At VMG Studios, our staff members have seen it all! Here are some tales from past shoots that will have you cringing. As they say, the show must go on, but sometimes we really, REALLY, wish it hadn't.
Cyndi Butz-Houghton, Senior Producer:
When I was working as the location manager for Trading Spaces, I realized at 1 am the morning before a shoot that I had food poisoning. I had to be on set, so as 7 am rolled around I collected myself as best I could and dragged myself out of the hotel. On set, 1-by-1 the talent and crew started dropping like flies.
There were only 2 bathrooms in the house we were working in trying to accommodate 30 sick crew members. It was my job to make sure the shoot continued, even though it meant pulling a homeowner out of the bathroom, doing his makeup myself, and putting him on camera. I kept cleaning as more and more people fell ill. A producer started to turn green, so I all but pushed him in a bush since the bathrooms were occupied. A camera man started to slump over, so an assistant grabbed the camera just in time as he too ran for the bushes.
We tracked the source of the sickness back to the caterer and miraculously made it through the shoot, but it was a sorry sight as everyone trudged back to the hotel for the night.
Bryan Johnston, Creative Director:
We were shooting a promo for the TV station I was working for at the time. It was on location and required hired talent; specifically, a little kid. We get to the location, spend hours setting up our gear, bring the kid on set for the shoot and the kid refuses to do anything. He sits on the floor in the middle of the set and won’t speak. He won’t move. He won’t do anything. Since the kid was the centerpiece of the promo it was kind of imperative that he read his lines and act. But no, he sat sullenly on the floor and wouldn’t budge.
Needless to say, his parents were mortified, as was the talent agency we hired him from. The crew and I looked at each other and said, “Anyone know of any little kids nearby?” Luckily, our camera guy had a friend with a small boy who happened to live not too far away. We called them up, they agreed to come over, and within the hour we were shooting with our freshly minted understudy kid. And he did fine! It saved the production.
Another story: It was my first job in television and we were shooting a car commercial for a local dealer. I was the camera operator. We set up, the dealership owner stood at his mark and started his spiel. He finishes and says, “Okay, we got it. Thanks.” And I was like, uh, that was one take? There was no way for us to roll it back to check to see if the camera bumped or if something went wrong that we didn’t notice at the time we were rolling. I asked if he wanted to do a second take, just for safety, and he said, “No, we’re good,” and walked away. I drove back to the station terrified that from our one take something would be amiss and we would have to shoot all over again with a very angry client. Luckily, the one take was okay. There is a god.
Chelsea Sassara, Content Manager:
When I worked in local TV news, I got called in late Friday night to help cover for the Saturday morning producer who got sick while at work. I only got two hours of sleep before going into the newsroom around 1:00 a.m. I then had to finish producing a three-hour show that went live on-air starting at 6:00 a.m.
I was able to get everything done, so I headed into the control room with my technical director to put the show on-air. That's when everything went wrong. We clicked on our controls to pop up our programming, but instead of showing our studio set, the screen was black. We kept pressing all the right buttons, but nothing was happening. That's when I started getting texts from co-workers who were at home telling me we were in black (as I screamed to myself "I KNOW WE'RE IN BLACK").
We got in contact with our programming hub that's based in another city, but they couldn't figure out how to help. Luckily, they were able to throw up a random show so that our local viewers weren't seeing a black screen while we figured out what was wrong. Of course, since it was the weekend, we didn't have any engineers on sight to help us out. I then had to call and try to wake up one of four engineers on their lovely Saturday morning to come in and fix it. Eventually, one of them came to the station, and about 20 minutes after the show was supposed to start, we were back on-air.
After only sleeping for two-hours before heading into work, it's safe to say I was VERY awake for the rest of the morning.
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