Big Brother, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Deal or No Deal. She worked full-time in a reality TV think tank creating and developing formats for international TV markets.
Currently, Stephanie is show running a new Animal Planet series following a Utah family with six kids preparing for the “end of the world”.
Stephanie said she prefers working on series in their first season because it gives more freedom to develop the show’s format, rather than having to fit into an already determined structure. Because of this, she also prefers stand-alone seasons. Creating an organic situation, she said, helps get to the bottom of the subject’s real story – which is what it’s all about for her. “My motto is that everyone has a story. If you dig deeper, you’ll be amazed,” she said. “People on the surface seem ordinary. But even ordinary people walking down the street, everyone has a really fascinating story. ... I love stories and people … to capture them and get to the heart of what makes them tick.”
Further illustrating her passion to get to the bottom of the story untold, Stephanie is producing, editing, directing and self-financing a documentary about female clergy members who have committed sexual and physical abuse. “I am intrigued that females can be predators and our society seems to fail to believe that could be possible,” she said. While the story of priests who are abusive has been told before, Stephanie said that nuns have not been exposed or held accountable for their actions. She says these instances of abuse have slipped through the cracks. For the project, she has interviewed nine survivors of sexual abuse by nuns, who she says are “courageous people with heartbreaking stories.” She also attended a convention in Washington, DC, for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), followed several survivors to a healing mass and others to the nuns’ headquarters in Baltimore where they attempted to confront them face to face.
Having involved herself in just every aspect of the entertainment industry, Stephanie said that her Webb background helped provide a solid foundation for her success. She specifically cited her classes with Janet Macauly in AP English Literature, her drama classes with Michael Cane and Shakespeare classes with Diane Fast in addition to music classes with her mother, Erica Buxbaum, who was the fine arts chair and taught instrumental music at Webb from 1985-2002. “All of them are influential teachers from my Webb experience.”
“Webb wasn’t super focused on the arts, but those of us who loved the arts found a way to do it,” she said, adding that Webb did give her many important skills for her chosen profession. “Ninety percent of my job is being creative and writing stories. Webb definitely helped me hone in on my craft on many levels.”
Stephanie is currently an Executive Producer at National Georgraphic Channel, where she oversees new shows and pilots.