Note: This article was originally written for Journalism 2023 Journalistic Writing in November 2002.
The 50th Annual Saint John Santa Claus Parade comes around for another year. This was a difficult production for producer Don Ferguson to organize volunteers. In addition, the float list was only available late on Friday afternoon. Three hours before the parade was to begin, we headed down the hill to set up the equipment. On arrival, we realized the taped introduction had the old TVNB logo and Parade 2001 on it. It was determined that we could just cover it up with graphics, but at about the time the parade was about to starting to come down the hill the tape got jammed in the machine and I had about 2 minutes to come up with an alternative. Then the parade went really well until the floats stopped coming down the hill in order of the list and then it was a scramble of; What float is it, type it in, bring it up and take it down and repeat for about forty or so floats.
After a hard day of work, after the family dinner, many families sit down to feed their brains with hours of Television. For a small dedicated group the night of TV starts differently, this group is not home watching TV they are making it. This is the story of the dedicated group of staff and volunteers at Rogers Television in Saint John. These people come together to get together and have a good time to make community television. One of the part-time staff members is often quoted saying, “This is not work it is a hobby.”
A typical shoot will begin with the Producer ironing out the technical details, arranging for sponsorships, and going down the volunteer list trying to assemble a crew together. The task of gathering a crew can sometimes be the most difficult task of all. There are three categories of volunteers. The first group are the extremely dedicated ones. This group will sign-up for just about every thing that they can. This group is relatively small about a half-dozen or so. The next group is the regulars they are usually quite dependable. The regulars usually have a certain focused interest, like bingo or sports. Then there is the third group that are either always extremely busy, lost interest, or do not even remember why they are on the list. This last group is where most of the difficulty in forming a crew comes from after the first two groups are exhausted the producer has to spend hours of trying to get someone from this group interested.
The volunteers all have some interesting stories that occurred during their years. This group comes from all lifestyles, call centre workers, retired tax collectors, former professional TV people, and car dealers. They range in the spectrum from students to retired. In general, they get together to make TV, not in a deadline setting like a commercial TV setting, but one of just to have a good time and make some TV.
After everything is in place the producer and graphics person get started doing research and graphic design as this usually takes up most of the preproduction time. Then there is set up, which could be as simple as turning on and adjusting a studio camera and wiring a few microphones. This can also be a daunting task like a hockey game which involves miles of cables to be haled all through the arena and taped down to avoid tripping setting up and adjusting a half-dozen cameras, half-dozen microphones, set up a replay machine, a fibre feed back to the station, and lighting for the dark areas.
In November is typically a busy month. The month started out with the Kiwanis TV Auction. This is a relatively simple event to begin with, in the beginning of October J-P Quinn the producer begins with organizing the crew and booking a mobile production truck to come down for the shoot. Then comes the cancellations, of the cancellation included the Audio, Graphics, and half the camera operators. On the Tuesday in the morning before the auction, I received a call to see if, I would be available to take over the graphics. Only two of us on the list that could do the advanced graphics required for the auction. I really started my job the day before the show. The auction required an animated introduction, over 300 lower thirds, or graphics on the bottom of the screen, and a credit roll for the end of the show. While I was working on this J-P and several volunteers went down to the Trade and convention center to set up.
Then the long-awaited show day came, it started with setting up the lights, microphones, and phasing or adjusting the colour of the cameras. The show went abnormally flawless. The second major production was the annual Remembrance Day Ceremony this was the worst show I have ever worked on. It started badly by the fact that we could not acquire a mobile for the show resulting in ripping out the rack used for the weekly common council meetings. Since there was, only one graphics computer in Saint John the plan was to send the signal back
to the studio by Fibre-optics and put them on there. The first problem was that the computer crashed ten minutes before the event was to start and I forgot to save the graphics. In addition, the fibre feed did not work so they recorded show on site. When Don Ferguson the producer for the show returned with the tape, we put the graphics, music and taped interviews on the tape. After we finished there was barely enough time for us to rewind the tape. The show look so awful there was almost no sound and the camera cables were not good enough to see anything
but backs of head.