By Linda Blanco, Assistant Story Producer
My name is Linda and I am your friendly and ever-busy "Beyond Scared Straight" assistant story producer. Our executive producer, Paul J. Coyne, asked me to write a blog about the day in the life of a "Beyond Scared Straight" crewmember. So here I go.
A lot of different people are involved in making an episode like tonight's episode, which takes place at Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Virginia. This is our second visit to this explosive jail, and we meet four troubled kids who don't think jail is anything they have to worry about. To them, going through this intervention program is something they will easily endure, but the officers have a different plan. Tough-girl Akia enjoys fighting other girls, but in this jail her biggest battle will be getting on the good side of the inmates. At only 12, Charlie thinks drinking alcohol is no big deal because he doesn't drive yet. Kiki is a flirt looking for attention, but she discovers that that's the last thing she wants from the inmates in jail. Cole is a young man who believes he is a full-grown gang member. He is in search of power, and that's not something the deputies will give him easily.
I am happy to take you on a little tour of my fascinating workday, and to give you a description of some of the things that go on in our post-production office after we shoot an episode for the series. Try to keep up - that's what I spend MY day doing!
On a perfect day, I arrive at the office around 8:30 a.m., usually before any of my associates, with a huge smile on my face. I head straight to the coffee maker - that's after I've already had a very large café coffee on my way in. I need all the energy I can get to prepare for the day.
After reading all the exciting e-mail updates from our talented production crews who are out filming with teens at various jails around the country, I pull out my handy-dandy blue dry-erase marker and jot down my beat-by-beat "to-do" list on a whiteboard.
First and most important is our footage. Our footage arrives in batches. It then gets digitized into our computerized editing system and, simultaneously, into our transcribing software. As the assistant story producer, I make sure all of the footage is transcribed - typed out verbatim - by our undeservingly upbeat loggers.
Logging is the backbone of any production. I'm not talking about chopping down trees here. On our series, every single interview, some of which can run an hour or longer, is transcribed. Sometimes this is a challenge when dealing with regional dialects and street-slang. These logs are used by every part of the production to help piece together very intricate stories, bringing action and reaction together so our audience can feel what is going on inside each teen.
Before I was an assistant story producer I was a logger. Most people who aspire to become story producers (and then producers) start off by logging. It's a great way to learn how to build a story from the most basic elements.
By 9:00 a.m., our loggers have arrived and are immediately busy inputting every interview bite, every curse word and threat from inmates, and every parent's plea. I then warm up our printer and print the raw transcripts for our story department. We hear some pretty foul language before our censors hit the "bleep" button.
It's 10:00 a.m. and our gifted story producers are sitting at their desks, reading transcripts and watching all the footage, brainstorming how to best tell each kid's true story. This is where I aspire to be someday; there is nothing more fascinating to me than to discover a poignant, true story and be given a creative avenue to share the story with the masses. Our story producers work very closely with our editors, whom I supply transcripts to as well. Our editors are usually finishing up cuts or starting new ones by now. It's exciting to walk by an editor's bay and get a sneak peek at what will be included in the next episode. Hearing inmates' resounding threats or a kid boasting about his crimes is my favorite part of the day.
By 11:00 a.m., we usually screen an episode in progress. Most of the afternoon is dedicated to this. The story department, our executive producers, editors and myself cram into a small, dark (and alternately hot or freezing) room to watch the episode on a big screen TV. I take lots and lots of notes. And then I take more notes.
All the titles, names and location graphics (we call these chyrons, based on a titling system popular in the '70's) have to be true and correct. Sometimes a member of our cast speaks Spanish and I am able to translate the subtitles. In many cases, we have "Slanganology," as coined by Brandon P. from my favorite episode from Season 2 in Oakland County, Michigan.
We all try to decipher "Slanganology" and are constantly learning new street lingo. I usually try to incorporate the terms into my daily conversation, just to stay hip. This series has been educational. If I encounter a group of teens, nothing they say will get past me. Every once in a while we will hear a new term and then search the Internet for its meaning.
I've learned a lot about what our youths are experiencing in today's world, and I support all the efforts these jail programs make to reach our troubled youth.
We spend a good amount of time discussing changes in each screening, and by the time I emerge I'm running back to my desk to read more production e-mails and print transcripts that have just been completed. The rest of the day is spent assisting our story producers in finding the specifics they need to complete each story.
I've described how I see and experience our post-production crew working together on a single day. It takes 100% collaboration to produce an episode of "Beyond Scared Straight," and I feel privileged to be a part of the process. In this office we run on dedication, coffee, talent and a lot of "slanganology".
(One thing that Linda failed to mention about herself - she is SO dedicated to and passionate about her job that she wakes up early every morning and takes an hour-long train ride and 20-minute walk, just to get to work! She does the reverse at the end of the day. And she does it all perfectly and with a huge smile. – Executive Producer Paul J. Coyne)