TV Futures - Producers Produce


Emily Merritt TV-Bay Magazine
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I’ve learnt two major facts about being a producer since studying on my BSc Television and Broadcasting course: ‘the role of producer cannot be defined in a sentence’ and ‘if your team don’t see you working, you’re doing your role as producer correctly’.

When I first came to The University of Portsmouth I knew what course I wanted for skills and roles, but I had no ambition to be a producer because I didn’t think I had the skills or the confidence. But I was wrong. Starting second year, after a year of sitting in the shadows, I promised myself I would take chances and I did. I was given the role of producer for a live broadcast for the first time. This thirty minute production would be shown on the Big Screen Portsmouth in front of thousands of people and would be half the marks for one of our taught units. A lot of people were relying on me to make the right decisions and guide the team in the correct direction in order to create a piece of work which we were all proud of. Despite late night edit sessions and our interviewee falling ill the day before transmission, we managed to pull it off. This show made me realise that while the responsibility mostly falls to the producer, creating a live show is a team effort. The team is there to support the producer and the producer is there to guide the team.

Fast forward to now, we’re preparing for our final show - an outside broadcast from the New Forest Wildlife Park. Not only is this a difficult task due it being the first time we would have broadcast live from somewhere other than our main broadcast studio, but it also means working in collaboration with the park which puts a lot of pressure on us to ensure everything goes well. This could be considered to be the biggest piece of work of our degree, with the most relying on it. For me, I’d say this is even bigger than my final year dissertation. We’ll be using everything we’ve learnt over the past three years and creating the most professional piece of work to date. The best thing about it for me though: I’ve decided to take on the role of producer.

So far, the pre-production of Wildlife Watch has been pretty plain sailing! We’ve managed to secure the location with a couple of emails and a face-to-face meeting; chosen three locations to broadcast live from, which comfortably reach the gallery location; and film two VTs with plenty of time to edit and re-shoot.

However we’ve certainly had setbacks! Firstly, the outreach truck that we were hoping to use to transport the equipment before using it as our gallery, was unavailable for the two weeks we had to broadcast in. This was most probably the most stress inducing aspect of the whole thing and honestly made me question whether or not we’d have to change locations. Thankfully we found a unused classroom with power and security which, after changing our studio locations, was actually a better gallery location than the original truck. The other major thing we’ve had to deal with, and have certainly learnt from, is that animals are very difficult to film with and if they don’t want to be on camera, you’ve got zero chance of getting the footage you want! On a day that was meant to be for filming the foxes, the VT crew spent an entire day on location with not a single shot of a fox. Thankfully we’ve had enough time to re-shoot and this time the foxes were all happy to participate in our filming.

There’s a lot I’ve learnt about producing this time around and I’m sure there’s even more I’ll learn by the time we broadcast live. Firstly, the producer doesn’t do all the paperwork; this is something I wish I’d known during the first show I produced because it was very stressful! Secondly, when something doesn’t go to plan everyone looks to you to come up with a solution. Thankfully I would say I’m a self-confessed problem solver so I thrive in times like this. When others are panicking that something’s gone wrong, I tell myself and the team ‘It’s okay, there will always be a solution, we just have to figure out what it is.’; and I’d say ninety percent of the time this is true. There has yet to be a problem we’ve not been able to fix. I hope this stays true with the rest of this show! Another thing I’ve learnt is that as a producer you complete a lot of behind the scenes work; work that the majority of the team have no idea you’re doing. Whether it’s composing emails to a client, organising the VT teams or helping the director create the best atmosphere on screen, the producer is always doing something!

The final thing I’ve learnt is that a producer is truly a jack-of-all-trades. Being the producer has taught me so much more than I thought it would. In order to aid each sub team, the producer must know exactly what every role entails. I’ve had to learn how to set up the entire gallery so I know how long it will take on the day of transmission and so that if something goes wrong, I have enough knowledge of the equipment to suggest a solution. I’ve also had to know the entire process of planning, filming and editing a VT in order to support the team and create a suitable timeline for final cuts.

As well as the people skills I’ve learnt throughout this process, such as how to lead a team and how to speak to clients, I’ve also learnt a lot technically which is something I never expected. Personally I didn’t ever think I would go into a technical, hands-on role when entering the industry, I thought I would be in pre-planning or production management. However the skills I’ve learnt this time around and the experiences I’ve had are invaluable and have opened my eyes to a whole new world of broadcasting.

I hope that the rest of the production process goes as well as it has so far and that when you tune in to watch Wildlife Watch on the 8th May, you’ll see a show which is not only interesting and aesthetically pleasing, but also demonstrates the hard work the entire team has put in. I’m sure there will be bumps in the road and possibly a crisis or two, but I know that as a team we will resolve any problem that occurs and we’ll be proud of the show we create. And as for being a producer, it’s an incredible experience that I’m extremely glad I took a chance on.


Tags: iss137 | portsmouth university | student | education | training | producer | Emily Merritt
Contributing Author Emily Merritt

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