Image

I want to set the record straight. The above screenshot is from msn.com, taken on April 13, 2014. Recently, tragically, a young man was gunned down by police in what is being cited as a case of mistaken identity. It’s really a shame, as it was a senseless accident, and that young man was apparently eager and excited to get his professional life started.

I empathize for his family and friends, but I have grown weary of the sensationalist crap put forth by the media. Facts are facts, and they can’t be changed by a headline. Below is from the LA Times, and is a more accurate representation of the truth. In other words, if you are in search of “news,” don’t trust MSN. A Production Assistant typically has a long road ahead to become a Producer.

Image

Another example of the Hollywood sensationalism took place when Gabriel Ben-Meir, a Production Coordinator, was killed execution-style and then was cited as an “MTV exec.” Below is from the UK’s “Daily Mail”:

Image

When this happened three years ago, I was constantly interested in story updates. After all, that took place in my neighborhood, and Ben-Meir and I both worked on “Dudesons in America.” I met him once but wouldn’t say I knew him personally. And what I couldn’t get, aside from another senseless death of an “aspiring” anyone/anything, was the association I saw on “Daily Mail” and other sites that promoted a “Coordinator” to an “Executive.” Based on the media’s logic, which is basically “Are you a Production Assistant? A Coordinator? Anything? Okay! Then you’re a TV Executive!” then I’ve been an Executive for seven years now. The only problem is that, as a Coordinator, I don’t make Executive decisions. I sometimes do make decisions that affect what a viewer at home sees on the screen, but the more crucial decisions I have to run up the chain – to my bosses, who are… well… you guessed it… Producers.

Having worked on a number of reality TV shows, it was always part of my job to have people who MAY appear on screen sign “Consent to Use Image” forms. On one particular show, it was a rather tricky operation because there was a form for unpaid appearances, one for paid appearances, and two others for, uhhh, some sort of confusing, paid/unpaid stipulation. Ultimately, law can be a pretty murky area, so one photography professional I know always carries around $1 bills to compensate people for incidental appearances. If people happen to show up in video he shoots for commercial use, he gets them to sign the “Image Use” agreement and pays them a buck. His agreement form points out that they were paid – and how much – to further help avoid legal claims.

Another important consideration for these “Image Use” forms is to jot down on the form itself a physical description of the people who have signed these agreements. In the long run, Producers and Video Editors can then determine much easier which people have already been cleared to be used in your production.

The example listed below comes from a show I previously worked on. As I am in no place to dispense legal advice, I am conveying the information below “as is.” In other words, using the information given is at your own discretion, and you should run it by a lawyer to see if he/she has anything to add to it.

 

Consent to Use Image

I was/will be filmed, photographed, or recorded by ____(your company name goes here)____. In consideration of the potential exposure that this production may bring me, I ____(subject fills in name here)____ grant to ____(your company name here)____ and its agents, licensees, productions vendors, affiliates, subsidiaries, successors and assigns, the universe-wide, royalty-free, fully paid-up, irrevocable, and perpetual right and permission to (without my approval) use, publish, broadcast, and copyright (whether in digital form or otherwise) my name, nickname, persona, character or characterization, initials, logo, slogan or catch phrase, autograph, facsimile signature, voice, photograph, film, video or new media portrayal, actual, simulated or drawn likeness, images, biographical or historical information, any material provided by or statement made (whether oral or written) by me, and physical attributes including, but not limited to, any material based on or derived based on my likeness.

I also agree to assume all responsibility for and hereby release and hold ____(your company name here)____ and each of its officers, directors, employees, shareholders, agents, licensees, affiliates and subsidiaries, harmless form any liability of any kind or any claim whatsoever (including, but not limited to, claims for personal injury or death, invasion of privacy, defamation, right of publicity or infliction of emotional distress) directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting in any way from my likeness being used by ____(your company name here)____ and I acknowledge that my likeness may be used in and in connection with still imagery, film and audio, affiliated with current and future ____(your company name here)____ projects.

I acknowledge that there will be no compensation to me for being filmed, photographed, or recorded and the rights granted herein except as provided herein and that ____(your company name here)____ is not required to use my likeness. I also acknowledge that all materials produced under this agreement, including any photos, films, or recordings are the absolute and exclusive property of ____(your company name here)____ forever. This agreement shall be governed by and construed under the laws of the State of ____(your U.S. state)____ and the parties hereby consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue in the courts sitting in ____(your city and state)____.

AT THE TIME THAT I SIGN THIS AGREEMENT, I AGREE THAT I AM EIGHTEEN (18) YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER.

