Production Times
December 2013
Sharing video production from across the country., sprinkled with
a bit of news, humor and other tid-bits.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
7 questions with...
The seven questions segment features (you guessed it)  7 questions and answers regarding this industry from various perspectives.

This months guest is Gregg Hall: production manager at WSMH Flint MI.

How long have you been in the business?

18 Years ago I started in Engineering as a Master Control Operator. In 1997 I transferred to Production as the Production Assistant; by first quarter of 2001 I was promoted to Production Manager. My primary job is commercial advertisement.

What got you into the business?

In grade school I always wanted to work in television and of course news was on that list. I took enrichment classes abroad to help gain skills and most importantly play with expensive cameras. In eighth grade I found a Young Explorers class at a local UHF television station held only during the winter months. However, to my disappointment, students in high school were only eligible to take the class. So like any young kid who wanted something...I lied about my age. Two engineers (Chief Eng and his Assistant) saw my eagerness to learn; staying late, learning the character generator, the switcher, A-B editing, you name it. After the Explores class concluded I stayed in contact with those two engineers. During the summer months they would swing by my home to pick me up to help with their projects (too young to drive myself). By high school I had the basic understanding of production and engineering. In 1994 I helped the station move its entire operations. Luck will have it, one cold night in March 1995,    

Cont'd below 

Featured Videos
Every issue I will feature a couple of pieces of production from my clients across the country.  Who knows, maybe someone from the other side of the nation may turn you on to a new trick or twist.
If you have a piece that you would like to share, let me know and I will feature it in an upcoming newsletter!

GTN Holiday Greetings
This piece was from Christmas last year. I think I am trying to channel a British narrator or some impish Christmas character.

Mazda spot for play in theaters
I love the way this spot brings energy through the combination of still images, flashing graphics and music.  Thanks Rick Owens, I had fun voicing this one.

And Finally......
Can you relate?

 Ho Ho Who?

Cokes History of Santa
     Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle and yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus.


No Matter how we refer to this jolly old elf, he is known around the world as the bearer of gifts to good little boys and girls at Christmas. The original Saint Nicholas lived in Turkey during the 4th century and is credited with miracles for  the children and sailors of the area.  He was given a feast day after his death and is the patron saint for children and sailors.


     Fast forward to the 20th century and Santa Claus is associated more with the commercialization of Christmas than with any saintly deeds. 


     The image of the plump, red nosed, white haired benevolent gift giver was popularized in Coca Cola advertising campaigns starting in the 1920's. It didn't take Madison Avenue execs long to figure out that this was the iconic symbol upon which to build very successful advertising campaigns.


     How often do you use the image of Santa in your work?  As hackneyed and stale as it may seem, the image of Old Saint Nick still has the power to stir the emotions of the good little boy and girl in all of us!


Some Santa Trivia

It wasn't until Dec. 23rd, 1823 that we heard of Santa riding in a sleigh being pulled by "8 tiny reindeer". That is attributed to Clement Moores poem "A visit from Saint  Nicholas" which is now popularly referred to as" Twas the Night Before Christmas"


In 1890, a Massachusetts businessman, James Edgar,  dressed up in a Santa Claus costume as a marketing tool for Edgar's small dry goods store in Brockton.  And a new tradition was born!


7 Questions continued 

a young lady working in Master Control decided to quit. Her actions that night is the reason I now work at the very same station I hung around since 1989.  It wasn't until 1997 when I fessed up to the two engineers and told them I lied about my age to get in the Explorers Class. They both smiled and said they knew. It was obvious I didn't look like I was in high school. But as long as I wanted to learn they weren't going to say anything.


Share with us your most memorable horror story.

At one point I had 18 active projects going on. I had very little time to follow up on my backups. And that's when it always happens...My RAID array failed and all my projects were gone. I went from having no time on my hands to complete panic to helpless. There was a lot of money on those drives and to just sit there and give up wasn't in my nature. I did find a company to help salvage the data and in the long run all was good. But I don't recommend anyone go through that experience.


If you routinely deal with AE's who cause extra work for you (late with copy, poor directions, last minute changes, not letting client know what to expect, etc.) how do you try to deal with them?

It took many years to hone out these AE issues. But would have to admit issues still always come up. But mostly with the backing of my GM, I've dissected each issue that arises and tried to come up with a way to avoid them in the future. Like most production houses it starts with a production order. The questions to get communication flowing is the key to eliminate potential conflicts. The typical fields, address, type of production are standard questions asked on a production order. However on the backside are 16 other questions they must fill out. These questions have been added over the past 10 years. I've noticed the most important question of them all is "who takes point". It's a simple check box, the AE or the production producer. If the AE chooses themselves to take point, then they must be at the shoot to help direct what the client wants. My staff will provide invaluable points on what's the best angle to shoot, lighting, etc. But everything is on the AE's shoulders, this included script, talent, getting approval, etc. If they choose for the producer to take point, my staff members will take the 15 other answered questions and call the client to discuss their commercial and let them know what to expect.   Everything is documented and typed up and signed by the client including the script before the shoot begins. By choosing my staff to take point the AE has no production input and waits until the agreed request completion date to find out the status of their client's commercial. I'll make one critical point, if you do not have your GM's backing and there is no accountability to them filling out work orders completely. Your communication issues will never get fixed.


Is there any special equipment, software or services that you have just discovered that really help your productivity/creativity?

I don't know if it's new. But I found a free program called Celtx for scripts and storyboards. We already do simple MS Word scripts for commercials but this program is very helpful for longer projects or any project requiring storyboards. Simple, easy and fast.


Given your career, do you find yourself dissecting the commercials you see on tv or movies that you watch and critique the choices that the producers made? How does this effect your enjoyment of media?

Yes, commercials- I will catch issues or critique often. Just the other day I caught a commercial on our sister station airing a commercial that didn't meet FCC regulations for not identifying a sponsor. I'm sure I've irritated my wife plenty of times when I complain about selected ads and then quiz her if she remembers the product or service.  But movies, no.


We all know of producers who freelance outside of work. Whats your feeling on the subject? Do you freelance? In what capacity?

I think freelance is by far the best option for any producer. You may laugh but I think it keeps creative producers grounded from not hating the profession we have chosen and allowing us to freely work on projects outside of our main job where they may be restricted to what they can and cannot do. This in turn restricts our creativity. Yes, I do freelance and when I choose a job it's a project that I will get some satisfaction out of it and/or it's worth my time. My freelance consist of producing golf shows. Working with a friend, we have made a name for ourselves and have a syndicated show on 19 radio stations and a television show on Fox Sports in three states. We have built up our production equipment for both radio and TV to the point I have better stuff than my department at the station. In the off season we help homeless shelters to help promote donations.  Some people seem to make freelancing a dirty word. But I have friends who freelance who are young doctors, welders, carpenters, and yes even used car salesmen. I just make sure my freelance work doesn't conflict with my current employer.


Thanks to Gregg for taking the time to share- you can check out Gregg's site here   


Until next time, happy producing!
Jon Goffena
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