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Roles of Producers – Lesson Seven, Television Production
Photography is an integral part of television production. Sometimes when a Director is handling a show, he does not realize the assets that are available to help in the show when he does not inquire about a producer’ s specialty. For example, you might have producers inside of a community access project that are working in other fields. (You might have a volunteer producer who is a photographer or an audio specialist or who excels in another field that is related to video production). Many times Directors do not have time to inquire or ask about a person’s specialty.
Other times the Director feels and knows that he is in charge and does not care to ask. By not finding out what your producers are good at or what their specialty is you might miss something great or something special. Other Directors might handle their show as if their show (and other shows that they direct on) are lessons rather than productions. You might see a Director who would rather teach someone a new skill rather than appoint producers to jobs that they are good at. This is wonderful (sometimes) for the person learning if they came there for a learning session. And it is wonderful for the teacher because that is his focus. But reality is that producers are at the show to help produce that particular show. And the Executive Producer of the show has a goal in mind – to complete his show to the best of his ability in the shortest amount of time, and to have everything turn out well for that particular show. This cannot be accomplished if your Director has different goals than the Executive Producer has.
If the E.P. (Executive Producer) assigns you do direct a show, know that your main goal is not to teach producers new skills, but your main goal is to direct that particular show to the best of your ability. Your main goal is to do a Director’s job, nothing more and nothing less. So, when you (as Director) arrive at the show and you are in the control room, and you hear that there is a specialist that does sound, do not try and teach the sound specialist a new skill of cg or of camera. That is not the goal or the purpose of the show, and that is not what the Executive Producer has enlisted your help for. Your purpose as the Director of the should would be more to ask the sound specialist to handle the sound. In doing that you know that this part of the production is in good hands and you can go on to assign other roles. With sound handled properly, you are heading in the right direction for a wonderful production.
Showing a person how to do something (when you are shorthanded and you have no other choice) might be a necessity sometimes, but not often. But that is different than actually trying to teach a lesson (in sound, in cg, or other areas) while the show is in progress or while you are in the control room just before the show begins. A focus of every person in each production should be to focus on what their specific job is. If you are assigned to do camera work, that is your main and only focus. If you stick with that and handle that job first and foremost, you are doing your assigned job.
Who Helps Whom? What happens when someone else needs help? The Director will handle that job of helping that person. (In most productions there is a mix of both inexperienced, or newer producers and well-seasoned producers, and the Director will handle the job of helping others). There have been instances of where an entire production was made up of inexperienced producers. In this instance, the whole team banded together, sharing their knowledge. Everyone worked hard; everyone had fun and the best part was that the production was a complete success. That says a lot about teamwork. So in newer productions -where most of the crew is inexperienced, a solid teamwork approach is necessary and that helps the show. When you have an experienced Director, though you still use teamwork, the Director is in charge and the director will assist anyone that needs the help to do the show in the proper manner.
So, the key to good television production is first knowing the role of each producer who is helping out. Second, to know that when others need help, you are free to help them as long as your job is handled and finished or as long as it does not interfere with your job that you are assigned to do. (Each Executive Producer runs his show differently;; this is the way I run mine – by using teamwork, and using good judgment when it comes to making assignments and helping other producers.
Security and Safety! Another key to good television production is checking BEFORE the production begins that each and every producer is still certified and or not banned or suspended from the studio. You want to abide by all rules and by checking beforehand, you know your production will go off without a hitch. So, ask each producer if they are certified. If you have a doubt, always check with the studio staff, personnel or volunteers or Public Equipment room. Any one of those should know which producers are banned or suspended and having this information from a reliable source helps your show go smoothly. So, begin with all certified producers only, and give a list of the producers to the Security guard or person at the desk. Give the Security Guard a list of the talent, hosts or co-hosts and anyone else who would need entrance into the studio. (You do this in cases where there are no physical “tickets”.
