The Summer of ’17 was utterly unforgettable. I went on a cross-country journey with four stand-up comedians – a black & white Jewish mom, an Aussie billionaire with a hangup about hookups, a maximum-security prisoner just released after aiding & abetting a robbery and attempted murder, and a psychotic psychologist with a hernia issue and a slew of other pre-existing conditions. I was shooting their adventures for a reality show – Sunda’s Straightjacket Comedy Tour – about how the owner of the LA School Of Comedy take a select group of students on a cross-country comedy tour. Only now am I finally able to show you what went down in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Reno, Vegas and god-knows-where-else. When you’re on tour, your cast & crew become your family. I love these guys. Continue reading JOKE JOCKEYS ON TOUR
This week we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles – the Barbara-Carlos-Mark-Sam version was the highest-rated local morning show in TV history! This show provided me with so many life-long friends, a treasure trove of memories and videos, it brought me a mantle full of Emmy Awards and it bought me my first house and half a dozen cars! I’ve come across some scenes from the show I had locked away decades ago in the Raymond J Brune vault. Most of these clips are being seen here for the first time since they originally aired nearly 3 decades ago! Here’s to the Morning News and everyone “who held the show hostage!” Continue reading 29 YEARS LATER
This week we celebrate the 29th anniversary of the (original) KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles – the Barbara-Carlos-Mark-Sam version was the highest-rated local morning program in TV history! This show provided me with so many life-long friends, a treasure trove of memories and videos, it brought me a mantle full of Emmy Awards and it bought me my first house and half a dozen cars! A few years ago, I wrote a book about my phenomenal experiences starting up the KTLA Morning News – Personality Driven – The Secret Sauce For Selling News. On the off-chance that you haven’t read it, I’m posting the first chapter here – all about the little show that became a monster hit – completely by accident! Continue reading THE KTLA MORNING NEWS JULY 8, 1991
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
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
Appreciate Inquiry could have a dramatic effect on the productivity in your newsroom. I’ve seen the powerful results AI’s had on people in addiction recovery and on businesses of all types around the country. At a recent seminar I attended on the subject, I heard from countless people how their businesses and industries have rapidly improved by applying the principles of appreciative inquiry. Continue reading APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY
This past week, I had the privilege of being invited to the Flourishing Leadership Institute’s “LEAF” workshop. LEAF is a new approach used by change agents (coaches, speakers, trainers, facilitators, consultants, and leaders) to lead groups of all sizes to shape their future or solve specific problems better, faster and more naturally than thought possible with other methods. I was there to premiere a video I shot and edited about Jesse Harless. Jesse is using the LEAF method to help people who are recovering from addiction – and his results are getting glowing reviews. This video is the media marketing he needed to move his program to a national scale. Continue reading ADDICTION RE-LEAF
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!
THE CENTERPIECE OF YOUR SHOW
On The Golden Girls, where did Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia spend most of their time? At The Kitchen Table. At your house, where does the family end up together more often than not? Correct! The Kitchen Table! It’s where you have your everyday meals, it’s where the kids do their homework, it’s where dad does his crossword puzzle and where mom reads her magazine. When a friend stops over, he joins the family at The Kitchen Table. The centerpiece of your home is The Kitchen Table – it’s the “home base” of your family.
The Kitchen Table is also the home base of your morning show. It’s where your family of anchors, sports and weather casters, reporters, and contributors hang out. When Chris Pine drops by, he joins everybody at The Kitchen Table. When the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders arrive, they join the gang at The Kitchen Table. When the mayor visits to discuss the teachers strike, he does so at The Kitchen Table. You don’t take guests and move them to a more formal location (like a living room set). You all hang out around The Kitchen Table where everyone joins in on the interview, the food and the small talk. Continue reading THE KITCHEN TABLE!
GOOD MORNING NEWS FOR NBC
NBC’s Today has improved by leaps and bounds since the last time I watched – during the ousting of Matt Lauer more than a year ago. The new directing style the show has adopted dramatically boosts the connection between the talent and the viewers. Hoda, Savannah and Al are alive, in-the-moment, and occasionally engaging, but the show has some work ahead of it – especially with Carson and Craig. But first, an obvious editorial error. Continue reading “TODAY” TURNS A CORNER
-TV TEEMS W/GENERIC REPORTERS-
I’m astounded on a daily basis how the majority of TV field reporters are content being anonymous, generic purveyors of facts and information – as generic and anonymous as the fake reporter in this stock photo! Watch reporters on any station in your market – they’ll do a “live” hit – then throw to a package that isn’t the least bit memorable or in any way stylized. Their live shots, their standups, their writing and their producing does absolutely nothing to make them stand out from the parade of generic reporters airing on TV every minute of every day. Continue reading ANONYMOUS PURVEYORS OF FACTS
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.
