Reality TV - Hot Sheets & Interviews


As a story producer, you can come in at any step of the show’s making. Starting during the production phase is kind of like being suddenly thrown onto stage and being expected to perform.

Production—the taping—is an amalgamation of everyone from camera operators to network executives who all have opinions and thoughts to offer … on every topic except the story material that you actually need.

The shoot’s beginning will be like a rocket take off, and you’ll be watching from the control room; a controlled location with audio and video monitors set up to directly deliver all the product shot.

It’s important to keep the floor clear so that the cameramen can get footage of the subjects instead of the crew. It also helps the cast get comfortable and creates better footage.

Field Notes

Field notes are notes from whatever has been going on during the day of shooting. Good field notes are absolutely essential to working on the story, and you need to keep them as detailed as possible, citing both time and footage.

Try to make an entry every couple of minutes; it will help you spend less time going through footage looking for a particular moment and more time tailoring your story. Also remember to sync your watch with the camera time code, so that you have the correct time on your notes.

Your best bet to detailed field notes is to bring a laptop, particularly smaller netbooks that are easier to carry around. Remember though that it’s hard to find power on set, so bring a writing pad and a few pens as back up.

Keep your notes as concise as possible, using many keywords to make it easier to scan through what you’ve written. Adding keywords such as “good”, “funny”, “cry”, etc. at the end of particular entries can also make it easier to find those particular entries when you’re reviewing the tapes later.

Your notes will also help you build a draft of scenes, as the tapes and footage won’t be ready to review until a few weeks after the shoot.

In the case of multiple cameras, attach the letter associated with the camera crew (A,B,C etc) to your field notes so that you know which tapes to look through for certain scenes. While editors may get an amalgamation of footage, it is unlikely that you’ll receive the same footage.

Here’s a template of what your field notes should look like:

10:57  Frank arrives at house (A,B,C)
10:59  Zoe arrives. Funny exchange about pink luggage with Frank. (A,B) FUNNY, GOOD
11:00  Zoe trips on way to bedroom, shatters lamp. (A,B) FUNNY, REVIEW.

It’s likely that you’ll miss stuff, so take excellent notes on the stuff that you do see; it’ll save you enough time so that you can look for stuff you missed.