Money Matters? Regarding the productions and regarding tickets: All community access shows are free, so do not ever allow anyone to charge any money for anything involved in the show. If you are a host or guest and a producer asks you for money, run the other way and find another producer. Remember and remind them all that community access is free and no one pays to host a show or to be a guest on the show. In the same respect, producers do not pay talent, guests, hosts or co-hosts. This is entirely a free venture. Report any instances of demands for payment to the Administration immediately. That makes everyone do their job as their jobs where meant to be done.
Camera Operators: Camera Operators are not photographers though some photographers may be camera operators. That might sound contradictory but that is a true statement of fact. When you volunteer or are assigned to be a camera operator, you are not going to call the shots (unless the Director gives you that freedom). So listen to all instructions and follow those instructions. Even if you are a professional photographer or an avid photography hobbyist who has won awards for photography, you still do not call the shots when it comes to television production. Follow the Director’s advice and instructions fully and you will be doing your job as you are assigned to do it.
Quite a long while ago, there was a time when I, as a photographer, thought the shot could be better, and I wanted to change the shot. But what I did not know was that the Director was going to use special effects and he wanted the host to be in a certain area of the picture. Mistake was mine, of course, because I was behind the camera thinking as a photographer when I should have been thinking as a camera operator. That is the problem with me, I think as a photographer and I need to remember when I am behind the camera I am not a photographer, but a camera operator listening to the Director’s instructions. One of my best experiences on a show was when I was able to get the shot that I wanted while the guest or host was on the other camera. But this was only done because the Director told me get the shot while the other camera had the guest or host. That is not something that I would do on my own.
Cameras, studio and robotics: In most community access television there are two types of cameras. You have the regular studio cameras (which the producers operate in the studio), and you have the robotics cameras (There is no producer behind the camera but a producer operates this camera from inside the control room). The robotics are very fragile and need to be handled with the utmost care. They will be “on” when you go into the studio. If there ever is a problem with the robotics cameras, you call someone from the staff (Public Equipment) room to handle the problem. If it is minor, the staff in P.E. will handle it. If the problem is major, the staff, most likely, will call an engineer into the studio to do the repair or to take the robotics out of the studio for repair. Under no circumstance is any producer, volunteer or intern permitted to repair these cameras or to do any work with them (physically adjust them etc). Only the engineers and the staff will do such work where appropriate. A good rule of thumb is to tell all of the assistant producers that are working with you to report any problems to you. And also, tell them that no one touches the robotics cameras. You, as the Executive Producer are responsible for the cameras and for the studio, since you sign the contract/responsibility sheet.
Floor Manager The job of the Floor Manager is managing the floor INSIDE THE STUDIO AREA. If you are a floor manager you should not be going into the control room for anything. You should not be giving instructions to anyone inside the control room. The Director is there for that. And the Director will instruct the Floor Manager and all other crew inside the studio. The Floor Manager will relay messages from the Director to the host, co-host and to others appearing on air. There are other details to the job of Floor Manager but I am writing here with the sole purpose of reminding Floor Managers that their job is inside the studio room, not inside of the control room. Instruct the floor manager that only you (the Executive Producer will handle the robotics cameras and that no other producer should touch those cameras. This is for the safe handling of the cameras.
CG Character Generator is the job that places the graphics and titles and any credits or other written or typed information on to the screen so that the viewers can see it and get more information about the show other than the verbal and visual clues that are offered by camera operators and sound technicians. I will go into more detail about this job in another article.
Sound/Audio: You need to have someone experienced in audio in order to have a great production. For some reason, in most community productions, not many specialize in this topic. When you find a good audio person, try and have this person do your audio all the time, if possible. Have a second producer as backup. Audio/sound is another important job in the studio. We will discuss this in length in one of our later articles.
Other Production Jobs Other jobs in the production are Technical Director, Audio Director, Sound Technician, and some others. I will go into details about these in upcoming articles. I will write other articles regarding other jobs that producers do on the set and inside the control room and I will go into more detail about the specific jobs, tasks and give other necessary information. I am willing to answer any questions also, so email me. You can check my email address that is at the website listed in my profile here.
