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Future MTS Episode Ideas

What aspects of TV production, conception, distribution, marketing, etc. would you like to hear about on Making the Sausage? Ask and ye shall (hopefully) receive!

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Hmm. Since I assume scriptwriting will turn up at some point maybe we could get an episode about the way challenges on reality shows are designed/planned/produced/whatever? That's basically the reality equivalent, I think.

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The ratings game - live, next day, 3+, 7+, online, etc.  How much impact over time,  how it's changed (if it has), how that impacts the show - storylines, arcs, actors, character changes, etc.

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I know a couple of people who produced the official websites for TV series. One even won Emmys for it! She also went on to host her own talk show, but that would...be a different episode.

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Maybe an episode on importing and exporting shows? Like a discussion about adapting shows from other countries for American audiences (the obvious case is Big Brother, and reality shows in general, but also remakes like Ugly Betty or the terrible American version of Kath & Kim) and how other countries adapt American shows, both for remakes and for censorship?

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Sometimes you should do the people on top, the writers, actors, producers, execs., etc.  Sometimes you should go the other way, the most obscure jobs on the set.  The craft services, propmasters, audience wranglers, script supervisors, makeup people, stuntpersons, key grips, location scouts, extras, etc. Jobs we don't even know about since we're not in the biz!

 

If you can get someone who worked on The Amazing Race whose job it was to supervise the logistics of the sites of challenges, that would be incredible.  Or the Amazing cameramen and sound people.

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Hmm. Since I assume scriptwriting will turn up at some point maybe we could get an episode about the way challenges on reality shows are designed/planned/produced/whatever? That's basically the reality equivalent, I think.

 

Oooh, that would be super interesting.

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How about what it's like to be a DGA trainee? ( I am surmising that's the Director's Guild of America.) Someone got to be one on House of Cards, The Walking Dead and Jessica Jones. Then again, someone got to be a DGA Trainee on The Mulaney Show, Almost Human and Zoo as well.  Also, can you be a trainee on more than one show or film?

Edited by Actionmage.
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How about what it's like to be a DGA trainee? ( I am surmising that's the Director's Guild of America.) Someone got to be one on House of Cards, The Walking Dead and Jessica Jones. Then again, someone got to be a DGA Trainee on The Mulaney Show, Almost Human and Zoo as well.  Also, can you be a trainee on more than one show or film?

 

 

Find someone who took the DGA Trainee test back when that was a thing. Was maybe the second-hardest test on the planet to pass (after the London taxicab "Knowledge" test). It was not a test of DGA rules, or movie set terms, or anything like that. It was a test of your ability to think, multitask, and solve problems. One section is just complicated logic problems. Another section was on organizing and priorities ("You're stranded on a desert island with 10 other people. Prioritize this list of 20 tasks" or "You arrive to work, organizing a conference, and have 12 phone messages that morning. A friend has numbness in her left arm and is going to stay in the hotel all day to relax. The caterer can't meet the specialty food requests in time for tonight's meal. The keynote speaker doesn't think they can make it in time. An attendee doesn't speak English well and isn't sure she will be able to understand one of the important speakers. Et cetera, et cetera. What priority should you assign them?")

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My soap (DOOL), as well as others, have been a hotbed of writing changes in the past 12 months.. Would love to hear an insider's view of how the writing process works, and why it's so incestuous.

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aquarian1 The ratings game - live, next day, 3+, 7+, online, etc.

 

 

Related to that, how about when a show gets renewed (or not). There are cases of shows with sucky ratings that get another series and ones with decent ratings that don't - is it just about the numbers or is there something se at play? Does critical acclaim matter?

 

Along those lines, when is a show "pulled" early in its run (eg. cancelled with episodes still "in the can"), when is it moved to a different (worse - or better) timeslot and when is it allowed to play out its run - or even given a "wrap up" episode.

Edited by John Potts.
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Related to that, how about when a show gets renewed (or not). There are cases of shows with sucky ratings that get another series and ones with decent ratings that don't - is it just about the numbers or is there something se at play? Does critical acclaim matter?

 

Along those lines, when is a show "pulled" early in its run (eg. cancelled with episodes still "in the can"), when is it moved to a different (worse - or better) timeslot and when is it allowed to play out its run - or even given a "wrap up" episode.

