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How We Survived the RNC & DNC

Aug 12, 2016

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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.

Be Flexible.

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.

Pack Light.

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.

No Comments
  • Andrew Ryback Reply
    2018-03-07 21:55:41

    We're glad you found this to be useful, Margaux. Let us know if there's anything we can help with.

  • Margaux Ford Reply
    2018-03-07 05:57:06

    I appreciate the tips on hiring a production staffing company to have more time to focus on the creative aspects of the project. Hiring a production crew is a tedious task, and can take up much of your time. We're currently working on a huge production, and I'll share this article with my boss so he'll consider on delegating the recruitment to a staffing company. I like that you mentioned that staffing company can ensure to have the right team onboard for the project. Thanks!

  • Robert McWilliams Reply
    2017-10-31 19:05:18

    Todd:I have an ad agency in addition to our production company. We put one of our clients on OTT two months ago up in Nevada. Seems to be working!Thanks again for the work earlier this month.Rob

  • Nicole Rohde Reply
    2017-05-27 22:28:45

    Hey Andrew, Any word as to whether or not the Jokers will be back for Comic Con this year? Please let me know. Thanks!!!

  • Aaron Estabrook Reply
    2017-02-23 16:26:57

    I'll be tuning in for sure!

  • David Patton Reply
    2015-01-16 13:16:02

    Interesting blog post Andrew. For those who are nearly ready to cut the cord, but still want access to key channels such as ESPN, I'd recommend checking out Dish Network's new service, Sling TV. It provides access to a handful of channels for $20/month.https://gigaom.com/2015/01/15/sling-tv-details-price-devices-networks-resolution-bandwidth/

  • Andrew Ryback Reply
    2015-01-13 14:44:19

    Go for it! I'll admit that I was a little apprehensive about pulling the plug at first, but honestly, the transition away from DirecTV has been seamless. The only missing link is live sports, but there are a few work arounds depending on what sports you watch. Good luck!

  • Gregory Hart Reply
    2015-01-13 06:35:00

    While I am part of the 55 year old demographic that still has TV boxes and does TV viewing, I do my viewing using DVRs and networked PCs playing video files from an in-home server. I too have noticed that I view a handful of shows on a regular basis and have found various other sources for these shows. And now it has gotten to the point to where I am seriously considering ending my very long relationship with DirecTV and going streaming. Working in the TV industry also helped to open eyes to this as well. This transition from "old" TV is coming and the networks (Les Moonves, I am looking at you!) had better plan for it.

  • Gary Reply
    2013-08-08 09:44:39

    You've left out a HUGE part of this story by not mentioning Howard Stern's effect on the Sharknado buzz! #siris-ly

  • Marybeth Harrison Reply
    2013-08-07 14:46:29

    I can almost hear the theme song from Jaws as I read your post!