Some back and forth with a long-time news producer pal of mine.
Here’s a fascinating piece of internet history from 1995. It’s two members of the cast of Friends, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry showing us how to use the Microsoft software Windows 95. I suspect the one thing this hour-long program shows us more than anything else, is the importance of solid comedy writers. The sitcom’s writing was brilliant – but this little feature isn’t. Jennifer and Matthew seem to be partly acting/partly ad-libbing in a pseudo-sitcom that was written by Microsoft’s marketing department, not Friends Emmy award-winning writers. It’s bad. Really bad. Which is why it’s so fun to watch. I bet these two stars walked away with a cool chunk of change from Mr. Gates! Enjoy. Continue reading MICROSOFT WINDOWSHILL
Even if your newscast is driven by its personalities, you must be first when breaking news rears its ugly head. I want to show you how we provided exclusive team coverage of Former Vice President Joe Biden during his “heavy petting” days. This is the amazing Eye Opener Dallas group from a few years ago! Continue reading THE VICE IN VP
There’s a 5 & 6pm newscast here in Cincinnati that I find myself watching… because it’s so bad. From anchors sporting the latest Wal-Mart fashions and looking as disheveled as a hooker who had a productive night, to a weatherman who, literally, yells at you throughout his forecast, thinking he’s sporting a sexy, booming FM radio voice, but in fact, is just, plain yelling. The anchors start to mirror his absurd volume and the whole show becomes a big yelling fest. But let’s switch gears for a second as there’s one pet peeve I have that gets me yelling back at the TV screen. The anchors are constantly ad-libbing that cliche phrase “switching gears” between stories. It’s a verbal device they use to bridge two unrelated stories to make the transition feel a bit less awkward. As an example, going from a double fatal car crash story to the birth of a new elephant at the zoo is an obvious “switching gears” story. The problem is easily avoided by a producer who understands the art of stacking stories in a newscast. Continue reading “SWITCHING GEARS” HURTS MY EARS
THE “SOY BOMB” CRASH & BURN
Taking risks is the sure-fire path to rewards. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me. But taking risks also means that sometimes, things don’t pay off. Things don’t go as planned. What you saw in your head when planning your next amazing segment is NOT what you ended up seeing on the line monitor. Continue reading UNREWARDED RISKS!
Sometimes you’ve just got to let them talk it out. When the word “thug” became a news story, everyone on set had an opinion. It’s so important to allow them to discuss these issues – which strengthens the connection between your talent and your audience. In this example, we just let them talk right up to the hard break.
Booking guests is a little understood art that I’ve had lots of time to practice. Between KTLA, E! News Live, GMA Sunday and World News Now, I’ve pretty much had every notable name in Hollywood & New York in studio, on-set for interviews. The key to booking an interview guest is all about how your hosts interact with celebrities. Obviously, you want the guest to look good, have a great time and get to push whatever they’re pushing. But what viewers see is your hosts hanging out with a big star. Continue reading PRODUCING GUESTS
AN ILLUMINATING OVERSIGHT
If you’ve ever met her, you know Marie Osmond is pretty in person. Stunning even. And she is just as beautiful on TV. Marie, a TV veteran of her own prime-time variety series and a daytime talk show, knows how crucial lighting is on a TV set. Good lighting can make a talent “glow” on screen. Bad lighting is the kiss of death. Many years ago, Marie was a guest on The KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles. Coincidentally, we shot our show on the very same stage she and her brother had shot all 78-episodes of Donnie & Marie on ABC twenty years earlier. I remember very clearly, when she arrived, before going to makeup, Marie asked me if she could go out on set for a moment during a commercial break. I led the way. Once there, she looked at where she would be sitting for the interview and then examined the lighting grid above her, determining whether or not she had a key light, a fill light, and a rim light (a back light). She was happy when our three-point lighting met her standards.
One “presentation” element that local news producers have never embraced is “packaging” news. You might want to reconsider. Whether we’re talking several national/international stories, health or fitness, tech or virals, putting them together in one quick roundup segment with music and graphics is a great way to “up” your story count as well as stylize your newscast. Here are some examples of packaged segments we used daily on Eye Opener in Chicago: Continue reading PACKAGING UPS PACING
Sometimes you’ve just got to stand in front of a camera and experiment. That’s how InZaNews was developed. A friend of mine, Barry Pintar, and I discussed producing a two minute, daily, digital morning newscast that would cover the news quickly and succinctly. Because we lived across the country from each other, Barry did most of the heavy lifting. Produced for nearly a year, InZaNews was very popular in high schools – teachers would play the day’s episode before starting class. The biggest feedback was the shock that our anchorman, Zacko, was sporting tattoos! People loved it. Our biggest problem was distribution – we pitched it around to various media properties but had no luck getting funding or finding it a permanent home with a web entity So we ultimately moved on to other things. To bad – it’s a cool format.