LiveTV:LA: Award Show Production Calls For Creating A Moment

From left: Marjorie Galas of Variety 411,
Eddie Delbridge of E! Red Carpet Shows,
Charlie Haykel of Don Mischer Productions,
Doug Shellow of Live Media Group, and
Rod Allen of Bexel.

Written by Ken Kershbaumer for SVG News

There seems to be no limit to the number of award shows that are being created for television, and all of them have a simple goal that is not always easy to achieve, according to Charlie Haykel, executive producer for Don Mischer Productions: to create a moment.

From left: Marjorie Galas of Variety 411, Eddie Delbridge of E! Red Carpet Shows, Charlie Haykel of Don Mischer Productions, Doug Shellow of Live Media Group, and Rod Allen of Bexel.

“You want people involved who are buzzy, and for some shows it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, while others you are on bended knee praying that the people will be there,” he said of working with hosts and other on-air talent. “And the host should not distract from the moment but carry it forward.”

Haykel made the comment during a panel discussion about award shows held at LiveTV:LA, an event that took place at the Hilton Universal City in Los Angeles on Nov. 17 and was produced by SVG. The panel looked at the current state of award show production, what it takes to make a show grab viewers, and how technology can play a key part in enabling new ways to engage viewers.

Finding the right host is not as easy as bringing on board top-level celebrities and talent. They have to be comfortable within the show environment, as award shows are often long events that can challenge the stamina of anyone. And then there are other areas of the production where a host needs an entirely different skill set.

“The host for a live red carpet needs a skill set that is hard to find,” said Eddie Delbridge, executive producer, E! Red Carpet Shows. “They need to tap dance from one interview to the next and someone like Ryan Seacrest, who was brought up on radio, can tap dance like no one else.”

Defining a Vision
“You start with figuring out what the stakeholders want out of the show, and then our job — as producers — is to figure out how to execute,” added Haykel. “[The producer and network challenge each other, shoot down ideas, and if you can sell an idea to each other, there’s a chance it will get through.”

Delbridge said the process begins by getting the creative team together and throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. The network ultimately has final say on what will go in the show. “But, as producers and creative, we want to bring interesting ideas that are out of the box,” he added.

“The crew is important as they focus on new creative elements that come up,” said Rod Allen, senior project manager, Bexel.

And then there is the pacing of the show and the timing of elements. Haykel says no element that gets repeated throughout the evening should be long. For example, a 20-second entrance once is short, but if six people do it, that adds an extra minute to the show.

The host and on-air talent are only one part of a team that also needs to include top-notch technical and production staffers.

Delbridge said a good tech manager is one of the first things he looks for as they implement the vision and make the show happen. And then you need to find your favorite director, lighting director, and audio mixer. You create a top three hit list for each position and then go down the line to see who is available to work on the show.

“You build relationships with the crew and it becomes like a family, and when you come together for a show, it’s like a big reunion,” said Delbridge. “You need to treat people with respect, understanding how valuable they are as they are really good at their job and also hopefully have great personalities to boot.”

Haykel added that the award-shows market is oversaturated and that both the talent pool for people to work on the show as well as the venue pool is tighter than ever.

Technology Makes a Difference
A number of technologies have also been improving the quality of award show productions. Allen said that fiber was once a luxury but it is now a necessity for shows like the Oscars, which has more than one million feet of fiber-optic cable installed.

“And since we have fiber installed we can connect the Dolby Theater to edit suites in a hotel next door and get into places that are much farther away than places we could reach just five years ago,” he explained.

The move to IP is also having a positive impact — as communications systems can be built out more quickly — and that gives the production team more time for rehearsals and less time setting up the technology.

Doug Shellow, SVP, Live Media Group, added that a proprietary streaming player from Live Media Group also exemplifies how technology is changing the nature of award shows and red carpet events.

“End users want interactivity and their own mix channels, and technology is key,” he said.

Delbridge concurred, adding that a second-screen experience is critical — especially for marketing efforts — and also increasingly requires a separate production team.

“It is a show within a show and we will continue to see the second-screen experience get better and better,” he added.

Haykel cautioned that it is most important to make sure that money invested in the production ultimately gets seen on the TV screen and not the second screen.

“You can allocate too much money to [social media],” he said, adding that the monetization of those second-screen efforts is not quite there.