Celebrity Corner: Bart Montgomery: Promotional Wizard (Part 2)

4 11 2013

Please read here for Part 1 of the interview:  https://pbmom.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/celebrity-corner-bart-montgomery-promotional-wizard-part-1/

How long do you get to work on a particular preview before it goes to air? Have there ever been close calls to deadlines? Can you share anything specific if you did?

Usually you get a week to work on promos for a show during the regular television season. You want to finish promos for an episode at least a week before the episode airs so there’s time for viewers to see them. On launch promos for new shows you get a longer time frame, perhaps weeks or months because you have the pilot episode already. For returning shows, you have to wait for production to start before you can get material to cut promos with.

There have been some close calls when it comes to a promo making air. Back in the day when I was doing promos for “America’s Most Wanted,” we would promo the specific fugitive that the show was looking for and sometimes viewers would see the promos, recognize the fugitive, call the police and the fugitive would be arrested before the actual episode could air. This would throw everything off and we would quickly have to produce new promos featuring a different fugitive. I remember having an hour to produce a new promo and finishing just in time for the new promo to be slapped into a tape machine and broadcast. Haven’t had to do that in a long time, thank God.

(X-Files Promos)

How do you decide which way to take a preview? I noticed that just recently on Twitter you asked viewers what they wanted to see in a preview and you got a pretty good response–no spoilers, action, explosions, relationships, which I think pretty much covers all aspects.

Ideas on how to approach doing a promo will usually come to me while I’m watching an episode. I take lots of detailed notes on dialogue and shots that I like. For “Fringe” alone I’ve taken around 2000 pages of notes. Notes make things move faster during an edit session because it’s easier to find what you need.

During most of my career I’ve never really had an occasion to ask fans of a show what they’d like to see in a promo / trailer. Twitter provided the perfect opportunity to learn what fans thought about how a favorite show is being sold to them. I asked fans questions when I was working on “Fringe” and the responses were very helpful. The music we used in the final “Fringe” promos was suggested by a fan. Fox has always been a leader in embracing new technology. Twitter is a wonderful tool for promotion and linking fans together and with “Fringe” it really showed. There are some AMAZING “Fringe” fans in the Twitter-verse and I am still awed by what they were able to pull off.


(Fringe Promo–Thanks @NataliaQuique)

I think that in some aspects part of your job is sales. You have to sell a show in a very specific short period of time. I think it is very reminiscent of commercials for products except people are usually flipping through commercials on their DVRs. Would I be right to think that while flipping through these commercials they have to see this preview of an episode and want to stop and look at it before they continue flipping through the products to get back to their show? If so, that’s pressure!

Television promos and trailers can be considered an art form but in the end yes, you are selling something. Promo producers are acutely aware that viewers are very adept at wielding the DVR remote. I try to have at least one shot in whatever promo I’m producing that will entice a viewer to stop fast-forwarding through a commercial break and rewind the DVR to watch the entire promo. Sometimes a few frames of a promo will be all you have to promote a show so you’ve got to really think about what you’re putting on the screen. It has to be interesting. It has to be compelling because most everyone is an expert at watching television and people know when you’re messing with them. The audience knows when you’re not being honest. They may not be able to quantify exactly why something in a promo or trailer isn’t quite right but they know something’s wrong. Make sense?

Alcatraz Promo

Have there ever been moments where after a piece airs you feel you could have done things a little differently, or is there no second guessing yourself in this line of work?

Yeah, I have thought of better ways to do a promo after the fact. Sure, there are a times when I feel that I absolutely nailed it but they’re rare. Given time you can find a million different ways to make a promo so there is some second guessing, I suppose.

I remember a particular promo I did for “The X Files” that had a shot in it that I thought was really cool. I didn’t stop to consider that younger viewers might be frightened by this shot. It was just a cool creepy shot to me. So the promo aired and I got a few irate e-mails from some parents who didn’t appreciate having to explain the “coolness” of this particular shot I’d used to their children. They were right. I learned from that mistake and don’t think I’ve ever repeated it.
Second guessing has its merits the trick is to do your second guessing before the promo airs.

With all the changes coming so rapidly in the way people view television, do you have any thoughts about the future for promotional clips?