PARTICIPANT

Print name:________________________

Signature:_________________________

Date of birth:_____________________

Today’s date:______________________

 

Once I get my domain website in order, I plan on making the document above a downloadable form that’s already formatted, so stay tuned. For more Reality TV / Documentary resources, check out this post: How to Conduct a Documentary / Reality TV Interview.

 

Finally, as an aside, WordPress provides me with two types of useful stats: page views and how a person landed here. Though anonymous, sometimes I can see search engine terms that linked to this page. For this entry, I sometimes see terms like “can you be on reality tv without consent?”

Well… unless you feel your appearance is exploitative and tarnishes your reputation, don’t be a jerk and try to figure out ways to screw people out of money. There is already too much dumb litigation going on in this society, bogging down the courts and creating animosity between people.

I’m no lawyer or judge, but I have taken Media Law classes that exposed me to real-world privacy cases. Chances are, if you’re trying to figure out if you can exploit people and seek damages for a situation where no harm was done to you, then you’re probably S.O.L. Were you in a public space when you were filmed? If so, you can’t have any expectation of privacy. Were you on film because you were in the proximity of a public figure? Then, you’re not the subject of the video. If you just happened to be in the background, you may – but probably don’t – have a case. Were you on the news? News is public interest. No money for you. If you were in a private space, are you sure there wasn’t a filming notice posted and, by entering the property, you were giving consent for your likeness to be used?

If you were in the background of a show, do what I’ve done – laugh about it, share the exposure with your friends, and fuhgetaboutit. Unless Honey Boo Boo’s family made you look bad (by association), you were caught making out with a high schooler, or Snooki assaulted you, it’s probably not that serious. If it is, get off the internet and take the footage you were in to a lawyer, because you’re not going to get good, free legal advice through a Google search.

As always, feel free to share this page via the social networking links provided below… comments are always cool, too!

Every wondered why movies and TV show are so expensive to make? Or maybe you are considering pitching/producing a project and need a breakdown of what costs you might incur. For either of those scenarios, the following is a partial list of the many costs incurred on scripted television shows:
 

PRE-PRODUCTION

LOCATION SCOUTS:
TRANSPORTATION (PASSENGER VAN RENTAL, FUEL, DRIVER)
MEALS

SET EXPENSES:
CONSTRUCTION CREW AND SUPPLIES
CONSTRUCTION SUPPLY TRANSPORTATION (BOX TRUCK, FUEL)
FACILITY RENTAL
SET DRESSING (FURNITURE, FIXTURES, PROPS) AND CREW

BUSINESS PERMITS

OFFICE SUPPLIES (DESKS & CHAIRS, PRINTERS, PHONES, PENS, PAPERCLIPS, FRIDGE AND SNACKS, PAPER, FIRST AID KIT, NOTEPADS, ETC., ETC., ETC.)

 

PRODUCTION

WARDROBE:
COSTUMES
COSTUME LABOR
ALTERATIONS
CLEANING / DYEING
LOSS, DAMAGE, REPAIR
BOX RENTALS
RENTALS
PURCHASES

MAKEUP AND HAIRDRESSING:
KEY MAKEUP ARTIST
ADDITIONAL MAKEUP ARTISTS
SPECIAL EFFECTS MAKEUP (PROSTHETICS)
KEY HAIRSTYLIST
ADDITIONAL HAIRSTYLISTS
WIG AND HAIR PURCHASES
WIG AND HAIR RENTAL
BOX RENTALS
RENTALS
PURCHASES

CAMERA DEPARTMENT:
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
CAMERA OPERATOR(S)
CAMERA LOADER
CAMERAS, LENSES, MEDIA (FILM/MEMORY CARDS), CABLE RENTALS, TRIPODS, ETC., ETC., ETC.

PRODUCTION SOUND:
SOUND MIXER
BOOM OPERATOR
CABLEMEN / UTILITY SOUND
PLAYBACK RENTALS – AUDIO/VIDEO
RENTALS
PURCHASES (SUCH AS SOUND STOCK/MEDIA)

TRANSPORTATION:
COORDINATOR
CAPTAIN
CO-CAPTAIN
STANDBY DRIVERS
PARKING
FUEL
TRAILER/PUMPING/VEHICLE WASH
MILEAGE/CAR ALLOWANCE
DRIVERS MEAL MONEY

OTHER PRODUCTION CREW:
PRODUCTION MANAGER AND COORDINATOR
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
DIRECTOR
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
SCRIPT SUPERVISOR
MESSENGERS/COURIERS
SET SECURITY

