How to Be A Helpful Volunteer Behind the Scenes (on Television Shows)

The best way that you can help out is be agreeing to be agreeable. Remember that everyone is all on the same team, and we stick together to get the best work done. 

Yes, you have a particular assignment, but you are not in charge of the entire studio area or the entire control room area.  (If you are the Director of the show, you are pretty much in charge of the Control Room, with the prior instructions from the Executive Producer of the show).  If you are in the studio area, and you are the Floor Manager, it is your job to see that everything inside the studio area is done properly. 

That means you check on everything.  Other producers do different jobs in the studio area, such as connecting the XLR and other cables, testing microphones, setting up and focusing the cameras.  You, as the Floor Manager, should be certain that everyone knows what they are doing.  If someone has a problem in the studio area, they probably will come right to you first. 

As a Floor Manager, you will be in constant contact with the Director, through the use of headphones. The Director will give you instructions on what to do (i.e. Tell the guest you have five minutes left, signaling for “Quiet on the Set”, and things like that.).   You will be in charge to give the wrap up sign when the Director tells you. Never rely on your own judgment but take the directions from the Director who is in the control room.  This is how you can be most helpful.  Knowing your job, and following instructions is crucial when you are the Floor Manager.

As a Camera Operator, you will be in charge of your own camera after the Director gives you the assignment.  Put the camera on the right spot, and focus it.  You might have to refocus during different times of the show, depending on the situation.  Know all the terms, such as “pan”, “truck” etc, so that you know what to do when the Director gives the orders.   Keep your camera safe, clean and out of reach of any children who might be in the studio area. If there are children in the studio area and they are not seated, stay with your camera at all times.  Before you leave the camera for any reason, “lock” the camera, and then leave.  Tell someone, by way of the headphones and clear-com that you are leaving your post. And do not leave your post once there is “Quiet on the Set”.    You can help best by staying at your post, keeping your cellular phone turned off, and by not bringing any liquids or other refreshments into the studio area.

As the sound person or audio person, you will take charge of setting up the cables, and testing the microphones.  Make sure every cable is connected and make sure you test all the microphones, even if the guests are not present yet.  You can have other producers or production assistants sit where the guest would sit and they will assist you in testing the microphones by talking into the appropriate microphones.

As a guest, audience member, host or co-host, you can help best by following all the studio and control room rules.  Probably the most important rule is to refrain from bringing drinks, or other refreshments or food into any control room or into the studio area.  The management provides a nice area for refreshments outside the studio area, so enjoy your drinks and food there.  Refrain from bringing any alcoholic drinks or alcoholic foods into the studio area, lounge or other parts of the building.   (Unless your show is about alcohol, then  you do not need to bring it to the building).  Everyone needs to be on their toes during all the productions.   The next way that you can help best is by following the other rules that are clearly posted on the doors of studio and control room and posted in other areas of the building.   For example, in our particular studio, the control room is reserved for volunteers only, interns, and certified television producers.  If you are a guest, host or co-host and you are not certified as a producer, and you are not an intern or a (approved volunteer), then you need to stay out of the control room.  These are the ways you can be of the most help to the producers, staff and to the Director and Executive Producer.

The general rules that are for everyone: 

1.  Turn all cellular phones off;  do not put them on vibrate–turn them completely off. The Director, Floor Manager and Host need your full undivided attention once the “Quiet on the Set” signal is given.  If your phone is on vibrate, then you are not attending to the show but rather attending to your own private business.  (If you have someone in the hospital, make the Executive Producer aware of this and I am sure that you will be accomodated by being given special consideration with regards to the cellular phone rules).

2. Keep all foods and beverages out of the areas of studio and control room.  If you see anyone else bringing these things in, kindly bring it to the attention of the Executive Producer or to the Director.

3. If you are working on the set and you do not know whom the Director or Producer is, just ask.  Usually there is a pre-production meeting where everyone is introduced, but if you missed the meeting, ask any questions that you need to ask –before the “Quiet on the Set” signal.

4. Listen to the “Quiet on the Set”, and I do mean listen.  I know this is hard, because I, myself, have spoken after the signal –when no action took place immediately, but I have learned that silence is best –once the signal is given.  So follow example and be quiet on the set, once the Director gives the signal.  (Quiet means no talking at all–not just talking quietly, but it means keep quiet, stop moving around, stay at your post or in your chair and do not disturb anything in the set or studio).

So, that is a brief introduction of how to best help in a television show — behind the scenes.

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