I watched Bobbie Battista religiously on CNN Headline News back in the day. You see, it was my job. The weekend producer at WLWT had me, their intern, logging CNN newscasts for any video we could use from CNN on our shows. OMG! Lynne Russell, Lynn Vaughn, Gordon Graham, that anchorman with one leg, Toria, Chuck Roberts! I watched them all but Bobbie was always my favorite! Continue reading AROUND THE WORLD IN 30 MINUTES
Bonnie Franklin was a very good friends of ours at The KTLA Morning News. Every on-stage event we had, there she was joining in! I recently came across one of her earliest acting roles – as Sally in You’re The Judge from 1965. It’s an ephemeral film from that era produced by Crisco. Two girls are trying to “trap” two boys and the only way they figure they can do it is through their stomachs with some chicken and some cheating! It’s a wonderful lesson for the children of tomorrow! Enjoy. Continue reading A SHORT ABOUT SHORTENING
Playtime with some of my favorite people when we visited Virginia City, NV. Sunda Croonquist, James Harris, Pete Drysdale and Stacie Taylor. This scene was included in the original pilot for the cross-country trek of the Straightjacket Comedy Tour. Check it out – and see how many inside jokes you can decipher! Continue reading Mighty Fine Calico Queen
With Halloween approaching, I want to share something a very wise man once said. His name: Herman Munster. If only the President, Congress, Supreme Court Justices, the people who proudly make up the President’s base, and all of us Americans could embrace the concept of Character, we’d all be so much closer to the people our founding fathers once hoped we’d be.
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!
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
A fascinating TED talk featuring Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold. I can’t image the courage it took her to “go public” with her feelings. In many ways, she too, is a Columbine survivor.
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
-THE RECIPE FOR RATINGS-
Do you know the “secret sauce” to morning show success? It’s a simple recipe. And it’s right there on the screen. It’s the one thing all these clips have in common.
Ever notice how your favorite celebrities who are guests on Ellen or Jimmy Kimmel or Stephen Colbert share stories about their lives? That’s because producers ask the stars to come armed with a few stories the host can lead them into. Producers know that storytelling is an essential device to connect viewers to the show and to its hosts and guests. Continue reading SAVVY STORYTELLING
Ryan Reynold’s pitch for his own Aviation Gin is a brilliant example of storytelling – although a parody through and through. He’s disrupting the industry by showing how his competitors are out overselling their distilling process. His pitch runs 1:40 – but keeps you engaged til the end.
One of the best things about television in the ’70’s and ’80’s were those yearly image campaigns by each of the networks pushing their new fall lineup. ABC, CBS and NBC always seemed to be trying to out do each other every year with bigger, louder and more star-studded campaigns than the year before. Aside from the eye popping visuals, there were the catchy jingles accompanying each campaign. 1982’s winner was, hands down, ABC with it’s “Come On Along” theme. The network actually allocated a budget, hired a chopper and paid some of its talent to appear in scenes shot specifically for this campaign. Fonzi and Chachi, Mr. Roarke & Tattoo, Laverne and Shirley, Max from Hart To Hart, that Benson guy, Joanie (Erin Moran, who lived near me for many years in Los Angeles, RIP) and even Scooby Doo showed up in Manhattan to get bystanders to come on along. It’s the promotion people running amok, schlock galore, and I love every second of it: Continue reading 1982 IMAGE CAMPAIGNS
If you’re still in the market for a New Year’s Resolution, I’ve got you covered. Resolve to watch this video below – all 19 minutes of it. Earl Nightingale is someone you’ve never heard of. He is, sort of, the Anthony Robbins of the ’50’s – but oh, so much more profound. His brief message will, truly, change your life. He first released his book, The Strangest Secret, in 1956 followed by an audio recording on a LP album. That sold one million copies – the highest amount of sales ever for a so-called “self-help” genre recording. Don’t focus on the video quality, or the audio reproduction. Listen to his words. And learn. The guy is a genius.