 

The short answer to all of this is that these decisions are made at the sole discretion of network bosses, and they may or may not be backed up by any kind of data or logic. Very rarely is there any kind of arbitrary "bar" that a show needs to hit, ratings-wise or critically, in order to stay on the air. Every show really has its own story about why it survived or didn't, and that story might be "the creator pissed off the wrong person" or "the network didn't want to piss off the star" or any number of things, often with the concept of pissing-off being at the core of it.

 

But yeah, I would love to talk to some network executives about this stuff -- preferably some who are retired and can really speak candidly. In the meantime, I'd really recommend reading Warren Littlefield's book Top of the Rock for some great insider tales about NBC shows.

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Craft services and the importance of food choices.  Or, just craft services.  :-)

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Maybe a show on the brave souls who caption and/ or caption in a non-English language?

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Maybe a show on the brave souls who caption and/ or caption in a non-English language?

 

I know how it's done for scripted television domestically... about a week before air we give them a locked cut on DVD with time code burned into picture, and a copy of the script, then the day or two before air we give them an update with any changes/additions/wild lines/loop group from the sound mix. We get back a digital file that lists the in and out times for each caption, the text, and some special codes that indicate italics, colors, etc. It's encoded into the vertical blanking interval between frames on the broadcast master tape or master digital broadcast file.

 

Live TV, I don't know, but I assume it's akin to court reporters, banging really fast on special keyboards.

 

A lot of caption companies do more than just captions. Part of some delivery requirements, especially for international use, require an "as-broadcast" script, or a "combined continuity and spotting" script. That's a very detailed, shot by shot list, with in and out timecode, of all video and audio. It's not a quick thing to do, some poor guy has to watch the entire program frame-by-frame and write down every cut, every word, every sigh, and all on-screen graphics. They're used for copyrighting the final product, as well as producing versions in other languages and other aspect ratios. Could take six to eight weeks to do one.

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Find someone who took the DGA Trainee test back when that was a thing. Was maybe the second-hardest test on the planet to pass (after the London taxicab "Knowledge" test). It was not a test of DGA rules, or movie set terms, or anything like that. It was a test of your ability to think, multitask, and solve problems. One section is just complicated logic problems. Another section was on organizing and priorities ("You're stranded on a desert island with 10 other people. Prioritize this list of 20 tasks" or "You arrive to work, organizing a conference, and have 12 phone messages that morning. A friend has numbness in her left arm and is going to stay in the hotel all day to relax. The caterer can't meet the specialty food requests in time for tonight's meal. The keynote speaker doesn't think they can make it in time. An attendee doesn't speak English well and isn't sure she will be able to understand one of the important speakers. Et cetera, et cetera. What priority should you assign them?")

I might be weird, but figuring out how to handle all that sounds like fun to me. Stressful, but fun!

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Live TV, I don't know, but I assume it's akin to court reporters, banging really fast on special keyboards.

 

I'm pretty sure it is, in fact, court reporters using the same Stenograph machines they use in court, with real-time translation back into English done by computer. Court reporting steno machines have a limited keyboard and the reporter is hitting multiple keys at once, like chords on a piano, and I believe recording things phonetically.

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These have all been great! As someone totally outside of the business, sometimes I have more basic questions than you start with, so maybe a little more of the actual steps of whatever piece of the process you're talking about? Of course I can't think of a specific example right now!

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I'd love to hear something about stunts and action effects from a series with that kind of stuff - TV has a lot more movie-looking stuff in now, at least for action series like the Marvel and DC shows.

 

I'm really enjoying the show so far!

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I'd love to hear something about stunts and action effects from a series with that kind of stuff - TV has a lot more movie-looking stuff in now, at least for action series like the Marvel and DC shows.

 

I'm really enjoying the show so far!

 

For the DC shows, the man you should look up is Armen Kevorkian.

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I'm mostly posting to test the new forum's behavior, but I'd like to suggest that you get a cameraman from a single camera comedy.

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Inspired by this week's Survivor puzzle episode, how about one on the editing of reality TV? We hear a lot, and it was in this week's ep as well, that the narrative of reality shows is mostly created by the editing/editors. How it is done, how they identify heroes, villains, create stories, etc would be interesting. 

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Good idea! I've been thinking about that topic for a while and it does seem like a good time now that we've broached reality competition shows. 