Yes, things are changing fast in the world of television viewing. I think the future of what a promo will look like and how it will be viewed will evolve depending on one thing and that is when a viewer records a show on a DVR or streams it off the internet, will that viewer be able to fast-forward through promos. We all know that right now if you record a show on DVR, you can blaze through anything by fast-forwarding. Will that continue to be possible? We’re already starting to see disabled fast-forwarding in video on demand and streaming. Will that extend into all viewing options? Only time will tell.

Regardless of what happens, my personal philosophy regarding promos is this: Most everyone who watches television is an expert at watching television. Even if they can’t quantify why what they’re watching promo wise feels wrong or out of place, they will know something is not right. Viewers know when they’re being messed with because they’re experts at watching television. So, if you’re viewing a recorded show and a promo begins to play, that promo had better somehow grab your attention from the first frame and be compelling enough so that you don’t fast forward through it, you just have to watch it. It’s as simple and complex as that.

The future of promos will be interesting. I suspect there will be many new options explored for enticing viewers to watch new shows as well as established ones. Ten years from now who knows what the promo world will look like? It’s certainly changed a lot in the last ten years. One of the most exciting things to me is fan participation. It’s amazing to see fans up-loading promos of their favorite shows to the internet and sharing them with others or creating their own fan made pieces. It’s really cool. When fans get involved in this way, great things happen and as a promo producer, it’s really a lot of fun to watch!

Bart next to the Headless Horseman costume from Sleepy Hollow

Bart next to the Headless Horseman costume from Sleepy Hollow

I’d like to thank Bart for being SO generous with his time and his answers and to @NataliaQuique for being the ultimate uber-Bart-fan who gave me an idea and a push in the right direction.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know him better.  I sure did!





Celebrity Corner: Bart Montgomery: Promotional Wizard (Part 1)

1 11 2013

For a brief period of time from August 2008 until November of 2008 I had the tremendous opportunity to be part of a live newscast for Fox 26 Houston for a segment once a week called “Your Family Matters.” Other women within the community were also invited. While I was not on every week, because I had a unique perspective of being a mother of a child with a disability or politically because of my no-party affiliation, I was often selected for a particular topic as part of a group. I was captivated by all the elements that went into a production of a newscast. Every job is important. About the same time, I found a blog by Joseph Mallozzi who was an executive producer and writer on the series Stargate. Oftentimes he would feature a Q&A of different people working on the show. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more of all the elements that went in to creating a popular series. Occasionally I get a chance to ask questions of people working on a show. Occasionally they graciously indulge my request for an interview. What I am learning is that their stories are far more fascinating.

One such person is Bart Montgomery. Many of us on Twitter got to know him as the man behind the promotional pieces for Fringe on Fox Broadcasting. He became a rock star to us (although the modest man he is, I imagine that he would blush that I have said that). I wanted to know more about his career and how he makes certain decisions that lead him to create the videos that lead the viewer to decide whether or not it is something they might want to view. The answers were so terrific that I had to break this up into two parts. Here is the first of two. Enjoy!

What is your official title at Fox?

Senior Writer/Producer, Fox On-Air Promo Creative.

How long have you been with Fox?

I’ve been with Fox for 16 years, first from 1990 – 1999 then from 2006 to present.

BartsEditBay

Where the magic happens!

How did you get into this particular field of work? Was it something you studied for in college, or something that you got on-the-job experience? If you didn’t study for this particular field in college, what was your major?

I studied Film and Television production at the University of Missouri-Columbia. There isn’t a university level course that I know of that deals with producing television promos. It’s kind of a specialized thing that you learn on the job. I mean, you can learn the basics of television and film production in college and that will help you in promo work but in my university experience, I never studied anything as detailed as promo or trailer production.

To tell the truth, I kind of fell into producing promos by chance. I had moved out to Los Angeles to get into the film and television business in some capacity. I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet but just wanted to get involved. Unfortunately I arrived in L.A. during a writer’s strike so there was no work to be had. Every show and film set was shut down. After a couple of weeks looking for work, a friend of mine from college who was living in Florida and knew I was looking, told me that a friend of hers in Florida had a sister who was working at a promo / trailer production company in Hollywood. She told me that I should contact her friend’s sister so I did. I met her the next day and she hired me on the spot for the high profile job of runner / tape librarian. I had a masters degree and I was running around Hollywood picking up and delivering video tapes. Exciting huh? It does prove, however, that when it comes to getting a job in Hollywood, it IS who you know.
After several months working as a “runner” I was delivering tapes to an edit session for one of the company owners, a man named Geoff Calnan, who is a legend in the promo business. I kid you not, he is a promo master and anyone reading this has seen his work. I had dropped off the videotapes that were needed for the session and Geoff turns to me and asks me what I wanted to do in the company. Without thinking I replied, “I want to do what you do, produce promos and trailers.” I remember he looked at me for a moment and said, “Okay, you’re doing the next promo for “Superboy.” “Superboy” was a syndicated show that we had the promo contract for at the time. So, that was the first show I ever produced a promo for and it launched my career. I’ve even found some of my “Superboy” promos on YouTube— Go figure.

