16 November 2009

Producers? Who Needs Producers?

I am going to admit something here: I like having a producer around sometimes.
I don't always like having them around. There's nothing better than getting in a news truck and roaring off to chase a great story without anyone else's input or say so. The feeling of independence is amazing.
But sometimes, you can just enjoy having an "assigned best friend/minder/ assistant/and yet somehow boss-person" around. And when that person comes with a funky little style all her own, knowing exactly what she wants, how to achieve it, communicates it clearly and takes care of all the details along the way, well, it can be a wonderfully relaxing experience.
Toss in a New Zealand accent, a piercing or two, hair that looks (it's hard to see in the photo, but in person, that hair is shaved around the sides and the shaped part on top comes to a point in the front, as if a small jet-black boy's cap was perfectly positioned on top of her head) like the personification of the word "cheeky," and the occasional well-placed "F---" and it's absolutely hilarious. (Sorry if that offended, but when some people say it, it's just darned funny.)

This is Kelly. She fits the description of the two paragraphs above to a "T." She works for a company out of London that hired me to do some reporting in New Orleans this week. I'd tell you what her last name is, but I think she's rather private. (Otherwise, I'd tell you her middle name is Joan, right?)
She flew in from The Mother Country on Sunday and she's a nonstop scream. If the picture was video, you'd seen her hands flying around adding a little extra sauce to the whole soupy thing of her.
This week, Kelly set up everything that happened, organized the interviews, schmoozed her clients, wrote material for me to shoot all along the way, kept the convention managers happy, taught a fast workshop in remedial photography and editing, ordered lunch and trotted out to get it and kept the reporter moving whenever she stopped to play a little too much.
I'm sure you realize that a producer has to take a measure of crap. I think it's in the job description. It's not just that reporters are difficult to steer (like being road manager to the iceberg that sank the Titanic) but it's also that everyone we come in contact with wants something.
For instance, if a city official from Meridian, Mississippi sends his public affairs person over to advise me of exactly how vital he was to success of the project that I'm reporting on and then press me to interview him, well, the answer is no. But it's so nice to be able to say "You'll have to ask Kelly."
If the father of a ten year old girl who made a poster for the project comes by with the daughter in tow to say "Wouldn't you like to interview my little angel?" I say, "Oh, gosh, you'll have to ask Kelly."
If someone shows up to say, "Fred Schmidt is actually the person who organized this (project/scheme/grand plan for the edification of the Universe); you absolutely must interview him," well, you know exactly what I say: "You. Must. Check. Kelly."
As for Kelly? She deals with it. She smiles a crooked, quirky little smile and sparkles a little at them. Waves her hands around a fair bit and it's magic. Before any of us know it, she's taken my measure of crap, turned into cookies and handed them out to everyone she comes in contact with who then walk away thinking they got the best of it all.
And I have to tell you, if they got it from Kelly, I'm guessing that maybe they did.

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