Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly - Lesson Six - TV Production

I hope you enjoy this series of articles about Television Production. Your comments, notes, and ratings are appreciated. You have the power to change anything in these articles. To submit your ideas or suggestions send an email to us. Being a television producer since before the year 2001, I know a little about television production. And I am willing to share my experience from a social (rather than technical) point of view with my readers.

Many years ago, there was a movie called, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. What does this have to do with television production at the community level, or even sometimes at the major network level? I was sitting here contemplating what my next article would be and all of a sudden, just thinking about television, I thought of the title of that movie. I have not seen the movie but I related the title to television production. That's what you will probably see or hear about in community access television. This particular subject is a very necessary one if anyone is going to print the truth about community access television. And if you cannot write the truth, then why write? So, here goes, I offer to you a glimpse into the good, the bad and the ugly of community access television. I will change one thing about the title in that I will reverse the order in which I speak about these particular divisions of community access television production. I will talk about "The Bad, The Ugly and the Good". I reverse the order to end this article on a positive note instead of ending it on "The Ugly".

The Bad

What is the bad part about being active in community television? There are many bad parts of it, and I will attempt to list them and or explain them here in this section called, "The Bad". If you become active in public community access television, you could or might see these things happen:

Producers arguing with other producers; producers talking behind other producers' backs, producers arguing with talent and or with guests or hosts or anyone else involved in community access television, producers exhibiting subtle (if any such thing) hints of racist words, expressions or feelings and anger or even hatred of other human beings.
The Ugly

The ugly is just as bad as the bad, but possibly more ugly in that it steps up a bit more, one more rung on the ladder of discontent, anger, disconnection, breaking down team morale, and judging people by whom they are, what they wear, how they speak and more than that; There could be ugly scenes of other producers actually going at each other to the point of physical violence, verbal violence and other forms of disrespect for human beings and society in general. You might have to contend with people using racist expressions, terms or words, or other "ist" put downs. Perhaps the ugliest of them all is when other good producers run to the support or aid of the producers who were suspended, without fully knowing exactly what happened to have the person suspended. You might have to see producers yelling at or putting the staff down, you might have to see producers totally losing their tempers, and see some out-of-control. Another ugliest is when some producers automatically assume that employees, staff or administrators judged a producer unfairly, yet, they still do not have the whole story straight but they begin to stir up the soup by making the assumption that the offending producers were wrongly suspended.

Basically, the ugly comes from deep inside of a person. A person can have physical beauty or be good-looking physically but that same person can be so deeply ugly inside that the physical beauty eventually begins to mean nothing and do nothing for the person. This is especially true if you think about realities of life in that eventually, all physical beauty naturally fades away. However, those people that have a great beauty inside their hearts, minds and spirits will always be attractive to us in our world. So, knowing this and remembering this will help us in our television production roles. Try and be a person who is beautiful inside, through and through, no matter what your outside looks like. Even though most in television are seeking that outside beauty, remember that true, sincere beauty and excellence is deep in your own heart. We have all seen those people that give a good outwards appearance and when we get to know them more, we see the ugliness inside of them. This is not to say that only beautiful people are ugly but this is saying that no matter what the outside appearance, we need to really get to know people, to be connected with people, and really observe what people do, how people act, before we discern if these are the types of individuals that we seek to work with in our television careers or hobbies. Never let someone's outside appearance permit you to reject someone or to accept someone. Look deeper than that.

The Learning: Some producers learn at a different rate than others do. I am in that group of producers that learn slowly, however, once i have learned the subject, I am reliable, dependable and extremely helpful. It is because of this and because of observing other students and producers that I know that good production is not always in doing everything fast as lightening speed. Sometimes you can have a producer who does thing fast but does not do a good job or does not do the job you were expecting them to do. So speed is not the main object in production, perhaps accuracy, common courtesy, respect and teamwork might be better options when trying to produce a good show. A large part of the learning that must be done is learning which producers will work as a team and which producers will work like that celebrity basketball player who thinks that every shot, every move, everything in the game is up to him and only him. We have all seen that kind of egotism at work. And that is not the kind of production that you want for your own shows if you want to have a lasting, professional studio show.

Bragging You Know It All: Probably one of the most dangerous people in your cast of producers is the one that thinks and states (by actions and sometimes by indirect words ) that he is the one that knows it all; he is the one that is right and no one else can do anything correctly. The sad thing is that in the middle of productions when things mess up because of his egotism, no one notices it because they are too busy with other things in production. For example, once I was working cg and I was given a list of names. I thought that one named seemed to be incorrectly spelled and talking out loud to myself, I said, I think this is spelled wrong. The audio guy next to me insisted that it was spelled correctly. And he said it in such a tone as if he was right without a doubt about it, demanding that I type it in the cg like it was spelled on the paper. I still had this gut instinct that the spelling might be wrong (notice I said might be). So, against the audio guy's advice (and he was not the director), I got up and went to check the spelling with the guest. Sure enough the spelling was incorrect. Now had I been a new producer I would have probably taken the audio guy's advice to leave it spelled the way it was, and the guest's name would have been spelled incorrectly on the show.

But the point of this story is that it is not up to the audio guy or any other guy to tell the cg person how anything is spelled. It didn't bother me that he told me that the spelling was correct the way it was, but what bothered me was his "higher than mighty" attitude and tone of voice that almost demanded that I leave it spelled that way. I am sure that any new producer would have listened to this guy. And the flack would have been on the cg person for spelling the name incorrectly. That taught me a lesson. Or, rather reminded me, always listen to your gut instinct. My gut instinct told me that I thought that name looked funny and it looked incorrect. Listening to my gut instinct and not listening to the audio guy, that saved my cg title from being incorrect.

