Chapter seven

Production Basics

Almost all production plans consist of five or six similar phases, regardless of the industry they pertain to. Planning, development, implementation, review/evaluation, and correction/revamping phases are commonly used production phases whether the topic is airplane manufacturing, television production, or educational development. The steps may be labeled differently for each industry, but they are essentially the same. Inasmuch as production planning is relevant to any industry, the lessons in this chapter are also pertinent, not only to television production, but also to any school-to-work training. The goals and outcomes, then, transcend television production, and that is how the lessons in this chapter are presented.
As with most of the lessons in this book, this chapter is written in such a way so as to accommodate those who wish to pick and chose and take them out of the prescribed context and incorporate them into their own established curricula. However, for those who chose to follow the Teaching Chronology more closely, production training in this chapter is also presented in cookbook fashion. Students get to use their newly-found knowledge to carry out a SWEEPS competition, in which they put together a five to ten minute competitive teleplay that is broadcast campus-wide and voted on by their peers. Because SWEEPS is competitive, students also learn about product marketing, which ties directly back to the acquisition model for media literacy they have learned in Chapter Two. Class discussions are designed to encourage students to assign the job responsibilities taught in the lessons, and to resolve problems as they arise. Students are responsible for deciding on show format and content, creating each segment, and for creating an organizational chain of command. Class time is allotted for student teams to work on prospective segments. Each segment team reports back daily to the class on their progress. Decisions on show content and timelines are made as a class group at these daily briefings. As they are elected, student leaders run the meetings under the guidance of the teacher, who acts as the executive producer.

In short, students are introduced to project planning in a simulated real-life setting. Students come up with a show format, respond to questions in class about important aspects of the show, and then translate those into tasks. They identify critical path items and establish lead times. Once all these are noted, students then learn that the final step is to simply plug that information into a calendar. Thus, a planning calendar is developed. Students learn that a seemingly complicated and large project has a much better chance of success once it is broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.

The lessons in this chapter is broken down into three categories:

Digging Deeper

The on-line course at covers most of the production issues that are presented in this chapter, but in much greater depth. The cyber course was designed for higher education, but is a great resource and is it is mentioned throughout this chapter. In addition, Dr. Whittaker has published a handbook, after which the on-line course was designed. His book, Television Production is published by Mayfield Publishing Co., and can be obtained at the web site or any major bookstore.

Another on-line source is Video University. It contains articles on production, history, and all sorts of other topics. Check into this site regularly.

Another good way to learn about the inter-dependencies of production scheduling is to work with any one of the excellent software products on the market. One, in particular, is Zettl's Videolab 2.1. It contains excellent interactive lessons that can be used to supplement classroom discussions.

Today, most television stations offer a web page presence for their studios. Those who do have a presence on the net provide information about their shows, on-air talent, and a myriad of information about their surrounding community. Some stations provide a "virtual field trip" to their studio.