Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to shadow the wonderful production staff at the daytime talk show, Great Day Houston. For non-Houstonians, Great Day Houston is hosted by Deborah Duncan and airs LIVE Mon-Fri at 9am on KHOU 11.
I asked to be a member of the Great Day Houston staff for a day simply because I was curious. The idea of working in television made its way into my head and I just wasn’t able to shake it. The only way to know whether or not a career in television was for me, was to give it the good-ole college try. Luckily, I had a contact within the newsroom at KHOU who helped me set up my day as a volunteer.
Throughout the day, I tried to keep a mental diary of my experience. Below is a brief timeline of my day as a volunteer with Great Day Houston.
7:00AM-Early Morning Start
My day as a volunteer started at 7AM. For non-morning people, I know you understand the pain of having to be a functioning human being that early in the morning. Nonetheless, shaking off the grogginess was pretty easy. Things started moving extremely fast by 7:30AM, when the staff held their daily pre-show meeting with the production and camera crew to go over the logistics for the show. Everyone is given a “Run of Show”, which entails everything from where the guests will be standing, to what graphics will go up on your television screen. The ROS is extremely detailed, which is completely necessary due to the number of moving parts for a LIVE show.
8:00AM-Guest & Audience Arrival
By 8AM, the guests for the show began to arrive. Each producer produces their own segment. As each guest arrive, the producer who booked the guest will meet with them briefly to discuss how the next two hours will go. If necessary, the producer will also help with any set-up or staging needs. Great Day Houston producer, Erin Kocurek informed me that in a typical week, a Producer will produce roughly 4-5 segments, while an Associate Producer will do 2-3.
9AM-10AM was the fastest hour of my life! LIVE television is definitely for adrenaline junkies! I totally expected there to be an epic countdown leading up to show time. I expected an ominous voice over the intercom, intense music and dimming of lights to signal the start of the show. All I got was the Floor Manager shouting “30 SECONDS!” before I hurriedly made my way to my seat in the audience..
For the first 30 minutes of the show, I sat among the audience. I watched the producers and crew work hastily to reset the floor for segment changes in between commercial breaks. A two-minute commercial break feels completely different when you’re on the other end of the TV set. I will never look at a commercial the same ever again.
For the last 30 minutes of the show, I got to sit in the control room, where all of the magic happens. There is a lot of communication going on in here. Between casual conversation, headsets, multiple microphones and an in-studio band that day, I could barely keep up with what was going on. I’m a multi-tasker at heart, but this control room put me to shame.
10:00AM- Post-Show Meeting
After a quick photo break, the staff conducted their daily post-show meeting. Here, they discussed how they feel the show went, and offer any suggestions on how things could be done better in the future.
After the post-show meeting, I had a few minutes to sit with each Producer and Associate Producer to chat and ask them a few questions. From these conversations, I took away one key aspect of life in television. As Floor Manager, Neyla Cantu is responsible for making sure that the show operates as it should. Making sure that every guest and every prop is in its correct location and that all segments are on-time. I asked Neyla, “As Floor Manager, what is the hardest thing to get used to about your position? She said, as Floor manager she had to think five steps ahead of everyone, not just one step ahead. LIVE television operates at a fast-paced level and you need to think ahead of everyone else. Neyla emphasized that between 8:59am-10:01am, she cannot relax. Otherwise, things will slip through the cracks.
1:00PM- Weekly Pitch Meeting
After I chatted with the staff individually, everyone reconvened in the conference room for their weekly pitch meeting. This meeting is where each Producer pitches their ideas for future shows. Essentially, a Producer will come up with an idea of the type of segment that they want to produce, run it by everyone in the pitch meeting and then find someone with that specific talent or expertise to execute that idea. With no prior knowledge of the TV world, I assumed that people came in droves to be on the show and it was simply the role of the Producer to put them on when it made sense to have them. I was clearly misguided on that one. I realized through this meeting that it’s important for each show to be cohesive. That each show needs to have a theme and each segment should weave into the next.
The pitch meeting ended shortly after 2:30PM. and the staff typically leaves at 3PM. Thus, I bid my farewell to the staff and thanked them profusely for allowing me to be part of their crew for the day. I must admit that waking up at 5AM was not easy. However, getting off at 3PM certainly has its perks.
I hope you enjoyed reading through my mental diary. Don’t forget to check out some of the great photos I managed to snap in between the whirlwind. If you have any further questions about my day as a volunteer at KHOU, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @jnchang.