LOCATION EXPENSES:
SITE RENTAL FEES
LOCATION MANAGER
LOCATION STAFF PERSONNEL
LOCATION SECURITY
LOCATION POLICE
LOCATION FIRE SAFETY OFFICER
LOCATION MEDICAL LABOR
LOCATION MEDICAL SUPPLIES

OTHER EXPENSES:
EQUIPMENT LOSS, RENTAL, REPAIR
BOX RENTALS (APPROVED REIMBURSEMENTS FOR PERSONAL EQUIPMENT USED BY EMPLOYEES, LIKE LAPTOPS)
STANDBY VEHICLE RENTALS
PICTURE VEHICLES AND CAR HAULING (IF APPLICABLE)
CAMERA CAR
CATERING EXPENSES

TALENT:
AIRFARES
HOTEL
PER DIEM

 

POST PRODUCTION
CREW:
VIDEO EDITORS
ASSISTANT EDITORS
MUSIC EDITOR/DIALOG EDITOR/SOUND EFFECTS EDITOR
SOUND MIXERS
POST SOUND RECORDIST
SOUND SUPERVISOR
ADR RECORDIST
FOLEY RECORDIST
SOUND LAYBACK OPERATOR
POST PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR
POST PRODUCTION ASSISTANT

POST PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT:
OFFLINE EDITING (EDITING SYSTEMS, OFFICE SPACE AND EQUIPMENT)
TAPE STOCK
DVD STOCK
HARD DRIVES
INSERT STAGE RENTAL

POST PRODUCTION SERVICES:
ONLINE EDITING
TAPE DUPLICATION
DAILIES DISTRIBUTION
FILM DEVELOPING / VIDEO PROCESSING
SOUND AND PICTURE ARCHIVING
COLOR CORRECTION
VISUAL EFFECTS EDITING
CLOSED CAPTIONING

MISC PURCHASES/RENTALS

 

OTHER CHARGES:
LEGAL FEES
PARKING
VIDEO/AUDIO RENTAL CHARGES
COMPUTER RENTALS
INSURANCE PREMIUMS
OFFICE EQUIPMENT RENTAL
OTHER

ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES

 

PUBLICITY:
CLIPS
TAPE STOCK

When it comes to conducting an interview, planning ahead is very important. I recently witnessed one where, at least a few times, the interviewer looked off into space and asked “Hmmm… now what else can I ask you?” The lack of preparedness took up a lot of precious time for all parties involved, so the following will outline types of interviews and how you can effectively structure them.

 

Funnel vs. Inverted Funnel

First of all, when it comes to time constraints, there are two types of interviews – the funnel and the inverted funnel. If you imagine putting oil in your car, the funnel is wide on top with a small opening at the bottom. In interview form, the “funnel” means asking broad, general questions first, then leading in to more specific, tougher questions. The “inverted funnel” is just the opposite – asking the tough questions first, followed by broad questions.

Of course, the small end of the funnel doesn’t exactly have to consist of “tough” questions. Rather, it’s the meat and bones of your interview… it’s the reason you’re conducting an interview to begin with. Whether you ask the important questions at the beginning or the end of the interview is based on how much time you have. If you only have a few minutes, use the inverted funnel approach. If you have all day, structure your interview as a funnel.

 

Closed vs. Open-ended Questions

Once you’ve nailed down your timetable, the next step is to formulate your questions. An interview can branch off in many directions, but it’s best to have basic questions to refer to in case it doesn’t… or to get your interview back on track. In general, you want to avoid asking closed questions, which are those that can elicit a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Open-ended questions, on the other hand, are employed as a way to try to get the interviewee talking. To get an open-ended answer, formulate your questions to begin with the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why + how). Unless you’re seeking information to rewrite later (for something like a newspaper article or blog), avoid starting questions with “did.” Rather than asking “Did it feel great to finish the race?” ask “How great did it feel to finish the race?”

 

The Interview

Make the interviewee feel comfortable beforehand, if possible. Offer him or her some tea or water. Build some rapport so the person isn’t over-thinking what questions you might ask. If applicable, before the official interview, chat it up with small talk (but steer clear of your interview questions) by asking “How was your flight?” “Where are you from?” “How is your day?”

When it’s time for the interview, ask the interviewee his or her name and to spell it out. Professionally, there is little worse than trying to cite someone but spelling the name wrong. It’s important to note that, in the journalism field, a misspelled name can have legal repercussions.

