Lately, I have been taking time off from the utterly insane and self-important world of independent film to work at Discovery Communications. It has been a very welcome break indeed. If you've never worked for a television network, I definitely recommend that you give it a try.
What impresses me most is the utter lack of pretension I have encountered here at the Discovery Creative and Technical Center. In the movie world, everyone is always trying to one up everyone else. People seem to feel an almost pathological desire to prove they are the most important or famous person in the room. At Discovery, I have often found myself working with people with very impressive resumes, but I never realized it until I researched them myself.
The mood is also more relaxing than the worlds of independent film and advertising. In those worlds, there always seems to be a presumption that something is going to go terribly awry. Here, there seems to be an almost supernatural presumption that everything is going to work out fine. I remember working on a promo for Animal Planet. It was around three o'clock in the afternoon. The spot was supposed to air that evening at seven. I opened up the job and discovered that the media was gone. Everything. Footage. Graphics. Audio. I called the producer into the suite, expecting her to freak out. Looking at those dreaded words, Media Offline, on the giant screen, she just sighed and said, "I guess we'll have to find it." No screaming. No shouting. No panicked calls upstairs about the possibility about missing the air date. No hurried resume updating. No. Instead, we just found the footage and put the spot on the air. It is mind-boggling how many shows we push to air on the actual day of broadcast. This is only possible because the place is a well-oiled machine populated by people who know how to do their jobs.
So what am I doing? First, I fell back on my old reliable field: advertising. I started editing promos for TLC programs. Below is my first spot. It sailed through the approval process without any changes. I was told that that would probably be the last time that happened. (They were right.)
After a while, I got tired of editing things that people fast-forward through. I wanted to edit programs instead. However, I didn't necessarily want to work on a series and edit shows from scratch. I had done that before and I didn't want to make that kind of commitment again. (Depending on the series, it can take anywhere from three weeks to three months to edit a single episode from scratch.) Fortunately, I found a happy medium on the Reloads Team.
What are Reloads?
Reloads are social versions of hit shows with bonus footage. Here's how it works. For example, "19 Kids and Counting" would premiere a brand new episode every Tuesday night at 9pm. Its legion of fans would excitedly live tweet the show. The next day, we'd take that original episode and cut four minutes of footage from it. Then we add four minutes of previously unseen bonus footage. Then, to make the loyal fans feel like they're part of the show, we would add a couple dozen of their tweets to the program plus a few fun facts. Then, viola, we have a new version of the show which generally aired just prior to the next brand new episode the following Tuesday. It's win for the fans who get to see their tweets on national television, a win for the network who gets a brand new show for a fraction of the original price, and a win for the talent, who get paid for another show. The only losers are the original editors, who probably cringe at every change we make....
It's a fun job and you really get attached to the shows you reload. The first program I worked on was "19 Kids and Counting." I reloaded their entire ninth season. I was looking forward to finally meeting them at a TLC event before the Josh Duggar scandal hit. Unbelievable. I thought I had left scandal behind when I walked away from the faith-based film world. (See the "God's Not Dead" lawsuit.) I will say that I feel very bad for the Duggar girls. As of today, their rumored spin-off series seems dead. It's so unfair. It's punishing these innocent victims of sexual assault all over again....
But that's Hollywood.
Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God. It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.
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