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I'm not sure you could get a whole episode on this, but editing/re-editing for syndication.  I know there needs to be more time for commercials, but deciding when and where to cut and the impacts it has on the stories and flow, and how fandom reacts.  I know with Golden Girls, the fans notice all the cuts and bemoan some of the best lines and jokes being cut, or the set up being cut but leaving the punchline in, which now makes no sense withpout the context.  And on some other shows I've noticed that I see the scene fade to black, where the commercial break was originally, then come back up and someone walks into the scene and then it's cut to commercial, literally just a couple of seconds after the fade.  It seems to random and obvious, but I'm sure it's not.

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I just had this thought.  Would you ever do an episode on Infomercials?  Or the Home Shopping Network?  Would I be the only one interested in that? 

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I have had two ideas pop into my head, and they may not be enough for a full episode, but putting them out there as potential ideas. My brother has worked as an extra out in LA - maybe some long-time professional extras that could tell us some stories (possibly with their identities being hidden - I know he had a mondo confidentiality thing when he was an extra on Mad Men) about the challenges of being background. Seriously, what DID you talk about for your ten hours being filmed over Jon Hamm's right shoulder with two complete strangers?

The other issue is related to his girlfriend's past job - she worked for awhile for a company that did housing for cast and crew around the globe. So some of the behind the scenes stuff on logistics of getting people to places, and putting them up and feeding them, etc. Again, this might involve some "identities must be protected" stuff, but I know from listening to both of them, there are some interesting stories in these areas.

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These are both good ideas! I had definitely thought of doing one on extras/background but hadn't gotten to it yet because I don't know anyone who does it full-time. And as far as the housing/relocation stuff, my friend Sarayu Blue who was on the casting & auditioning episode just left for Vancouver to shoot the new CW show "No Tomorrow," so perhaps I can do a follow-up with her at some point to find out what that whole process was like. I do wonder how much assistance they give you and how much you're just on your own!

On 8/23/2016 at 9:05 PM, saoirse said:

I have had two ideas pop into my head, and they may not be enough for a full episode, but putting them out there as potential ideas. My brother has worked as an extra out in LA - maybe some long-time professional extras that could tell us some stories (possibly with their identities being hidden - I know he had a mondo confidentiality thing when he was an extra on Mad Men) about the challenges of being background. Seriously, what DID you talk about for your ten hours being filmed over Jon Hamm's right shoulder with two complete strangers?

The other issue is related to his girlfriend's past job - she worked for awhile for a company that did housing for cast and crew around the globe. So some of the behind the scenes stuff on logistics of getting people to places, and putting them up and feeding them, etc. Again, this might involve some "identities must be protected" stuff, but I know from listening to both of them, there are some interesting stories in these areas.

On 8/23/2016 at 8:43 PM, Fukui San said:

I just had this thought.  Would you ever do an episode on Infomercials?  Or the Home Shopping Network?  Would I be the only one interested in that? 

Hey, why not? I bet they have some great stories! I'm not sure how much of that stuff is actually LA-based, but I'll do some poking around.

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How about an episode on News Broadcasts? How has that changed with the advent of 24 hour news stations/the internet and how much is still about doggedly pursuing a story (if it ever was)?

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Inspired by the (at time of writing) recent "Special episode" with Rossanna (link) to celebrate her winning a daytime Emmy, it got me wondering - What IS the process of winning an Emmy? Who submits the candidates? Who picks the winners? How much difference does it really make to the winners? Would answering any of these questions reduce your chance of winning one in the future (I have no idea whether the Emmys are one of those organisations that doesn't like people "peeping behind the curtain" or not)?

I accept it's not exactly about producing TV, but it is a part of the process that a lot of people might be interested in.

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I second location scouting mentioned earlier.

  • Commercials. Writing, directing, casting. Deciding which time slots to buy.
  • Live TV (sports, award shows, etc.)
  • Infotainment. Especially local shows ("Evening Magazine"). Where do the stories come from? Are they filmed months in advance?
  • Props.
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On 7/22/2017 at 3:58 PM, aquarian1 said:

@Nick Rheinwald-Jones - Seeing as Joseph Mallozzi is now posting on the site, maybe you could ask him to be on the podcast.  :-D

Thanks for the tip! But alas, looks like he's based in Vancouver. (I try to avoid doing phone-ins on the show because the q-and-a rhythm is much harder to nail.) 

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