Pro Tip: Adding Zing to Lifeless Interview Subjects

Some pro tips I’ve held close to my vest over the years. One of them is this trick I use to add energy to lifeless interviews.

We all know that they happen. You get someone in the chair who’s maybe not all that jazzed to be there or just plain tired. There’s only so much you can do, and still, the notes on the material will come back about how the subject “seems very low energy.”

No kidding.

My secret sauce? Just compress the clip length by somewhere around ten percent. If speeding the footage and audio up by that amount doesn’t appear too obviously doctored, it can add a little bit of life — sometimes enough to keep you from having to pick up the interview content, hoping to heck that your subject is more awake the second time out.


Back to the Blog!

Hey, folks.

You know, it seems like the last year or so went by pretty fast.

In 2018-19, I spent a lot more time working on the documentary (clips galore on Instagram @rememberwerenothere) and exploring some really unusual stuff like creating a card game, guest writing for The Washington Post and much more.

I’m resolving to spend more time here, as I always had fun here exchanging pro tips and other things.

Anyone still here?


My pal Daniel Franzese  (MEAN GIRLS, LOOKING, CONVICTION) in interview this week, covering everything from how he thinks I should feel about my work to RuPaul’s upcoming Walk of Fame star ceremony.  Follow Danny at @whatsupdanny.

The little documentary project I couldn’t get out of my head has already conducted half a dozen interviews this month and continues to move forward after a multi-year lull in production, and I couldn’t be happier.

REMEMBER, WE’RE NOT HERE is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of how reality professionals feel about their place in the entertainment universe and as the unseen faces behind the most maligned form of television entertainment around.

More to come as things progress.

Pro Tip: What’s Your Take?

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that the notes process is generally one of my least favorite things about working in television.


a) Because some execs enjoy creatively thumbprinting the clay rather than just correcting / clarifying / asking for alterations that satisfy network quality standards, marketing, and the interests they are overseeing the show for, making superficial changes that are different, but not better, and often have massive repercussions when it comes to story in the works on anything with a season arc.

b) Because some EPs and Supervising Producers routinely dismiss fantastic notes from the really great executives in some sort of “how dare they” creative pissing match.  I’ll say it for the record, I’ve had my ass saved on more than one occasion by a great idea at the network level.

c) Because both sides of the equation often feel absolutely right about their takes on the notes process and empowered to enforce the execution of their requests, you, the story producers and editing teams, are sometime stuck in the unpleasant middle, trying to satisfy one master while basically digging your own grave with the other.

In the interest of self-preservation, might I suggest actually having an opinion and making real choices in your early cuts?  A take on the material?  A genuine giving-a-f*ck-about-what-you’re-making investing of your creative energy?  Sure, there’s a tone and a spirit for every show that you need to follow, but if you don’t feel anything for it, how can you expect it to go over well?

Early on in a career, it’s easy to make basic, rote decisions that essentially compress time and accomplish little else.  Imagine how I feel whenever someone on staff shows me a 27-minute stringout of a single act that should be maybe 8-11 minutes.  Everything of interest that happened over a certain time period is in there, but if you hand it over to an editor in that condition, the editor’s going to have to make a lot of story choices to make it fit.

Now, some editors are great with story.  Others aren’t.  I favor something tighter… a stringout that’s maybe twenty-five to fifty percent longer than it needs to be, maximum, accompanied by a discussion or written directive of how the scene is supposed to fit into the bigger picture of the episode instead of just peeking into the bay and telling the editor where the new scene lives in the system.

Stringing too tightly can yield other results, as most editors will agree with me that their first reaction to a too-lean stringout is to match in and start reviewing material.  Now everyone’s back to that weird place where the intent of the scene is diluted again because something noisier or flashier or not necessarily on-point finds its way back into the edit, the story team sometimes admonished by the editor with a “you sure missed a lot of gold in there.”

Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re not.  But everyone could save a lot of time if the outline for the show is shared with the editor and the intent of the entire episode is clear even when working on one-twelfth of it at a time.  This sets up that, that leads to the other, and by the end of the show, the payoff or cliffhanger is the other thing.  You’re not stringing twelve to fifteen vignettes, you’re putting together parts of a clock.

I suppose that what I’m rattling on about is that your EPs and execs really want to see a show that makes sense.  And you can’t give them one if everyone’s metaphorically pounding on different instruments without sheet music.  If the show doesn’t make sense, people who generally don’t deal with or understand story mechanics are going to lose their minds and just start firing arrows in the dark while they try to figure out what’s not working… which makes everyone miserable.

Have an opinion about the work and the direction you’re taking it in.  Work together with the editors to make sure it makes sense.  NEVER pass anything on until it makes sense to you, because your team is probably more familiar with the story than anyone else… and if the insider’s view doesn’t make sense, what hope does anyone else have of deciphering and actually enjoying your content?