Lost a friend over the Christmas holidays. Robin Phillips has died in Houston. Robin anchored the weekend news at WLWT in Cincinnati when I was little Ray the intern. We covered many breaking stories together including a man barricaded in his home holding family members hostage. He suddenly started shooting from a window – Robin and I heard the bullets whiz right over our heads! That’ll teach you to keep your head down! Continue reading THE LOSS OF BRIGHT EYES
-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?
Two television treasures here from the golden age of local TV. I found these films just the other day and couldn’t wait to get them on-line for you to check out. I’ve never seen either presentation before but both films highlight independent station KTLA as a true forerunner in early television production from back in the day when owned by Paramount Studios. These are priceless portraits of local TV’s “coming of age” and the pioneers who put it all together. Continue reading A PRICELESS PORTRAIT OF TV’S PAST
When you combine two words, “popular” and luxury, you create “Populuxe”. It was a consumer culture and aesthetic in the U.S. in the 1950’s and ’60’s. The look and feel of Populuxe was one of futuristic and Space Age influence. You can identify the Populuxe movement in films, graphics, clothing designs, furniture, interior design and architecture. And nowhere is it more on display than a few of the short films I’ve collected below.
“DESIGN FOR DREAMING” (1956)
First is Design For Dreaming, a film which was shown before the feature film at movie theaters across the country. It was created to highlight the General Motors Motorama of 1956, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York and new Frigidaire appliances. Tad Tadlock, a dancer and choreographer plays the woman caught in pink pajamas going to the Motorama. Her masked suitor is dancer and choreographer Marc Breaux. The film is an over-the-top, dream-dance piece of puffery which is why it’s so fascinating to watch. Directed by William Beaudine and produced by Victor Solow for MPO Productions, it’s once of those productions I wish I had a hand in producing. I’ve acquired a breathtaking print of the film you won’t find on YouTube. Favorite Populuxe line of dialogue: “Better get her into the kitchen, quick!” Enjoy. Continue reading OUR “POPULUXE” PAST
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!
Here’s a great promo clip the WB did about KTLA Morning News traffic reporter Jennifer York. It’s a interstitial the network ran during its children’s programming highlighting the crazy careers some people choose. Cute little theme song. Check it out. Continue reading JENNIFER BELONGS TO THE SKY!
The true horror of the Kennedy assassination was brought into the living rooms of Americans on March 6, 1975 – in living color. Geraldo Rivera‘s late night show Good Night America on ABC was the first outlet to air the 8mm film shot more than a decade earlier by bystander Abraham Zapruder in Dallas. Continue reading FIRST AIRING OF THE ZAPRUDER FILM
Netflix has mastered a two-step process of choosing which potential dramas and comedy programs will be a hit with its subscribers. The company and its executives do not use Walk-Away Joe’s (oh, that’s what I call “consultants”). Their two-step process involves a) data paints, and b) a leap of faith. Continue reading NETFLIX FINDS RISK = RATINGS
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
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
Some hilarious sendups of morning news teams as envisioned by Saturday Night Live.
There’s no denying Hands Across America, the follow-up charity event to We Are The World, was a nation-wide phenomenon. Five million people turned out to hold hands from coast to coast though there were some wide gaps because of our nation’s landscape. In some cities, people were up in arms because their locale was excluded from the official event route. I could not attend the festivities, unfortunately, as I was interviewing for a job on that day. Hands Across America raised $15 million which finally ended hunger in America once and for all. OK, maybe not, but for me, the lasting legacy of the event is its theme song. Continue reading WISH I HAD A HAND IN THIS
Doing press junkets can be very tricky for reporters. On one hand, you’ve got a celebrity who has been answering the same questions, over and over again, for every local TV station from Los Angeles to Schenectady. (S)he’s bored and (s)he’s cranky and (s)he’s often judgmental in his/her crankiness. Next there’s the overprotective publicists. They want to ensure you ask questions only about the movie and not about the star’s personal life. They hover right over you, just off camera, during your carefully timed five-minute-and-not-one-second-longer interview. Any deviation from the plan and the publicist shuts down the shoot. And finally, there’s you… waiting your turn for over an hour, jet lagged from the red eye arrival and the early morning screening of the film. You’re just hoping you look decent for your cutaways, praying you ask questions that make some semblance of sense, and hoping they’re fresh and different from all the bigger-name TV news royalty waiting ahead of you in the green room. Thus are the trappings of a blockbuster hundred-million dollar movie studio junket. Continue reading HYSTERICAL PRESS JUNKET HIJINKS!
