Reprinted from The Hollywood Reporter by Toni-Ann Lagana on January 21, 2021.
“It’s 5 a.m., and my whole body is shaking,” writes Toni-Ann Lagana in The Hollywood Reporter. “Not because I’m cold or having a caffeine or drug withdrawal, but because I have been up for 18 hours straight, six days a week, for the past three months, working on an unscripted TV show. I am not a ‘veteran producer’ yet, but with a decade of experience under my belt on projects for major networks and streamers, I’ve seen enough to know that behind the scenes, the postproduction world in unscripted TV has changed.
“Story producers, most of whom are freelancers, are traditionally leaned on in reality formats to go through hours of footage and create a rough ‘string out,’ a sequence of clips strung together in the order that an editor will later cut. But that job description has become a ‘frankenbite’ — a term for editing sound bites together to create a different sentence or meaning — of what it was versus what it actually is today. And, unlike editors, story producers do not have a union to turn to for help setting guidelines for workplaces that are rapidly changing because of tech advances and remote setups during the pandemic.
“Today, the expectation isn’t just for the story producers to create bins of select footage or rough string outs — it is to produce a perfectly crafted sequence (one that is missing only music and effects) to be handed to the editor in between creative meetings and writing up beat sheets, interviewing celebrities and contestants for story ideas, or tracking down the person who owns the rights to some childhood photo, because not every show is staffed to delegate those jobs. Therefore, story producers are spread thin (even with associate producers by their side) and left spending less time thinking ahead about overall stories and more time trying to cobble sound bites together quickly on an Avid editing setup. In my experience, as quickly as the field producers have to shoot, the post team has to finish editing in even half the time to get it on-air. …