Quality Matters

Bill Green's Maine

Nothing screams disaster like coming back to work after a few days off and realizing your show may not make air. This week my other show, “Bill Green’s Maine,” came dangerously close to not airing.

“Bill Green’s Maine,” captures the essence of Maine, like a postcard. Each show is a snapshot of life in Maine. A typical show would have four segments. The first an action story like a Windjammers race (a special type of boat race), an interview segment with someone from Maine who has become big, like Patrick Dempsey. Then a retro, or archive, piece that Bill did long ago. The show then concludes with something of everyday life. A look into the history of Nubble Lighthouse, or a feature on The Shirners of Maine, stories like that.

The show needs to be completed by Thursday nights. It air’s Saturday at 7pm, but BGME is pre-produced. So it needs to be closed-captioned and made ready for the web. There are lots of little things that need happen in order to make the show ready for Saturday night.

We shoot the opens and closes to the show on Mondays or Tuesdays. We call them the wraps. They are the intro’s and closes to the stories. They “wrap” around the story. They should always be shot somewhere pretty. A lighthouse, rocky coast line, you name it. If it’s pretty, and looks like Maine, it will work.

Those wraps are crucial, without them, we don’t have a show. On Thursday, I started to edit the wraps. They didn’t sound right, and what the hell was Bill wearing? The day he shot them, he was wearing an orange shirt and short shorts. He looked like a pumpkin walking on the beach. He wasn’t happy with the outfit, but it was the only time he could shoot the wraps. I was more disturbed by the un-air-able audio. Bill’s voice was barely audible, it sounded like the microphone was being scraped up against the rocks.

We could have gone with what we had. We might have heard one or two bad comments, but it would have been OK. Re-shooting the wraps was going to be a real hassle. Bill’s show had once been known for it’s quality. It is the first show in Maine to have been shot entirely in HD. We have done it two other times since. Shooting the show in HD, all the time, would be very expensive for us.

My first day working at WCSH6, was spent on the rocks of Portland Headlight, shooting the opens and closes for Bill’s show. Back then we had a whole crew that would focus on making the show. We had a special “jib” for the camera (which is like a small crane), and a crew that would shoot the wraps. I would field produce and my boss would often be there too as executive producer.

Seven years later, cost cuts have hit the show. Now it’s just Bill, one photographer, no jib, and no crew. I rarely get to go out on the shoots anymore and have to focus my time elsewhere.

It was about 1pm when I asked Bill how hard it would be to get the wraps re-shot. The show needed to be done before I left for the day. Bill, unhappy with the choice of dress, was eager to re-shoot. Once I had him listen to the audio, he was even more convinced. About an hour later, he was back in the same location, with new clothes and a new mic.

The new opens and closes were back by 5pm. With assistance from my intern, we had the show ready by 6:45pm that night. Just enough time to go produce my live show at 7pm, ‘207.’

In the Internet age, when we are trained to accept lesser quality, we still need to do the best possible job. We can’t just phone it in. Management may not care, but as the producers of content, we can’t give up making good quality productions.