The Difference: As you go along your way, producing your shows, you will meet all kinds of people, each with their own individual personality. And you will meet some, that no matter what their job is during the show, who will try to take control of situations. (I am not talking about someone who sincerely is helping out in a fix). I am taking about personalities. There are some producers who have the personality or attitude that they are indispensable, above the rest of the producers. Sometimes they will come obviously come across as if they are in a different social class than you are in, perhaps above you. No, they do not say that to you but they show that to you and they demonstrate it by the way that they act in the studio and in the control room. If you are wincing in pain at that statement, and you disagree that such people are not among our producers, think again. They are there. They do exist. And they will demonstrate their alleged superiority in the studio and in the control room. Note that I am not talking about education or training, I am speaking of their attitude of superiority, that is all.
The reason that I bring this up is because no one really wants to work with someone who has a superiority attitude. Yet, in the community access television world, some feel that they are forced to work with them. Stop right there in that thought. No one is forced to work with anyone in community access television production. Yes, producers are required to work on a certain number of shows, however, they are not required to work with specific producers. We can all choose producers and ask any producers. Just as producers have the right to refuse to work on a particular show, we, as producers have a right to ask anyone who is certified. The list is long. With patience, you will find some great producers to work with. As you get more involved with community access television production, you will see that you do have choices. And, you will have enough choices so that you can have your own preferences and work with producers that you are willing to work with. Never have such a lack of confidence that makes you think that you are unable to find producers so that you must settle for superiority complex individuals. In the community access neighborhood, there are many producers who are willing to show up and willing to do a great job for your show. Have confidence. Stand your ground and vow to work with producers who know that all producers are just as important as the rest, and that no one individual is any more important than the next. With an attitude that we are all equal, producers will show more respect on the set and in the control room, and there will be a more positive atmosphere both in the control room and in the studio.
Control Room Note: If you are in the control room giving instructions to someone in the studio, use that person’s name when you speak. This way there is no confusion about who is speaking with whom. Most producers do that and it works wonders to make a smooth operation. It is better to hear, Jane, zoom in, rather than hear zoom in (with no one’s name) and sometimes there is confusion about who should zoom in.
Your Role: So, what is your role in community access television? Your role is to do your best in whatever area in community access that interests you the most. Your role is to encourage your producers to follow the good example that you set. Your role is to find great producers for your shows, and to grow from the great learning experience that is available to you here at community access. Your role is whatever you make it here and hopefully , you will soon join in the ranks of the respective producers that work at community access studios. I wish you luck and and invite you to contact me anytime through my email address.
Executive Producer: The executive producer is usually the one who began the show – with the idea, the research, with contacting the talent, hosts, guests, co-hosts and audiences. Basically, it is his or her show, so you would want to do what this person wants. There is a certain idea, topic or theme that this producer wants to show, and there are certain ways that he or she wants to show it. So, if you are working on a show, and the executive producer wants you to work in the studio rather than work in the control room, then it is your role, your part, your duty to work in the studio area. When you come to a show to offer your help or your work, you do not come there offering to work in a particular area and only that area because that is not helpful to anyone. Yes, you can state what your specialty is and you can state what your experience is but you must relinquish the final control and final decision to the executive producer. You would not want anyone taking over your show, so do not attempt to take over anyone’s show by demanding to work in a particular area of the show, studio or control room. Most producers will try and work with you according to your experience or your preferences. But all executive producers have their own preferences also, so listen to instructions do not make your own instructions or demands.
Shows: Many of our weekly shows are produced inside the community access television. Some are produced in the field at remote locations. You can check one of our websites to see some field and some studio shows that we have produced in the past and more recently. Check at [http://www.youtube.com/superbooks7] We would be glad to send you our free newsletter if you request it by email. (These are sent out through email, not mailed).
Choose Wisely: Know that you have choices. Never let anyone convince you that you need them for your show. If you team up with producers who are respectful to you and to your other producers, you will produce a show but also you will have a good crew. Network, join a good, productive producers’ group and ask around to find more producers for your show. It is your role, as Executive Producer, to make choices when it comes to choosing crew to work on the show.
Updated, April 14, 2008
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