Welcome to the PIT List!

I'm a network field producer who also worked in local tv as a line producer and field producer. Over the years, I have had the great fortune to work with super people. Now I'd like to pass along what I know and rant a tad.

"Dear Maggie..." pitlist@gmail.com
I check it sporadically, but I love answering emails, so if you have an issue or difficult person you need help with, don't hesitate to shoot it my way.

Maggie L

Maggie L
One of the rare times I'm in the office

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Front-End Discussions: Good for Producers & Reporters

One of the most annoying things for a producer is to be about an hour from a show, reviewing a script and having the horrifying realization: This script has no relation to the story that was pitched in the meeting or to the story I've been teasing all night. ACK! With no time, and lots of other show issues demanding your attention, it's hard to salvage the piece- and you want to strangle the reporter. Fortunately, there's a solution. And it's called "front end discussions." Meaning check in your your reporters every once in a while. I know you're busy and have a million things to do, but there's no replacement for direct contact with your reporters.

Front-end discussion #1:
Producer: Hey, what 'cha got?
Reporter: Well, we have this guy and that broll.
Producer: Ok, that sounds good. Let me know if anything changes. I've got you in for 1:20 in the first block.

Front-end discussion #2:
Producer: Hey, what 'cha got?
Reporter: Well, we have this guy and that broll.
Producer: Wow. That doesn't sound anything like what we talked about in the meeting.
Reporter: We got out here and things changed.

Discussion #2 is much easier to have at 4 hours before showtime than 1 hour before showtime. As a producer, be open to what your crews tell you about the story. Nothing is more for frustrating for field crews than to be ignored. An example:

Producer: It's raining cats and dogs on the West side!
Reporter: Well, we're here in the West side and it's bone dry.
Producer: But the weather guy says it's pouring!
Reporter: I'm here and I'm telling you, there's not a cloud in the sky.

That said, we all know reporters who wouldn't know a good story if it sat on them. They will need special attention and a lot of firm hand holding. You may think, gee, this is not my job. A reporter in this size market should be able to do this without my help. You re wrong. It is your job because it is your show. Anything you can do to make your show better is your job. They may be two minutes of your show and 90% of your headaches, but there you are. That's why you get paid the big bucks (note sarcasm).

Front-end discussions are also good for reporters. Reporters! If you producer doesn't check in with you and then rages when your story has changed, cut them off at the pass. Call them. Say, "I know you were expecting a raging fire at the nursing home but we got here and it's just a trash can fire. So it's probably not your lead." A conversation like this may be difficult, and your producer may not want to hear it, but it will save you both heartburn in the end. Also think about calling in with good news, as in, "Hey, we went to this fire and we have GREAT STUFF!" There's some great sot you could probably use in a tease. I also shot a standup you can use in the open." You will have a friend forever.

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