You do/have done the previews for episodes like The Following, Sleepy Hollow, Fringe, Almost Human, Touch, and X-Files. What are some other shows?

Well, in addition to the shows you’ve listed, I can give you a short overview. I’ve produced promos for “America’s Most Wanted” “Beverly Hills 90210” “The Simpsons” “Married with Children” “Millenium” “Harsh Realm” “24” “Family Guy” “Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles” to name a few.

Is it a team effort to produce the one preview or do you work on a particular project/episode by yourself while others are working on other episodes?

Usually each producer is assigned a show to write and produce promos for. Sometimes, especially when a show is first launched on the network, several producers will be assigned to produce multiple launch promos. But, most of the time, there is a single producer for each show.

Fox is a very creative place to work. They give you a lot of freedom to try different approaches. I’m biased of course but I think Fox is the best network on television and I’m proud to work here. There, I said it.


(Space Above And Beyond within a commercial block)

Do you get to choose the music for a particular preview? If so you must have to listen to quite a variety and be very knowledgeable about current trends. Do you hear something and think, “That would be great for such-and-such show” or do you file it away for a different time in the future?

Yes, as a producer I usually select the music for the promos. There are times when someone at a higher level will have a specific music idea or there may be a new music track being offered at a reduced rate by an established band looking for exposure that we’ll use but most of the time it’s me listening to various production music libraries. I’m always listening to current popular music tracks looking for ways to use songs that that I think would be good for a show I’m working on. More often than not, I’ll find something really good that I’ll file away in my mind for possible use later. I remember listening to Pandora one morning on the way to work and hearing a song by the band Collide called “Am I Here? I just had to use it and it became the track I used for the “Fringe” Season 4 launch promos so sometimes it’s just pure luck that you find exactly what you need musically. I’ve used music from Trent Reznor to Johnny Cash and everything in between. One band I’m dying to use in a promo / trailer is Garbage, just haven’t found the right situation yet.

(Come back for Part 2 in the next day or so.  The best is yet to come!)





American Idol Season 12 Charlotte Auditions

29 01 2013

AmericanIdolLogoCharlotte, North Carolina. One of the places “The Hunger Games” was filmed. It is also known as the “Queen City.” Arrows were shot between diva queens Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. I was hoping they would get it out of the way at the top of the show and move on, but no, they had to drag it out. I do understand it happened and it has to be shown. But these are professional people. I love watching “So You Think You Can Dance” in part because the judges are not FIGHTING or being rude to each other. They can disagree with a performance but do it in a respectful manner. Nicki Minaj has some very insightful and constructive criticism for the contestants, but I’m finding myself drawn to the quiet energy of Keith Urban. I have never been a country music fan and all I know of Keith is that he is a successful country music singer from Australia who married Nicole Kidman. I actually now want to go listen to his music and find out more about him. If this is what I am going to see in Idol for the next several months, I really do not know if I can take it and for the first time since season 2, may decide not to watch. It is ironic that a Navy reservist, Brandy Hamilton, pleaded with them “Please don’t fight, it makes us sad” should be a wake-up call.

Nicki does like to talk, and, in fact, dominates the panel all the time. She is wonderful at lifting up a contestant’s spirits and finding something positive about them without crushing their spirit. But for me, she is beginning to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. She needs to be more concise with her comments. With four judges on the panel this year, I cannot imagine the live shows ever being on-time if things keep going on this way.

Scotty McCreery was on hand to pump up the crowd.  That is the American Idol finale results show that I went to see thanks to FOX VIP.

Naomi Morris. Nicki nicknames her “Omie” Nicki gives Naomi tips about her eye wear, that she needs to wear fake eyelashes and then her make-up will pop. Naomi massacred Aretha Franklin’s, “Respect.” Naomi should stick to making clothes. Perhaps she should try out for Project Runway? Marian looks like she is tired of bad singers. Randy I think was mesmerized at her boobs with the intermittent cringing of her singing.

