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Keynote Don Mischer A Highlight Of 2015 LiveTV:LA Event

Did you know that the content, at this current moment, being produced for second screens alone requires the same amount of energy produced by six nuclear reactors?

This statistic was presented by Josh Stinehour, Principal Analyst of Devoncroft Partners during the opening panel – “The Business of Live TV:  Why the Marketplace Matters – at the 2015 LiveTV: LA conference held November 17, 2015.  Throughout the day, panels were conducted on topics that focused on: the impact of new technologies that drive the business of live television, the importance of versatile talent and crew that allow a live award show broadcast to become successful, the impact social media is having on producing live content, and the tricks established directors have come to rely upon when Murphy’s Law hits at the last, and worst possible minute.   From director Michael Dempsey discussing the last minute scramble he undertook when Secret Service agents blocked the planned camera stands minutes before the live presentation of the Pope’s mass in New York’s Madison Square Garden to Bob Kertesz, Engineer-in-Charge at Bluescreen who urged camera manufacturers to “take a break” in providing new cameras yearly, attendees were exposed to a wide breath of facts and suggestions on how to improve live television content.

A highlight of the day was unquestionably keynote speaker Don Mischer.  Mischer’s career began in the mid-seventies directing television specials including “The Second Annual Rock Music Awards” and “The Goldie Hawn Special.”    Since that time he has directed and produced a diverse array of content, from The Kennedy Center Honors to numerous Super Bowl Halftime shows, from award shows including the Tonys, Emmys, Golden Globes and Oscars to the Olympic opening ceremonies.  Mischer informed the crowd he was delighted to be sharing his experience and viewpoints of a job he not only loved but always wanted to do.  He suggested if they didn’t feel like he did, then perhaps they all weren’t cut out for the career.

“Live TV is not for everyone,” said Mischer.  “It is not for the faint of heart.  Some people call us stress junkies.  But there is nothing like that feeling moments before you go live during the countdown, when you know there is no turning back.”

Mischer further elaborated that he loves the feeling he gets knowing 80% of the world’s population will be tuning in to watch what his team is putting on the screen.  He reminded the crowd that live television still maintains a vital role in the viewing community, stating programming often brings family and friends together to share in a moment as it is happening.  He offered full support to social media, which he sees playing a vital role in developing interest in live programming.  Examples of this came when he shared a clips of Angelina Jolie posing at a podium prior to presenting an Oscar, as well as the fall Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence took as she climbed the stairs to pick up her Oscar.

“People were tweeting about these moments, and we saw huge spikes in viewership during these moments,” said Mischer.  “Sometimes those unexpected moments make the show much more exciting.”

While producers and directors always safeguard against the worst possible scenario becoming a reality, circumstances arise that complicate the production.  Mischer suggested that one should sometimes embrace the circumstances, instead of trying to create a production that is over-produced.  He referenced a Super Bowl halftime show that featured Prince.  The outdoor stadium was not weather-proof and rain and fog filled the air.  After showing a clip of the performance, Mischer pointed out how the droplets on the camera lens and lighting that illuminated the fog enhanced the performance of “Purple Rain.”

Before wrapping up his discussion, Mischer paid tribute to now retired late night host David Letterman by presenting the “Don Mischer Top Ten List for Producing Live Content.”  The list, he described, was essential to any successful production.

10: Hire the best possible teams.  “Hire people who are skilled, knowledgeable and have a great attitude.”

9: Create a contributory environment. “Berating people never made shows better.  Motivate your people and build confidence, and together you can move mountains.”

8: Communicate with talent, staff and crew.  “Don’t be afraid to talk to talent.  You have got to be honest.”

7:  Leadership.  “Be a decision maker, and be able to communicate what you want.  Committees don’t build good live television.”

6:  Prepare.  “It is everything.”

5:  Anticipate what can go wrong.  “Think about safety, and designate someone who can make the decision of what to do when something goes wrong.”

4:  Put surprises in the show.  “Surprises in a show make it more interesting and stimulates social media response.”

3: Use creativity as a problem solver.  “To prevent going over-budget during the Winter Olympics in Utah, we came up with an $8,000 solution (flaming Olympic Rings in the center of an ice rink.) That became an iconic image.  Remember, the most expensive option doesn’t make it the best option.”

2: Be careful not to make assumptions.  “Double check everything and leave nothing to chance to avoid chaos.”

1: Try to enjoy yourself in the heat of battle.  “Remember, you do this because you love the moment you go live.  You live for this.”

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