Storytelling is that oh so overly used industry buzzword you hear everywhere. But I ask you: When was the last time you actually heard any news anchor or reporter tell a compelling story? You’d certainly remember it if you heard one. So let me bring you two simple examples of storytelling that pop. Oliver Tull was one of the hosts of the Dallas version of Eye Opener. In this first clip, he tells a story about an old man who fights off a grizzly bear who was after his dog: Continue reading AUNT VIOLET’S ASKEW WIG!
I just happened to be editing and caught this amazing freeze – a random screen capture from Eye Opener I executive produced in 2015. No enhancements were made. It’s posted here just as it aired. Ty and Brooke are in their element. Know what I see? Continue reading JUST A MOMENT IN TIME…
OPEN TEASES MUST SET THE TONE
How do you open your morning newscast? Let me guess. Video of that overnight fire, wiping to that avalanche caught on tape, wiping to the footage of a dolphin giving birth. Music is urgent, your talent is breathless and graphics are flashing all over the screen. Yep. You’re producing that pre-open tease exactly as Walk Away Joe tells you to do it. If you’re producing a personality-driven newscast, Joe, aka your news consultant, is dead wrong. Here’s why. Continue reading ESTABLISH YOUR ATTITUDE
-CLOSE-UPS CREATE A CONNECTION-
Let me ask you a question. What is it about Britney Spears that transformed her into a legendary superstar?
Is it her voice?
Is it her catchy, heavily produced pop tracks?
Is it because she’s hot and jumps off the TV screen in every one of her music videos and TV appearances?
It’s absolutely essential that I point out to you moments on “live” TV that totally “nailed it” – when all the pieces come together to make an amazing TV moment. The clip I’m presenting today, which I would have given anything to have produced, I’ve watched dozens of times, examining every nuance that makes it so powerful. And I urge you to watch every frame again and again. This is how a director, a producer (to a lesser extend here), and the on-air players come together to create an amazing, incredible, emotional moment. Watch first, then I’ll dissect. Continue reading THIS IS HOW YOU DIRECT “LIVE” TV!
Hey – anchors, reporters and news directors – I want to talk to you for a moment about Rhoda Young. You may not have heard of her or you may have dismissed her – either way – big mistake! She and other “vigilante” journalists are capturing compelling breaking news stories right there in your own backyards – stories that the local affiliates are either skipping or missing. More importantly, they’re capturing an audience (1.1 million views and counting). When was the last time you had one million people watching your house fire package? Continue reading RHODA YOUNG LIVE ON THE SCENE!
Personalities have been coming into our homes since the invention of radio. When television came along, the addition of the video image often magnified the personalities who graced its screen. There were quite a few legendary local TV news personalities to grab audiences – here are a few of my favorites: Continue reading PAST-PERFECT PERSONALITIES
I came across this compilation of news anchors who went “off prompter” and then went viral. Produced by Grunge, they call it “anchor freak outs” which is a click-bait tease and far from actual fact. With the exception of Bill O’Reilly who’s just a deliberate freak show and a bully along the lines of P.T. Barnum, the behavior of most of these anchors is pretty much on target – it’s how they should occasionally behave on air when it’s real and authentic – like it was for Anderson Cooper. The commentator implies his show was cancelled because of such authentic moments, but nothing could be further from the truth. I guarantee you that viewers loved him for being honest. Search my blog posts for the real reason Anderson’s daytime talk show was cancelled. Continue reading AUTHENTIC ANCHORING
There came a time in my career when I began to recognize that I excel in two areas of TV news – the first is in finding, mentoring, and producing personalities. I’m not referring to newsreaders or prompter-jockeys, but true personalities. In addition to the The KTLA Morning News team, I’ve been fortunate to have worked alongside some of the best news personalities in television. Continue reading PERSONALITIES THAT POP