—CODE 1000’S CAN BE CREATIVE!—
We call it a “Code 1000”. It’s a mention upper management wants you to include in your newscast. It might be a charity event the station is sponsoring that they want you to shoot and mention in a :30 voice-over at 11pm. Or maybe they want you to promote a free flu shot giveaway the station’s part of at the Walgreens down the street. Or it could be something as obvious as promoting a Cheers marathon happening this weekend now that the station has bought the syndication rights to the sitcom. Continue reading A “MUST COVER” IN YOUR NEWSCAST!
Social media called out a Japanese news reporter and his crew who were reporting from the city of Sukayu, a hot spring town in northern Japan. The NHK reporter started his opening standup with: Continue reading FLAKE NEWS
This is absolutely stunning! Samuel J. Seymour, at the time this episode of I’ve Got A Secret aired on February 9, 1956, was the last surviving witness to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Check it out: Continue reading WITNESS TO LINCOLN’S ASSASSINATION!
The greatest morning show on the planet – is no more. For some ten years, the Australian Today show was awesome! A brilliant eyeopener! Karl Stefanovic, Lisa Wilkinson and Georgie Gardner were the very definition of “on-air chemistry”. Continue reading END OF G’DAYS DOWN UNDER
In a society where anyone over 40 is considered an old coot, undate-able and unemployable, a Dutch man tried to do something about it. Emile Ratelband decided to become “age fluid” – officially recognized as twenty years younger to attract more women on Tinder. He claims he was being discriminated against because he is 69 and wanted to list his age as 49. His logic was, if transgender people can change their sex, he should be permitted to change the date of his birth since doctors have attested that he looks much younger than he actually is. Continue reading “AGE FLUID” FATALIST
Betcha didn’t know that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t part of Christmas-past for very long. – certainly not as long as Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen… Rudolph is the creation of a department store, Montgomery Ward. He started out as a character in a coloring book in 1939, created to be given away to shoppers at Christmastime. 2.4 million copies of that coloring book were handed out. It wasn’t until 1948 that Rudolph’s story was told on film. Max Fleischer produced a theatrical cartoon short which I’ve included below for your viewing enjoyment. This was the first Rudolph cartoon! Continue reading YOU’LL GO DOWN IN HISTORY
Mrs. Helen Ferguson is devastated when kidnappers snatch her husband and hold him ransom for everything she’s got. Local news reporter Leo MacKenzie scores an exclusive, breaking news interview with Mrs. Ferguson. But once that interview is done, the crew discovers no audio was recorded. What happens next is classic Carol Burnett.
From 1973 comes this behind-the-scenes look at how WABC -TV in New York gets a newscast on the air at 6PM. The two highlights for me are seeing Bill Beutel and Geraldo Rivera doing their jobs. I am a fan of Rivera during his news days. Who can forget Willowbrook? I like watching how Rivera tells a story – so anti-establishment for that time and in some ways, would still be today. Continue reading WHEN GERALDO MATTERED
These two need to be heard. Have you watched them? More importantly, have you heard them? I’m making it my life’s mission to get them heard.