There are times when I will make a mistake, and there are times when other producers will make mistakes and those are okay. Every human makes a mistake here and there. If you do not make any mistakes then you simply are not human. There are NO perfect producers. The point that I am writing about is that attitude is everything. Your attitude and my attitude can make or break the show. There are so many ways that a show can be sabotaged, both directly and indirectly. As an executive producer you need to look out for what is happening and protect your show by joining with good, creative, productive and respectful students and producers.

That guy had the attitude that he knows best, that he was most experienced, and I had the attitude that I wasn't sure but that I was willing to check it out first and then see what was correct and what was not correct. If you have the attitude that you are above the other producers or better than the other producers, then you are the one that is incorrect. I do not care how many years you are there, you have the same rights and privileges that all the other producers have. You might have a few more years experience but no amount of years experience tells you that you can spell a person's name better than the person who owns the name. That was only one experience with this guy who seems to know it all.

The Difference: Now there is a difference in knowing it all (having the knowledge and hands-on experience and years) and bragging, boasting or being arrogant about knowing it all. You know the difference. Just look around you and observe the attitudes and personalities of the producers that you work with. Do you see any arrogant producers who reek of that hey, you are doing it all wrong; I know better than that? Time and experience in the studio will tell, and eventually you will be able to decipher between producers who are sincerely helping and doing their best and the others who would rather be a team of their own and tell everyone else what to do even though they are not the director.

Protecting Your Show: For my own show, I use only team players. And the group of team players is a good mix of both seasoned and newer producers. That mix works well. No know-it-alls need apply. All of my producers are excellent people. For your show, seek out team players, and people who are sincere in doing their job and who are willing to learn (but not during production). You are better off with five new producers or two new producers or even one new producer than you are with one Mr. Know-it-All . Yes, we need the people who know it all , but there are enough people who know it all who are team players, who are not egotistical , so focus on getting good team players for your show and you will do just fine. Many times for my shows, I have experienced people along with newer producers and they are all team players interested in doing a good show. That is what you need.

The Good

I save the good for last, because this is the sparkling best side of public community access television production and it shines over everything in such a glowing way that producers stay and put up with the nonsense that they see in the rear-view mirrors. They stay with community access because they know these things:

Community access television has some of the most powerful voices in this city.

Community access instructors are the best.

Community access training is the best training you can get for the lowest price that is available to anyone who lives in the borough.

Community access television shows are not controlled by what a sponsor wants on television but controlled by what the executive producer wants on television.

Community access television gives thousands of voices to thousands of people throughout the city and by way of the net, throughout the world.

Some community access television producers are the most responsible, most creative, most loving, warm individuals that are around in the television production business.

Community access television is an education while you are in training and an on-the-job type training while you continue to produce television shows and help others produce shows.

Air time on Time Warner or Cablevision is a very valuable asset, and community access gives everyone the opportunity for that valuable asset for themselves.

By watching community access, you can learn things like language, reading and other business lessons. The community access calendar of shows fills your days and weeks with love, laughter, information, education and resources and music.

When you become a community access television producer, you will guaranteed meet some of the most interesting people in the world, in your lifetime. People who travel the whole world over still have not met such an interesting bunch of human beings.

So as you see the good really outnumbers the rest of what happens in some community access studios. You may have about one or two hundred professional producers and might have one or two that lose their tempers. So clearly the good outnumber the bad and the ugly. I have worked with so many wonderful producers over the years, so that I know there is an abundance of good producers out there, we just need to find them, locate them and connect with them. That takes time but the time we spend doing that is all worth it.

The Best: In my experience, some of the best times that I have had in television production has been working with new producers. They are ready to go, willing and able to usually tackle any job in production. They have fresh energy, ideas and usually most of them are willing to cooperate and help out wherever needed. Recently I did a production where most of the crew was new. It turned out to be a good experience. The production went well; we all got along great and the finished product was an awesome television show. The key is combining new and experienced producers in one show. Everyone helps each other. And there is at least one or two seasoned producers who are there to smooth out any rough edges (if there are any). My most recent show was done in that way, with a mix of seasoned and new producers. Mission accomplished!

If you are thinking of becoming a community access producer, try it out; see if you like it. Just be careful. Remember everyone is not like you, so let others earn your trust. Do not give it freely. Let them earn it and let people know that your trust is a very valuable asset. That's community access television for you, the bad, the ugly and most of all, most important, THE GOOD! In some of our upcoming articles, I will express ideas and suggestions on how to handle the bad and the ugly.

On a last note - not about self-promotion but about feelings, and about emotions, and dealing with handling a large amount of video productions each and every year, here are my feelings: I have made my own share of mistakes and I am sure that I will make more. However, I am happy with my work because first I begin with honesty, integrity and respect. That makes me happy. When I find producers who can work with that, that makes me even more happy.

Ask yourself these questions:

Have you ever worked on a set where the producer was rude, or yelling? Have you ever worked on a set with a producer who constantly blew his stack? If so, then what was your reaction to that? I would guess that most would never go back to work with that same producer. So, learn from everyone's experiences. If you want to keep your workers or volunteers, then keep a guard on your temper. That is lesson number one in good television production. Respect everyone and give everyone respect. There is no excuse for anything less than that!

I updated this article on December 11, 2008.

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