Tuesday, August 28, 2012

So You Want to Be a Television Producer...




KIKI (V.O.) VOICE-OVER:  NYU Junior and Broadcast Communications Major, Alisha Wallace, has her eyes set on the nearest producer's chair she can find after she graduates in 2014?  Is that a realistic goal?  

Well, today she's going to find out when she interviews, VICTORIA L. CHAPMAN... Format Producer in Post Production at A&E Television Networks, Principal and Founder at RTT Enterprises, LLC, Writer and Voice-Over Artist.

(Victoria L. Chapman)

Kiki sips a peach smoothie with college junior, Alicia on the cafe's sectional. Camera zooms in on a laptop screen showing them side-by-side.

 (macbooks air)

I'm not saying, I won't have to work hard.  I just don't think it'll take that long.  All I need is a great internship at MTV, VH1 or E! Entertainment and I'll be producing in no time.

Kiki smiles brightly toward the camera.  Words now appear on the laptop screens.

"Donot conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."  Romans 2:12


Miracles and Blessings! Today, we're handing over the hosting reigns to our young grasshopper here.  Maybe we'll be able to pry off her rose-colored shades, or at least crack them so she'll see her goals in a realistic light.  After-all, knowledge is king, or in her case... queen.

(rose-colored glasses - Photobucket)

This is the New Millennium, things happen a lot faster, Miss Kiki than when you were starting out.  (TURNS TO WEB CAMERA) On So You Want to Be a Television Producer, I'm interviewing Victoria L. Chapman because Miss Kiki thinks I need to hear from an actual television producer.  

Victoria joins them on the sectional.  Kiki hands her the third peach smoothie.

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by iCafe Woman Moderne for our So You Want to Be a Producer? text webisode.

It's important that Alicia and other Alicias and Adams get a clear picture into a television producer's life.

Thanks for inviting me... I'm happy to help.  But first I have to say, this peach smoothie is amazing. 


You’re a post production producer at A&E, what does that entail?

My title can also be called Format Producer.  What we do is work with shows once they have been delivered to the network by production companies.  When the shows and episodes are delivered, we lay them out with timings for  commercial breaks and edit out certain language or objectionable images for daytime versions of these shows. 

When we work with feature films, adapted for television — if the studio doesn’t do it — we’ll trim the movie to network timings (while trying to maintain story integrity) and create commercial break points also. 

(Victoria L. Chapman)

What was your most rewarding job?

I’ve found great joy in many projects that I’ve worked on, but I took great care when I worked at E! Entertainment on a series called Mysteries and Scandals.  It was a biographical documentary series about “Old Hollywood.”  Most of the subjects had passed away after living mysterious, scandalous or tragic lives. 

One episode I worked on was about Florence Ballard, one of the original Supremes, who left the group soon after they reached fame and ended up on welfare before she passed. 

 (Florence Ballard - Florence Ballard Fan Club)

 (You Tube - Supremes - It's Not Unusual)     VICTORIA CONT'D.    I think we were the first television series to tell her story and I felt an obligation to tell her story with integrity and not with all the innuendo that has surrounded her.   Ultimately, it was learned that she was positioning herself to try to make a comeback when her life was cut short.   Mary Wilson, the only consistent member of the Supremes, shared tremendously... and sent me a lovely note after it aired.  Also, one of the greatest compliments I received was from a colleague who noted that he could tell that “Flo was fighter.”   That was great—because I did NOT want to feed into any notions that she was beaten down or a victim.  She was a spitfire, who had some hard challenges—but she didn’t succumb and I wanted people to know that.      
 (Florence Ballard)     VICTORIA CONT'D.   These shows are stories for us to consume—but first and foremost —they are someone’s life.  And when I stood at Ms. Ballard’s grave, I told her I wanted to honor that life.  Ms. Wilson’s lovely note, helped me feel that I succeeded.  
What is your favorite aspect of producing?  
VICTORIA It has to be creating something from nothing.  It's like any other creative endeavor.  It starts as a notion and eventually becomes something tangible and real.  I most enjoy show producing because it involves the whole thing:  structuring the journey from beginning to end... building the story in a way that keeps folks intrigued and informed... and waiting to hear or see what comes next.    ALICIA      What were the highlights of working as a producer for E! Entertainment?     VICTORIA     While at E!... I worked in the Live Events Department, doing all those Red Carpet events.  Yes, I worked with Joan Rivers.  As a result, I got to work on, cover and be in attendance at some really cool events.     
Oh, my gosh... you got to work with Joan Rivers.  That's so awesome! 
(Red Carpet) 
VICTORIA   Yes, it was... but what was even more awesome and one of my greatest highlights was at the Academy Awards in 1998.  That year, Spike Lee was nominated for his documentary, 4 Little Girls, about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama where 4 little girls were killed.    
(4 Little Girls)
(Spike Lee)      
Mr. Lee's "date" for the event was none other than the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Ms. Rosa Parks.  She was a little overwhelmed by the red carpet spectacle, but she was lovely.      As she passed by me, I greeted her and could only reflect on the fact, that because of what she did, I was able to have a job that allowed me to work the red carpet at the Academy Awards.  It still moves me to tears when I think of what a HUGE privilege and honor it was to meet her.   
I'm sure she was also impressed by you.
Thank you for saying that. 
I've never thought of the Academy Awards as a place where history gets into the limelight and touches the people working and attending this star-studded event.
Nicely put.
What's the best way to get started in producing?
If you mean in television, one seldom starts producing without coming through the ranks.  You don't get into a producer's chair right out of college.  If a person is still in school... INTERN.  Everywhere and anywhere that will let you... and WORK once you get inside the door.  If not in school, be willing to start at the bottom as a PA (production assistant)... and WORK.  
A bachelor's degree is often preferred, but beyond that, this is a business that honors and respects work experience more than study and advanced degrees.  People hire people they're worked with and people they trust.
Do I need to know how to edit and shoot?
Learning technology... editing and shooting... is crucial, these days.  In the 20th Century, those were all separate functions and jobs — now they’re combined as a singular job requirement (along with producing) more and more.      Get on a production and ask questions, volunteer for tasks beyond what’s assigned and show creative initiative – without overstepping. There’s nothing like ongoing exposure to actual production to see how the madness all comes together.  
I have several show ideas that I’ve been developing — in addition, I’m exploring  a business idea that will approach funding and the distribution of television programming in a different way.   ALICIA
You're also an accomplished billiards player, tell us about that.  
I don’t know if I’d call myself accomplished.  I enjoy the sport and have played in a league.  As for how I started, I played a few times as a child at people’s houses, but started playing more regularly in college.  A guy from my hometown showed me how to determine where I needed to make contact on the object ball to drive it to the pocket I wanted.   
Pool has come and gone in my life over the years.  I was active in a league for about 5 years, until about 2-years ago, when I had shoulder surgery. 
The one thing I’ve realized about the sport is that you can’t be distracted to play it well.  It requires focus and patience, which can be calming after an intense day.  You can also use it to channel your aggressions, or just step away and live with just yourself and the green. 
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