Courtney Mazzone’s work day on Tuesday, February 9, 2010.
Today is another office morning – I came in at 9am, grabbed breakfast downstairs in the wonderful Rockefeller Concourse (I love working in this area – so many good food options!) and set up in the office for the morning. Like yesterday, I came in at a normal hour and had a rather slow morning. I’d been helping the executive producer the past few days in addition to my three producers that I normally assist because his assistant flew out last night to Vancouver. That means I’ve to be more of an assistant these past few days and haven’t been able to do as many extra projects on my own. That’s been fine though because in a few days everyone that’s going to Vancouver will be out there and I’ll have more downtime to work on other things. That’s the trick with starting out as an assistant or other entry-level position – you have to do the job you were hired to do but also find a way to take advantage of all the resources you have at your finger tips and demonstrating that you can do a lot more than just be an assistant.
Yesterday afternoon, while in the office, I started working on the next segment I’m producing. The first thing you should know about producing is that it’s a lot of coordinating. There are technical elements too but if being organized makes your life a lot easier. We use a program made by Avid called iNews for all of our documents. One of the first things you do when you’re assigned a segment to produce is put in a production memo in iNews. This memo gives a brief description of the segment, lists the guest and contact info for the guest, lists the props (including food for food-related segments) involved with the segment (either sent by the guest or that our team has to purchase), set requirements (i.e. if it’s a Super Bowl segment you can say “please use football decorations” or if it’s a Valentine’s Day segment say “please dress set in red and pink”), hair/makeup/wardrobe requirements (mostly for fashion segments but everyone on the show goes through hair and makeup) and any other details you have on the segment. This memo alerts all of our production departments that the segment is happening and opens the dialogue on what they need to do for the segment. Because the segment I’m producing Friday is a food-related segment, I had to update my production memo with the list of food requirement for display.
I also submitted a travel request for my guest. She’s a Today Contributor which means she’s on the show pretty regularly as an “expert” and is sort of like a part-time employee on the show. Because of her contributor status, we pay for her travel so I had to alert the production coordinator who books travel for anchors, producers and guests and tell her what day and time to book the flight. Because my guest is a contributor that also means that her segments are less work for me because she does more of it. That’s one major benefit to working with an “expert” in a field, but that can also be tough because you have to find a way to suggest changes in a diplomatic manner…as opposed to when you work with a guest with less TV experience. In that case you do a lot of coaching them on their talking points which means it’s less of a collaboration and more of you taking charge.
I just found out that my segment for Friday is now on Thursday so had to move fast and try to get my guest on a flight TODAY so she gets in before the snow. Back to coordinating with the production coordinator. She got her on a 2pm flight so now I have to write the segment today and tomorrow since we’ll have a 4:30pm setup tomorrow afternoon. Setups are for segments that require food, lots of props, workout segments or any other complicated segments. We don’t do setups for sit-down discussion/interview segments.
Still kind of a boring day. Had to book cars for two of my producers to bring them home/to work and made a lunch reservation for another senior producer who I don’t officially assist but often help out. That’s another good tip when you’re starting out – get to know as many people as possible and offer to help out. Even if that means coming in early or staying late, which it often does. For example, I’m helping another producer screen footage from a shoot she did so she knows what good sound bites to include in the tape segment she’s working on. Because I want to get more experience producing taped spots this is a way for me to help out a colleague and also learn how to produce a taped spot before I have to do one on my own. At this point I’ve produced close to 30 live segments but haven’t had to work on a taped segment. I have helped other producers with theirs and have been out on shoots where I was second-camera…but won’t be assigned my own taped segment until I’m an associate producer. More on the normal career path in television to come…
Just found out that one of the producer’s I assist that’s going out to Vancouver had to move his flight because of the snow. So he’s now flying out tonight rather than Thursdy night. I had to change his car pickups and he also asked me to help him find gifts for his kids for Valentine’s Day. I searched for the children’s books he asked for and put them on hold. That doesn’t seem difficult but it brings up another necessary skill in this industry, or any industry – thinking outside of the box. You don’t think that being an assistant is that difficult but when you’re trying to track something down for someone high up in the company the last thing you want to do is tell them we can’t find it or they can’t have it so you have to be resourceful and work fast. After 30 minutes of calling multiple stores I was able to track down the books and arranged for him to pick them up on his way home to back before his flight.
Back to the office. I answered pitches via phone and email and forwarded them to the appropriate senior producer. What I mean my appropriate producer is the producer that is most likely to put that in their hour of the show. We have 4 hours of show Monday through Friday. There is also a two-hour show on Saturday and one hour on Sunday but Saturday and Sunday shows are considered Weekend Today and they are run by a different staff. The 7am hour is mostly hard or breaking news. The 8am is more news with some health/fitness/lifestyle and human interest stories, the 9am is mostly fashion, lifestyle and health/fitness segments and the 10am is similar to the 9 but more chatty.
I continue to help the producer I mentioned above by looking over the script she wrote up for her taped spot and also offered to help another producer prep for an entertainment segment. Selena Gomez is coming on next week to sing so the producer asked me to do some research and write up a bio with bullet points on her career milestones. She needs that by Thursday so I’ll work on it tomorrow. I also submitted an expense report for the producer that left for Vancouver last minute (if expenses stay on there for longer than 40 days they shut down the person’s corporate card) – again, balancing official duties with the extra projects that go above and beyond. Since he’ll be in Vancouver for 3 weeks I don’t want to take any changes. I’m also coordinating a mini-fashion segment next week and recruited four of our staffers to model the suits on the show! So I took 20 minutes to help finalize the suit for the last of our four models. Now that it’s finalized I can move all of the suits from around my desk!