A year or so ago, I released a book about a TV producing experience that dramatically altered the direction of my life. It involves a woman who has become a very good friend of mine, British medium/clairvoyant Lisa Williams. I discovered Lisa quite by accident when I was searching for characters for reality shows I was producing. It is an understatement to say that Lisa “blew my mind”. Along with her jaw-dropping psychic abilities, she was a made-for-TV talent. Breathtaking on screen. When I shot her pilot in Manhattan, she’d never done any on-camera work before, but her warmth and genuine authenticity grabbed viewers through the camera and didn’t let them go. Continue reading MY LIFE-ALTERING SHOOT
Every TV producer has pondered the idea of airing “live” executions as a reality series. While a few films have explored the possibilities – from Witness to the Execution to The Hunger Games, no one really expects executions to someday be televised. But in China, they’ve been doing the next best thing for years… they’ve been airing a weekly “talk” show called Interviews Before Execution. It’s a long-time hit, with TV host Ding Yu interviewing the condemned, often just moments before they are put to death. China puts more of its citizens to death in one year than every other country combined – about 10,000 – women, men, anyone 18 or older. There are nearly 60 offenses in China that result in the death penalty. The culture also requires the family of the accused to pay the family of the victim exorbitant amounts of cash to “be forgiven” by victim’s family. Only when a victim’s family has forgiven the accused can there be a possibility, a small one, but a possibility that the death sentence will be commuted. Continue reading A CHILLING CHAT SHOW
My aunt still thinks I repair TV sets! Seriously! I’m always asked just what it is a producer does. And I’ve been on the lookout for a self-contained, surefire explainer for the role of a TV producer. Fortunately, this rare and long lost British training film, Who Does What?, details in a rather stodgy manner what TV producers do. Continue reading WHAT A PRODUCER DOES
This information I’m going to share with you is most popular with prison inmates and celebrities. Who knew those two groups had something in common. From American author Robert Greene‘s 1998 book, The 48 Laws of Power, here is a visual summary of his ideas. Continue reading 48 LAWS OF POWER
Xinhua – the Chinese state news agency is introducing the world to two new members of its newsroom – Artificial Intelligence News Anchors. One speaks Chinese, the other, English. Can you tell which is the real news anchor and which is a computer clone? Continue reading CAN YOU SPOT THE “FAKE NEWS ANCHOR”?
In the early days of television, what I call “warmth”, they referred to as “charm”. It’s a magical, mesmerizing quality you can’t quite define – that jumps from the screen and enraptures you in a blanket of utter delight. OK, that might be a tad over the top, but you can’t overstate the value of warmth in a morning TV host. There’s one television treasure, a true personality pioneer, whom few modern day producers or TV talent have ever heard of. She hosted a live morning show back in the ‘50’s, before Today or Good Morning America were ever dreamed up. She was the Oprah of her day, when viewers had the choice of only three programs to watch at any given time. When 11AM came around, everyone was watching Miss Arlene Francis.
Proper lighting is crucial to a successful TV show, newscast or production. Many companies hire their talent, pay them a fortune, and then skimp on the lighting – not bothering to bring in an expert lighting director. They throw away a costly investment by splashing a bunch of light all over the set and calling it a day. It’s especially obvious when a talent turns from one camera to another and the lighting doesn’t match both shots and shadows are thrown here and there. Although I am not a lighting director, I can certainly separate well-lit talent from poorly lit ones. Continue reading ILLUMINATING LOOK AT LIGHT
I’m totally biased for sure – having grown up in Cincinnati and having worked at WLWT – but here are four brilliant spots created for the station’s image campaign from the mid-1980’s. Every image in the spots is a true reflection of the Cincinnati lifestyle. Ted Neely, the actor who played Jesus in the original Jesus Christ Superstar film was hired to sing the “Cincinnati Style” theme. Excellent campaign! Continue reading BRILLIANT IMAGE CAMPAIGN
It’s time to settle an old score. I’m not sure this is the forum to do so, but I have no choice. The pain and feelings of abandonment have kept me quiet for 17 years. No more. Here goes. Continue reading THUMP (FOR MY LOVE)
Whatever happened to the “art” of the commentary? I’m not talking about those painful “editorials” at the end of local newscasts recorded by the General Manager of the station, and usually advocating the construction of a new sewage treatment plant. I’m referring to news commentaries by newsmen (and women), back before political correctness took hold and turned every newscast into a generic store brand. Continue reading THE ART OF EXPRESSION
Originally Posted 11-01-13
Remember that legendary scene from Sunset Blvd?