In closing:

  • Update your outlines and be sure the editors are as aware of what must be accomplished as you are.  Don’t just dump loose scenes on them.
  • Make sure that your take on the material jives with that of your EPs and network.  Don’t “wing” the feel of the show.
  • Make sure that the progression of action and evolution of cast is consistent.
  • If you don’t feel good about a story in progress, speak to your EP sooner than later.  And ALWAYS have an alternate plan/take ready when you do.
  • Never allow yourself to just compress time.  It’s the difference between finger painting and creating great work.





Re: Consulting / Lecturing /

I’m proud to be an incoming member of the recently formed Entertainment Industry Association of Consultants and Educators.

From the eiACE website:

“We are a non-profit organization supporting professionals of the highest caliber in fields relating to story development, analysis and education. This alliance was formed by a group of professional colleagues who share a great respect for each other’s work and a commitment to elevating the art and craft of storytelling.

Not all consultants and educators in the entertainment industry are created equal because their background, proficiency, experience and reputation vary greatly. It is the goal of our organization to promote through our membership those individuals who meet only the highest standards of professionalism. Therefore, writers, directors or producers looking to hire a consultant or take classes in story related fields may utilize our website to enlist such services with ease and confidence. People looking for instruction or consultation can trust that they will be getting an experienced teacher or consultant who is a recognized authority and an accomplished professional.

Another of our primary goals is to advance and promote a greater understanding and appreciation of story in all media. Many of our members have authored some of the bestselling books in this field worldwide.  Through eiACE, we will continually be offering workshops, lectures and seminars that promote some of the most cutting edge work being done today. We aspire to be a laboratory for the creative work that is continually developing the field of narrative.”


Here’s the trailer for FIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: PARADISE CALLS, which I had the pleasure of leading the writing and post teams on over the last 26 weeks or so.  It’s making its debut on YouTube on 10/31.  Scary, silly fun, and one of the best examples I can give of how reality producers (in this case, led by the great Alpine Labs team) can create an outrageous world that allows participants to experience it without having to be led by the nose.

Check it out just in time for Halloween.

Pro Tip Grab Bag


Hi, all.  Gee whiz, it’s been a while… I feel like a ghost on my own blog.

Thought I’d pop by with a grab bag of pro tips that aren’t long enough for their own features, but that have been hard-won lessons along the way.  Enjoy.

A 44-minute docusoap typically keeps its pace best at 12-15 scenes.  Don’t overload it.  More is not more.  More is too much.

You can’t tell five stories in an episode with a cast of five people.  People can participate in others’ stories, but it’s best to keep to an A,B,C and maybe single-scene D story.  Yes, if you have a one-scene nonsequitur moment that you want to use (maybe because it’s funny), it probably belongs at the top of Act 2.

Get somebody in the room who hasn’t seen the edit to watch down your rough cut.  You know the material and your brain fills in the gaps in logic and story based on that familiarity.  Let fresh eyes that you don’t have to answer to get a look.

Stick up for the show, not just your ideas.




Signature Looks; RACKED Magazine Feature

Screen shot 2017-03-19 at 6.48.51 PM

Check out this fun piece over at in which I’m quoted about signature looks being helpful or harmful to reality participants, mostly pertaining to those kitchen-wiz kinders over at MasterChef Junior, which you really should be watching.

Just click on the image above to be whisked right over.  Whisked.  Oh, just go.

2017 New Year’s Resolution Suggestions for Reality Television Viewers and Producers

All shined up for another year.

Well, here we are, not so deep into 2017.  I’m wrapping up on season three of Vh1’s K Michelle:My Life and looking forward to some new shows and non-TV opportunities the year is already hinting at… including another book.

If you know me, you know what a fan of lists I am.  I keep a list of goals to be accomplished in one year, five, and ten, and I’m also a big fan of making resolutions.

While I’ll be keeping mine to myself, as I usually do, here are a few that reality television viewers and producers might want to consider if they haven’t already filled up on “stop eating donuts” and “spend more time with Mom.”


In 2017, I will…

… try to remember that reality television, like scripted, depends on conflict as an element of story.

… be skeptical of anyone publicly ranting about how a show “made them look,” while watching shows with a critical eye just in case overly heavy-handed producing is in play.

… write or email networks in support of the shows I like.

… stop blaming reality television for Donald Trump in water cooler conversation.  It’s not like the American Idol judges picked the president, the electoral college did.

… eat healthier snacks while watching The Voice.

… read more articles at and listen to Joke and Biagio’s podcasts at


In 2017, I will…

… remember the credo “Everything can be made better than it deserves to be,” while also accepting that you should just do the notes if you can.

… establish style guides and then give the editors a little room to execute.  Don’t crowd ’em.

… think of the post team while in the field as more than the bank from which overdrafts are covered.

… think of the field team while in post, especially when writing massive amounts of pickup material or reviewing content that may not be perfect.

… establish what you expect before something is shot and cut.  “I’ll know when I see it” isn’t leadership.

… spend at least as much time contemplating story as the overall look of the series.  All beauty and no brains makes for a dull show.

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