If an interviewee doesn’t fully answer your question, it may be for a multitude of reasons, including he/she a) might not understand the question, b) doesn’t want to, c) may ramble and forget the question, and d) can’t due to lack of knowledge on the subject.

If the interview is a tough one and the source is hostile, do your best to avoid arguing. Otherwise, the interviewee might shut down, effectively ending the interview. Try getting a hostile interviewee to open up by a) revisiting/rewording a question that was previously unanswered, b) saving the tough question(s) for the end of the interview, c) offering the interviewee a chance for a rebuttal to something damaging someone said about him or her (relevant to the interview, of course), and d) providing sympathy/understanding that the answer might be difficult.

 

Examples

The following sample questions are from a reality show pilot episode I worked on a few years back. It centered around a modeling agency and the models that work for it, so these Qs should at least give you a good idea of some open-ended interview questions.

1) Please introduce yourself to the camera.
2) Please spell out your name.
3) What is your occupation?
4) Describe your first photo shoot.
5) How does it feel when you see your photos after a shoot?
6) How do you get your week started?
7) What would you say is your favorite thing about modeling?
8) How do people react when they find out you are a model?
9) What goes through your mind during a photo shoot?
10) What are your future goals in the business?
11) What were you doing before you started modeling?
12) What do Mom and Dad think of what you do?
13) Is there any question I should have asked you / is there anything you were expecting me to ask?

 

Good luck on your interview endeavors, and drop me a line below if you have any comments or other questions about the interview process.

Also, if you feel you have benefited from this post, please consider leaving a shout-out or sharing this page via one of the links below.

Working on Ghost Hunters has left a sort of lasting legacy on my life. I am far, far away from that work now, but there are frequent reminders of all that time spent on the road in those cold, dark places.

Now working on a scripted show, I watched an actor walk in for a script/table read last week… it was Steve Valentine, who just so happened to host the Ghost Hunters Halloween live show in Delaware in 2008. Imagine that! The last time I saw him was nearly 3,000 miles away, on the opposite coast. I found it bizarre, but that’s actually not the strangest coincidence brought about from my time spent on Ghost Hunters. The absolute weirdest, craziest thing that’s ever happened in my life was during the filming on Ghost Hunters Academy in 2009.

Filming in various towns up and down the east coast, we ended up in St. Augustine, Florida for a couple weeks, to investigate the old lighthouse there. When that wrapped up and we were heading out of town, one of our crew guys had to fly home to care of some personal business.

Our caravan lumbered up the highway to Jacksonville, and we set up camp at a gas station, while one of vehicles continued on up the road to take our crew guy to the airport. While waiting on the driver to return and relaxing in the driver’s seat of the RV (which had the GHA logo on the side), an incredibly fit-looking black man with dreads approached. “Hey, are Jason and Grant around?” he asked (Jason and Grant being the stars of the main Ghost Hunters series.) “Nahhh, they’re not on this show,” I said, “this is a spinoff……. You know, you actually look a lot like the guest investigator on Ghost Hunters Live in Kentucky.” He simply smiled, shrugged his shoulders a bit and said “yeah.” My mind was completely blown – was this the same guy??? While trying to figure it out, he said “Well, if you see them, tell ’em I said ‘hi,'” and he walked away. “Tell ’em I said ‘hi?'” DUDE! NO FREAKIN’ WAY!

My good buddy Ben (one of the Academy contestants) was sitting in the passenger seat, watching this whole thing go down, so I put him on the case. “Ben, look up wrestler Elijah Burke and see where he’s from!” He did, and discovered that our Ghost Hunters Live guest is/was from….. you may have guess it: Jacksonville, Florida!

No doubt about it, while working on Ghost Hunters Academy, I ran into the guest investigator of Ghost Hunters Live at a gas station 750 miles away from where the show took place. And that, my friends, is one of the two weirdest things that’s ever happened in my life.

Ghost Hunters Academy RV

The Ghost Hunters Academy RV and Chewie in New Jersey

 

A step back in time…

Buffalo Central Terminal

Oct. 1, 2009

It’s 2:13 AM, and I am trying to make my way through the darkness of the old train concourse with the silence of a ghost. It’s cold and lonely in this place, with the exception of flashlights faintly illuminating walls and pathways at the other end of a span that’s the length of a football field. The investigators are standing in one figurative end zone, and I, in the other. This is a ghost hunt, from the perspective of a non-hunter.

