This was my first jab at documentary. Yes, there was a ton of research, but most of it was more like solving a mystery. Who were these people? Why did they do the things they did? Why did they stop? And there was a grand misconception I was able to bust. And thanks to some great interviews from Grover Blazer, Valaire Orchard, and George Dunster, I had the evidence to back it up.
Overall, it went well. But it was a learning experience. A fellow writer/radio producer once told me sometimes I might find myself in over my head. When that happens, do that best you can and learn from it. He was right, and while I wasn't exactly in over my head, this project was a biggie. So, I present to you...
Lessons I Learned While Writing and Producing My First TV Documentary
No matter how many times you tell yourself there will be changes, some things will have to be cut, something will be rewritten by a talent or director or who knows who... you will still mourn the darlings that were murdered.
|You cut the Danny Thomas strip tease? You bastards!|
They always cut the segment you thought was worthy of an Emmy. But they keep the part you put in for filler.
|We had another act scheduled for this time, but the bear died.|
About ten minutes after it airs, a viewer will call with a factual error.
|Yes. Yes. The actual name of the show was "Pink Lady and Jeff." I will certainly pass that along.|
You should collect the interviews first and write to serve them, not the other way around. Still, because of research done prior to the interviews, it worked out well.
|OK, Mr. Bratton, the shoes are nice... but you are NOT the Great Gatsby.|
Television is a MOVING image medium. It just might be necessary to (gasp) recreate certain activities. Plan for that.
|OK, so the tower erection sequence didn't go as planned. We can fix this with CGI, right?|
Don't spend a week researching a tangent that will be the first thing cut in the editing.
|Why is this lady dancing with a plant? Man, I miss the '60's.|
If there's time, give a trial section of script to the air talent who will be reading it and have them record some audio. This will give you a sample of that person's vocal style. From that you can write the script to better suit that style.
|Let's all go to the Kewpee, Paul!|
And finally... You don't want total control. Especially in TV. If it gets lousy ratings you always blame the brass for "tinkering" with your "vision."
|Come to me, Christine. Behold the music of the night.|