Friday, January 11, 2008
Blog from the Back Row
One of the ideas floated today in a production meeting was to put a camera in the control room. The idea was to bring the viewer into the process of how TV gets on the air. That's not going to happen for now but as a consolation prize I'll do my best to post a nightly blog with a little insider perspective on how the evening's program played out. (I sit in the second row of the control room, what we call the "Back Row", behind the senior producer who is running the show, either Charlie Moore or Ted Fine depending on the night.)

Producing a live TV program can be wildly fun and simoultaneously insanely stressful. Rarely does an entire hour go according to our artfully crafted and meticulously scripted plan. Yet surprisingly, we always figure out a way to make it work and hopefully you the viewer aren't aware of the potential disasters that were avoided, sometimes by only minutes or even seconds, in the process.

Here's an example from last night. We had planned to have John King on at 10:30p to recap the Republican debate from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. However, due to restrictions we could not use any of the footage of the debate until it was over. As we headed into a three minute commercial break at 10:28p we realized that there was no way the debate was going to be over by the time we came out of commercial. So we had the three minutes while we were in commercial to decide what Plan B was and how we were going to make it work. (We decided to move up our report on the missing pregnant Marine but we had to scramble to get that ready too since they weren't expecting to go air until about 10:40p.) It's fun stuff.

See you after the program.
Posted By CNN: 7:46 PM ET
  14 Comments
This sounds excellent. I'm looking forward to it. Keep working on getting that camera in the control room. I'd also love some insight into production meetings. Why are some stories chosen and others aren't? How do you decide what will lead? That kind of thing.
Posted By Blogger eliza : 7:57 PM ET
Oh, my goodness! The last paragraph sounds stressful! I had no idea you guys have to go through that. It must be fun though, improvising as you go along. Yes, this is a great idea, to blog us how everything went behind the scenes while Anderson anchored the program. I look forward to it!

Thanks :)
Lilibeth
Edmonds, Washington
Posted By Blogger Lilibeth : 8:02 PM ET
Hi "Back Row Blogger",

Hmm, that sounds dirtier than I intended it to, sorry.

Anyway, at college we had to make our own tv programs several times and it was always very chaotic!

I remember once running into the control room to push a button no-one else seemed able to find. We had a black screen for only a few seconds, but it felt like minutes!
But I agree, It's fun stuff!!

I'll definitely be reading your post everyday, so keep them coming!!

Kristien, Antwerp, Belgium
Posted By Blogger Kristien : 8:17 PM ET
We love the backstage stuff you write about. Please bring the viewr inside whenever and however you can. But why no Anderson blog? I know he's very busy zipping about the country, but what are we on the blog - chopped liver?
Posted By Anonymous sylvie, paramus, nj. : 8:22 PM ET
Cool! I think a lot of us would like to know what goes on behind the scenes. Thanks for giving us more insight.
Posted By Anonymous Holly from Florida : 8:23 PM ET
GREAT idea!! I would LOVE to see the inner workings of how 360 is actually put together and thrown on air!! Who ever came up with this...THANKS!! Can't wait until you get the camera in!! Hope it's soon!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Blogger Cindy : 8:30 PM ET
Sounds like a great idea--it would be fascinating to me as a viewer to see what it takes to get 360 on the air. I used to even enjoy those quick glimpses of the control room on the old "red" 360 right before the commercial breaks, so whatever method you use to give us a behind the scenes glimpse would be pretty cool.
Posted By Anonymous Fay, Vacaville, CA : 8:33 PM ET
dear mr producer- im glad you're thinking of doing a control room reality show. sometimes I look at a news program and think "well how hard is that?" but I know it's NOT easy. We need to see anderson without makeup and without a script because he doesn't goof around enough.
Posted By Anonymous Lee H. , Boston Ma. : 8:37 PM ET
My advice for you guys is always have a back up plan, if plan A doesn't work go to plan B. That's my opinion anyways.
Posted By Blogger Purple_Ice : 8:40 PM ET
Oh wow! That's so fun and exciting!!
It reminds me of chaotic theater dress rehearsals where the costumes don't fit, the stage doesnt' look right, the director is having one fit after another, the tech department doesn't know what they're doing and the actors suck and "just know they're not ready" ! Then the unmerciful curtain goes up and it all works fine despite of the chaos and the things that do go wrong add to the creativity and fun because you need to' just deal with it now!'
Posted By Anonymous Minou, New York,NY : 8:51 PM ET
What a great idea for a regular post. It will be fascinating to learn about the behind the scenes drama that plays out in the control room. I like the idea of the camera in there too - nothing like a picture.

Sounds like you have to be a quick creative thinker to work up in that room - I'm sure it is stressful when situations like what you described occur, but its probably also wildly rewarding to resolve them in time and the viewer not be aware of them.

I've appreciated the choreography of 360 and the split screens on panel discussions and the amazing graphics that you use, and the smoothness that it all seems to happen. Hearing about how you do it will be fun.

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Blogger Annie Kate : 8:58 PM ET
I have no doubt that you boys and girls have to roll with the punches daily...each minute, for that matter. But, you're good...."never let 'em see you sweat" is your motto, I'm sure. I dig the edge, right on it. Seeing what's going to happen next. Fixing issues at the last second. And making it look like butter...smooth, creamy butter. You guys rock. Thanks for the show. (I'm still thinking back to that New Year's Eve with Kathy....whew!)

Lewis
Portland, Oregon
www.spiritofsaintlewis.blogspot.com
Posted By Blogger Lewis : 9:54 PM ET
Cool idea! Looking forward to your blogging. So, does the Back Row Blogger have a name or are you going to remain mysterious?
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 10:21 PM ET
lol...I should have read this blog first.

I've worked as an extra and that gives you a great sense of what goes into the production.

But even that is typically limited to what one can glean.

I would see the grips and lighting guys running around to set. The director calling for people on the paging/radio system and then the stars seem to come last minute and pop on set. hopefully they've got their lines down or can wing it.

I'm sure you have some great stories of avoiding major "technical difficulties".

One think I have learned from Zen teachings...we don't control what happens to us, only how we respond to them....Namaste.
Posted By Anonymous Sabrina in Los Angeles : 6:13 PM ET
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A behind the scenes look at "Anderson Cooper 360°" and the stories it covers, written by Anderson Cooper and the show's correspondents and producers.



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