At this point, I have been on the road for 24 days, and our current stop is in Buffalo, New York. This is stop number three on a five-city tour. It’s exhausting, shooting at night, then turning around to capture daytime, b-roll footage of all these towns and cities. Cast interviews are also peppered in the mix when time permits. On nights like these, we sometimes nod off in the shadows, as our duty during filming is to remain quiet and out of sight. At the same time, we are forever on call. A live walkie-talkie feed intermittently buzzes directly in our ears with requests for fresh batteries, new camera tapes, and water.

“Exhausting” in this context means that we put so much time and effort into the work, and have such an inconsistent schedule, that it seems Casper’s evil twin could pick one of us up – and violently twirl the person around overhead – and hardly anyone would take notice. This is the life of TV production. Sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s extremely difficult. Sometimes it’s a bit of both. In this case, the big reward comes through getting paid to travel, making new contacts, and working with the hosts of the show again. And when it’s all said and done, it’s great knowing that this production will provide an outlet for some viewers and hopefully enhance their lives in at least a small way.

This is the second of a three-night investigation. I have really become keen at silently gliding through the darkness, despite wearing heavy, steel-toed boots. On a couple occasions now, I have unintentionally startled some co-workers by silently slipping into a room they are in, for them to realize my presence when turning on a flashlight for a moment. “How the hell did you get in here/How long have you been sitting there?” have earned me the nickname “Creeps.” It seems that, in most cases, such a name would be derogatory but, in this case, I take it as a cordial shout-out to my ninja-like attributes.

Investigations normally starting wrapping up around dawn. That should be the case tonight, as this place is surrounded by windows that would reveal a bluish sky and subsequent daylight beginning to peak through. In contrast, a couple weeks ago we were shooting two levels below deck on a battleship. The investigation was going really well and, with no way for the sunlight to make its way in, we continued to film until the team felt it was the right time to wrap things up. THAT was a long night.

The low temperature tonight is 41 degrees. We must have reached that point long ago. When we flip on flashlights, especially our headlamps, the warm air from one’s breath swirls around in the beam. And it’s especially blustery when you can feel wind gusting down the corridors.

There is a certain vibe to this place. It’s easy to imagine its former prominence, beginning in the late 1920s. You imagine these things – the bustling corridors, the vendors, the noise, the smell of food – and you open your eyes and nothing is there. It’s like the part in Forrest Gump where Jenny, dressed in all white, walks across the front lawn and eerily disappears.

It’s obvious that the giant train station has been slowly crumbling for a long time now, but a conservancy is slowly working to restore the massive property. I don’t know what the music scene is like here in Buffalo, but the main concourse would make for a really, really cool music hall.

Although this place seems so quiet and empty, we all know it’s not. People are around, somewhere…people that aren’t with us. Among the odd rooms downstairs filled with trash and odd, unrecognizable machinery, also strewn about are old clothing and a sleeping bag. The “KISS rules” graffiti adorning one wall makes me believe some parts of this building have been untouched for quite some time.

Eyes are growing heavy. Time to dream another dream, probably yet another about driving. It’s not escapism… rather, it’s just what I have been doing a lot of lately, more than ever. Signing off from the Empire State.

 
Buffalo Central Terminal

Buffalo Central Terminal

lull

01/07/2012

It’s been mostly a quiet week, fortunately. The show I work on celebrated its 200th episode being in production, so we all got together – cast, crew, network executives, and the media – and we ate cake and made a toast with some sparkling cider. It was a really cool moment to be a part of this milestone, which has been a culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of smart people for nine years.

Our hallways are lined with giant collages of photos from every season, with the occasional framed 8×10 of other big events scattered in the mix. I always notice the two photos on the wall from the 100th celebration and imagine how exciting that moment in time must have been. It used to be that 100 episodes was not only an indicator that a show was probably pretty popular, but it also opened the door for syndication. At that rate, a station could play a different rerun every week for almost two years without repeating an episode. And syndicating a popular show is apparently a lot cheaper than creating and producing a new one.

As for my employing show, syndication has been, in part, attributed to its immense success. One network plays our episodes nearly 24 hours a day, every day. There is a certain character-driven appeal, and the subject matter bounces back and forth with ease from being entertaining and serious. We have heard stories of our crew traveling and meeting new people who are fans of the show. When asked what the big draw is, the usual response seems to be that they “just love the characters.” Other shows in the same vein can be difficult to watch when they just take themselves way too seriously, all the time.

My interest in audio post production will likely pull me away from working on and around set one day. But right now, it’s hard to imagine being a part of any other adventure, and it’s been awesome sharing the experience with such a great group of people.