Christina Velocci: interning on lifestyle series Decked Out (week 1)

Back in October our NSI Lifestyle Series Producer students blogged about each day of their bootcamp training. The next step in the course is an eight-week internship on a lifestyle series. We’ve asked our students to write a weekly post about their experiences.

Christina Velocci, Architect Films, interning on Decked Out

Christina-Velocci

Christina is a communications graduate from York University and journalism graduate from Humber College. She has been working in the television industry for over seven years. Her experience includes television news as a production coordinator, videographer / reporter and, most recently, a news writer. Her current position is in lifestyle television as a researcher/coordinator at Architect Films

“I decided my first post should focus on a day my series producer Bree Tiffin and I spent, literally morning, noon and night together.

We started the day off around 8 a.m. on our way to the final day of filming for a Decked Out episode. Of course, by the time I had gotten in the car Bree had already been dealing with calls from the field about ice on the deck we were about to REVEAL …You can imagine how difficult it is to do an outdoor reveal when the nights start to go below freezing. This particular reveal was already turning out to be problematic and the day had just begun.

Bree informed me that the crew had been working on scraping the ice off the surface of the deck and we would see how day rolled out based on the ice removal. She and the director had already discussed contingency plans just in case the day’s itinerary was pushed back. She seemed pretty calm about the whole thing even though the ice could add an extra shoot day to our schedule. First note to self, try to stay calm and make alternate plans for unforeseen circumstances. Alternate plans are the only way to keep everyone on the crew calm and chugging along.

We arrived on site around 9 a.m. Luckily the ice was coming off and the whole crew, including our director and DOP, were polishing and cleaning up so that our stylist could begin her set up. Bree immediately went around to everyone on the crew to say hello. I think one her most important jobs and something she is quite skilled at, is acting like a cheerleader for her team. Whether out in the field or in the office, we are always told how well we are doing and what a good job we have done. I think especially for the crew in the field, as the weather gets worse, being outside can be very taxing on morale and Bree makes sure to pump everyone up as soon as she arrives on set.

You can really tell the difference in confidence level when she is around – everyone is uplifted and excited for the day. I know that other series producers use different styles of management but Bree focuses on positive team playing. I think this style works best with a smaller crew, especially when working with a construction crew. They all work really hard and really respond well when they feel they are respected. Our crew, in particular, is an actual family, so making the entire crew feel like an extension of that family seems to get everyone personally invested in the project.

Next Bree meets with Steve Milne our director, to discuss how the day will unfold. They go over beats and storyline for the day. Then Bree and I rolled up our sleeves and got to work. Whenever she can, our series producer always helps clean the deck and helps our stylist Heidi Richter bring décor items onto the deck. It’s an unwritten rule that everyone on set pitches in to get the deck set up for reveal. Clean up and set up can often take a lot of time, so all hands have to be on deck, including the series producer. I think this is one more way to raise team morale. Everyone is an equal.

After lunch, our host Paul Lafrance does his solo on-cameras. Bree usually watches on a monitor to make sure he hits all his points in the amount of time required for the show. Our host is a real professional and doesn’t really need coaching but a clap or a thumbs up reminds him what a great job he is doing. A happy host makes for a great show. And his energy level is really important to keep up. Homeowners can always sense the sentiment in the air and if we are all pumped about the deck, so are they! Once Paul has nailed it, it’s time to talk to the homeowners.

We don’t coach our homeowners on what to say or how to react but we do like to chat with them beforehand so they kind of know how things are going to unfold. And because homeowners are just regular people, (it’s usually their first time on camera), they are often nervous and don’t know what to expect. Our director always talks to them about the process and what they can expect from filming. This is where Bree gets to be a cheerleader again. She has been in contact with homeowners through the whole process and in the case of Decked Out, this can often be the first time they meet face-to-face. So she talks to them, lets them know they can react however they feel comfortable and gives uplifting words. Things like ‘The deck is great, Paul did an awesome job and you’ll love it,’ really lights them up so they are ready to go.

The last part is the most important part of the day – the big reveal!

When Paul and the homeowners are ready, Bree and I watched the reveal out of view on the monitor. She watches for timing and as a second set of ears. Director Steve Milne is really the one who conducts the reveal but Bree watches to make sure nothing is missed. It’s a collaborative effort between the series producer and director to make sure all the elements are met for the storyline of the show. And because the excitement of a reveal is a one-time thing, it’s important nothing gets missed. When the day was wrapped Bree and I helped clean up and chatted with homeowners.

The overall impression I got from the day on set is the theme of coaching and cheerleading. A series producer is the leader of the team. They are there to provide support in every way so that each person can do their job successfully. And moral support, especially in an outdoor work environment where you are fighting the cold and lagging energy. As soon as Bree arrived on set, there were big smiles all around. I can only imagine that happy team members reassure the series producer they are doing the right thing. And the crew want to know there is someone there to look to if things don’t go as planned.

Finally, Bree really showed me how a series producer is not only a leader but an equal member of the team. She isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and help clean the deck along side everyone else. She really doesn’t have to do it but she does… and I think everyone respects a boss who will get dirty with them to get the job done. Making your crew feel like they are an equally important part of the team is key to earning everyone’s respect.”

About Decked Out

Decked Out is an outdoor construction show that follows charismatic designer/carpenter Paul Lafrance through the process of creating backyard decks with a ‘creative edge’ for his roster of clients. It is an entertaining, funny, irreverent show for the viewer who is fascinated with, or even mildly interested in, watching (and learning about) the creative process of designing and building impressively intricate outdoor decks and beautiful backyard spaces. Each show follows, from concept to completion, the story of a backyard makeover with a focus on the construction of the unique deck project.

The central character throughout the series is Paul Lafrance, a 38-year-old carpenter and designer who runs his own small, successful boutique construction company. What’s compelling about Paul’s personal story is that he did this without any formal training, he learned carpentry and design all by himself. He’s a good-looking, well-spoken rock-star-like dude with a bit of an edge – while at the same time being very personable and charismatic. Paul’s creative edge and energy is visible in every episode and is an integral element of Decked Out’s identifiable tone.

NSI Lifestyle Series Producer is made possible by Program Partners Shaw MediaCorus Entertainmentand Bell Media; Supporting Sponsors Cineflix MediaPaperny EntertainmentFrantic FilmsRTR Media Inc.Big Coat ProductionsCellar Door ProductionsArchitect Films and Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA).

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