We recently completed a 2-part special for BET following the outcome of both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, titled “UnCONVENTIONAL”. It wasn’t our first time working with BET, but it was our first time attending either party’s National Convention. We were responsible for providing field producers and ENG crews on the ground at both events who would shoot interviews and news packages that would get edited together for our in-studio special. On paper, this sounds simple. But given the magnitude of both conventions and the general…. well, craziness… surrounding this year’s presidential election, it was a bit of a challenge. Here’s how we survived the RNC & DNC.
Plan A, B, C, D, E, etc.
It was important for us to have back-up plans and contingencies for everything. From parking to transportation to security to meeting points inside the venue, there were so many variables that could cause a delay, which would throw off the rest of the day. We had to have a primary and back-up plan for everything to mitigate any issues.
Going into both conventions, we made a point to tell each of our crew members that they should prepare to be flexible. Because we were covering the conventions for a news program, the content and daily events largely drove our shooting schedule. Call times and schedules were changing daily based on interviews that were booked or re-scheduled or just events going on outside the convention. Going into the RNC, we had a schedule for each of the 3 days we would be on the ground. After day 1, we realized that wasn’t going to work and started issuing schedules at the end of each day for the following morning. It wasn’t ideal, but it’s what had to happen.
No hand-trucks. No dollies. No carts. Be prepared to hand-carry all of your gear and be ready for lots of run-and-gun. Due to venue restrictions, we couldn’t “load-in” a lot of gear at either convention center. The general rule of thumb was that everything had to be hand-carried, otherwise you were subject to having to pay for union labor to move equipment on your behalf, which could greatly impact your schedule. Additionally, storage was limited. BET had a stand-up position for us to use for interviews and daily newsbriefs, but we could not store our equipment there – either overnight or for extended periods throughout the day. We needed to be 100% self-sufficient and 100% lean.
Allow Extra Travel Time.
Each convention had shuttles available that would bring people to and from the venue. The problem was that these shuttles were either unreliable or unpredictable. For example, the shuttle pick-ups at our hotel were scheduled for 2:00pm and 6:00pm. That’s great if you need to be at the venue by 3:00pm or 7:00pm, but not that helpful if you need to get there first thing in the morning (as most people did). We decided to park at our hotel and hire drivers to bring our crew to and from the venue. Our hotel in Cleveland was 12 miles from the venue, which should have only taken 15-20 minutes on a normal day. Not knowing that to expect going into day 1, we allowed 2 hours to get to the venue and pass through security. This proved to be more than enough time, but we had specific deadlines that would couldn’t afford to miss, so we needed to plan accordingly.
Covering both events was a challenge based on the amount of logistics that needed to coordinated and the amount of outside factors that were beyond anyone’s control. As a company, we are very detail focused and like to plan things as carefully as possible, but for the RNC and DNC, there are some things that you need to figure out on the fly. In the end, we got it done and put together a great looking program.