One of the most infamous scenes in all of filmdom – about a close-up – and it wasn’t shot on a close-up...not even close. I am no film director. I don’t pretend to be. And who am I to second guess the great director Billy Wilder? Well, nobody, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m assuming he had his reasons for not shooting Gloria Swanson’s scene about Norma Desmond wanting a close-up on a close-up. Might have been some artistic choice. What he essentially did was have her “walk into” her close-up. Then the music and the visual effects turn dark and grim revealing the monster she is as the scene fades to black. I think it would have been much more powerful to shoot Swanson on a close-up leading up to the line to clearly illustrate that she is deranged. We could have seen the whites of her eyes and the psychopathy of the moment. Yes, in the waist shot, which Wilder chose, we got that impression with her hands dancing and twisting in the air. But the power of the moment is what is revealed in any close-up, and we were denied that moment. The scene faded before the real close-up came. Maybe Wilder deliberately denied us of that moment. Or was he just denying Norma her close-up? Like I said, I’m no film director. Continue reading IS NEWS READY FOR ITS CLOSE-UP?
Occasionally as news reporters or special projects producers, we set out to right a wrong. Perhaps a young mother abandons her autistic daughter because the government will no longer provide special daycare services – and the child is a danger to the woman’s other children. We interview the mother and perceive her and her daughter to be the victims. We interview state or federal mental health care bureaucrats only to discover their hands are tied. We interview the dedicated workers at the special daycare center to find they are understaffed and can’t keep up with the growing demand for their services. We come back to the newsroom and what he we got? What do we put together for the 6? Continue reading STORYTELLING AT ITS FINEST
Booking guests for a right-brain morning show is a little understood art that I’ve had lots of time to practice, because between KTLA and 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. And let me go on record as saying – best celebrity guest – appearance after appearance – hands down, Richard Simmons. I would book Richard Simmons over, say, Nicole Kidman, every time – hand to god. Let me explain. Continue reading RICHARD SIMMONS COMES OUT…
Let’s face it. Every local station these days has access to the same stories as its competition. The only exceptions to that are unique content a station generates from an Investigative Team or from its field reporters and producers who generate exclusive material. That’s why Signature Segments are so essential. They allow you to take those same stories every station has access to – and produce something unique. Continue reading HEART-WRENCHING SIGNATURE SEGMENTS
Second Verdict was a show idea that came to me while I was working at E! Networks during a rash of celebrity court trials. What if we take footage of actual trials and re-tried them with our own jury? And instead of using jurors who were completely unbiased, we use jurors who themselves were victims of violent crimes or who had particular biases. Or perhaps we give them information that the judge declared inadmissible during the actual trial. How would that affect the outcome of our trial versus what happened in court? Continue reading WE, THE JURY…FIND THE DEFENDANT…
Thanks to news anchors like Anderson Cooper, the issue of bullying is finally front and center in the media. Laws are being passed, programs are being put into place and bullies are actually being held accountable for their actions. As someone who was bullied, day in and day out, from the third grade until my high school graduation, I can tell you that being the target of bullies at every turn is a terrifying and miserable existence. I vividly remember riding home on the bus from high school in my freshman year. Every afternoon we would drive past this huge graveyard on the west side of Cincinnati. I would stare at the thousands of tombstones and envy those people for being dead. I would have written a book about my experiences ages ago but I would have to go into events that occurred in my sophomore year – and I’m not yet ready to commit them to paper. My junior and senior years are a complete blur. I remember nothing. But a bully I encountered as a freshman would come back to haunt me early on in my news career. Continue reading EXECUTION OF A BULLY
My favorite show of all time… don’t judge me!… The Sonny And Cher Comedy Hour. Even now, 40 years after it first aired, it is mesmerizing to watch. And the reason it is? Because the show is nothing but the sum of all its parts. None of those parts could stand alone (and they tried in later years). Cher was OK at best. Sonny was just plain sad – but his lack of talent didn’t stop him from having his own prime time variety show! Continue reading SONNY THOUGHTS TO CHER