Studio Producer Tips

First Things First

  • Fill out an the Media Center Producer Agreement and a Program Proposal
  • Reserve a studio production date
  • Come up with the “ANGLE” of your show (i.e. If it’s a talk show with youth – what are the particular areas you want to explore?)

Create a Timeline
List deadlines for when you will:

      • Line up your guests and confirm with them
      • Create any needed graphics
      • Line up crew
      • Shoot and edit any roll-ins
      • Procure any set pieces or donations
      • Write and submit publicity

Deciding on the Program Format

      • Will it be live or taped?
      • How will you structure the presentation?

Some of your choices:

      • Debate
      • Panel discussion
      • “Oprah/Donahue”- audience and host that walks around
      • Performance
      • News-desk with anchor(s)
      • One host or two?
      • Will the program be divided into distinct segments?
  • If so, will the segments require different sets, lighting, audio?
  • Will different segments involve different guests?
      • Write out the details and submit to the Media Center staff

NOTE: It may not be practical to do a live show if there are set or scene changes. Live shows are most common when you are taking phone calls.

      • If there will be an audience, make sure to tell the Media Center how many you expect.
      • If there will be audience comments, how will they be “miked?”
        Will audience persons walk up to a mic, or do we need a handheld mic coordinator?
      • How will the set look?
        What do you need to get? (i.e. coffee table, pillows, bookshelves and books, prints; sculptures; flowers; banner; flags; posters; painted backdrop; abstract objects; throw-rug etc.)
      • Will guests sit at a table; on couches; in a semicircle of chairs; on pillows?


Will there be Pre-produced Roll-ins?

      • If so, who is going to shoot and edit them?
      • If you are using excerpts from a pre-existing video, do you have copyright clearance to do so? (Call us with copyright questions.)
      • If you just want to insert a 60 second break, tell the Media Center and we can just play one of our community public service announcements

Make a list of the following titles to be superimposed during the show:

      • Title of program
      • Names and Affiliations of all your guests (CORRECTLY SPELLED)
      • Subject matter of the show (like C-SPAN does).
      • This gives channel surfers a quick idea on whether the show is about some matter of interest to them. (i.e. “Violence in the Schools”)
      • Any appropriate phone numbers or addresses
      • Any appropriate statistics
      • Any special thanks

NOTE: If it is a call-in show, then leave the subject matter and the call-in number on screen for most of the show.

Choose Theme Music

  • The Media Center has a “library” of non-copyright c.d.’s you may select from
  • Tell your director on which CD disk and which cut will be used

Working with Your Host
Communicate to your host what you want as the “feel of the show”

      • How to open the show…… how to introduce the topic for maximum drama and “hook” value
      • remind viewers to call and give feedback
      • keep the conversation moving
      • whether to be confrontational, silly, casual, etc.
      • see host tips

Getting a Live Audience
You should get at least 10 people and the Media Center has seats for sixty

  • Contact organizations or appropriate classes at schools that might be interested and see if they will supply an audience
  • Get a phone list of people you can call and line up
  • Audience shots should avoid empty seats

Getting People to Call in
Viewers usually need incentives to call in.

  • Try lining up several calls to get the ball rolling
  • During the show have the host request calls several times (see “working with host”)
  • Leave the number on screen throughout the program
  • Offer prizes for lucky callers

Getting Copyright Clearance
If you wish to use copyright footage from a TV show or movie or copyright music, you need to obtain clearance. Many times you may get free clearance if you write to the company which holds the rights (i.e. Warner Brothers; NBC; Tri-Star; Geffen etc.)

  • Identify the exact clip you want (i.e. the first 30 seconds of the song, “Come Together” by the Beatles)
  • Tell them exactly where the tape will be shown and that no money will be made from it. (i.e. for playback only on local cable access channels)
  • Follow your letter with a call

In some cases, you may use a copyright segment in your show without getting clearance, for example, if you are making an educational critique of that very clip. These are called “fair use” clips. You should consult with Media Center staff to answer questions about what constitutes “fair use.”

Talent Releases
Get a talent release if you think someone may – at a later date – ask you to re-edit the way they were presented in your show, or to pay them for using them in your show. A parent or guardian must sign for a minor. The Media Center can give you a talent release form from which you can make copies.

Getting Underwriters and Donations

  • You may ask local merchants to supply prizes for your viewers, or set pieces (like props or flowers), food for your crew, or even cash donations in exchange for a credit on-air.
  • You may not solicit funds for your labor as a program producer. You may not mention any of their products, prices, sales, or hours of operation on your show or in your credits.
  • You may however say that this show has been supported by so and so, and you may include them in your program credits. Please discuss any other ways you would wish to thank them on air with the Media Center staff before doing.
  • If the underwriter wants a tax deduction they must donate the money to the Media Center and the Media Center will charge an administrative fee to handle the paperwork.


      • Draft a short press release that answers “What, When, Where” about your program in the first line. (See sample Press release.)
      • Come up with a “HOOK”…. the reason this is a timely topic and add that to the body of your release.
      • Brainstorm which organizations would have an interest in your topic.
      • Send your release to such organization newsletters.

NOTE: This often requires early notice of at least 4-to-6 weeks before your program airs to meet their deadline

      • Send your release to the Merc, the Weekly, and the Country Almanac at least two weeks before your “air-date.” Follow up with a call.
      • Think about any places you might E-mail your release.
      • Create a flyer and drop it off at libraries and post at places where your target audience hangs out.
      • If you are producing a program series, then try to interest one of the papers in doing a feature. Provide them with black and white photos.

The Day of the Studio Taping

    • ARRIVE EARLY ENOUGH to put up your set and audience chairs if necessary. (the Media Center staff will oversee lighting setup.)
    • Be sure you have submitted a complete list of correctly spelled titles to your director by the morning of your taping.
    • Help break down your set and clean the studio after the taping.
    • Remember to thank your volunteer crew persons. They need to be appreciated!!