So now that we have the bad singer out of the way, the next one should be a good one. Right? Joe Nemoyer decides that Andre Bocelli’s instruction to Chris Daughtry about singing while he was singing on the ground will improve his own singing. Nicki nicknames him “Jumanji.” He decides to sing, “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble because he is feeling….swell. How embarrassing for Joe that when the camera is getting a tight shot of his face laying down the audience was treated to…YUCK….a booger. Keith looks he feels a bit sorry for the kid. Randy thinks “never.” Mariah was a no. And Nicki just thinks she is in charge of the panel and talks and talks.

Brian Rittenberry’s wife has survived stage 4 appendix cancer. She got her hair and nails done on the chance she might get to see and/or hug Keith Urban. Brian sings, “Let It Be” by The Beatles. I like him. I got goosebumps and the wife got the hug she wanted.

Brian

Brian Rittenberry

Then there were three more yes votes, sending Jimmy Smith, Sarina-Joi Crowe, and Haley Davis through to Hollywood. Jimmy gave me goosebumps, while the other two had average voices. Na’Chelle Fullins-Lovell also made it through.

JimmySmith

Jimmy Smith

SarinaJoi

Sarina-Joi Crowe

HaleyDavis

Haley Davis

NaChelle

Na’Chelle Fullins-Lovell

 

We had too many good auditions in a row and when I saw Matthew Muse you knew it was going to be one of “those” auditions. Matthew also liked to talk about himself in the third person. Keith thought he was trying to channel Brad Paisley. Since I have never heard his music, I am going to assume that was not the case. Nicki looks like her blood sugar is dropping. “Cool dude.”

Next was the segment of the invitation. Dawgs are NOT allowed on the school bus, Randy, unless they are service dogs. You should know that. Isabelle Gonzalez was nominated by her aunt. She looks like Carly Rose Sonenclar. She sang a Sam Cooke song. It was not great. Sometimes I hear potential greatness, but sometimes she is off-key (I’ll chalk that up to nerves). I do like, however, that she has a different sound.

Isabel

Isabelle Gonzalez

Taisha Bethea sings in a rock band. But when she sang a Johnny Cash song, it did not sound like a Cash song turned into a rock song at all. The Alanis Morissette song was better. She is an average singer. It was two “yes” votes and two “no” votes. Apparently the tie-breaker in this city goes to Keith Urban, so it was a yes.

Taisha

Taisha Bethea

And then we get down to the controversial battle between Nicki and Mariah. Summer Cunningham sang “Lean on Me.” She has an average voice but nothing about her particularly stands out to me. Nicki said “yes.” Summer said she “already did the country thing” but she wanted to put more soul into it (insinuating that country music cannot be soulful). Keith Urban took offense to that. He has been pretty even with his emotions so far during his judging experiences. The comment obviously rubbed him the wrong way. Keith, Mariah and Randy said that she could be a country star, but was trying to also say nicely that her voice is not soulful R&B (like Summer thinks she is). Nicki took offense to all this because she did not think anyone should be pigeon-holed into a certain type of genre. I disagree with Nicki here. I am never going to hear a Nicki song thinking, “She could sing anything, even opera” because that is just not a reality. Summer is going through to Hollywood but how awkward was that for her. I don’t think she’ll make it to Vegas week.

Summer

Summer Cunningham

Day Two of Charlotte begins and Navy reservist Brandy Hamilton starts the day off well with an Etta James song. I got goosebumps. I really like her. As she was leaving she said, “Please don’t fight; it makes us sad.” Schooled by a warrior woman in the matters of peace.

Brandy

Brandy Hamilton

Ashley Scott (nicknamed Blondie) has a great personality. This is one of those times when the speaking voice does not match the singing voice. When she walked out with a gold ticket for Hollywood, some of her fellow contestants seemed shocked.

AshleySmith

Ashley Smith

Janelle Arthur played a young Dolly in a local theater production. She is through. And it was time for Keith Urban to fly to New York to be with Nicole Kidman as she gets an award from the New York Film Festival.

Janelle

Janelle Arthur

“The Voice of Charlotte”, Rodney Barber, sang Edward McCain’s “I’ll Be”. His voice gave me goosebumps.

My favorite of the night, however, was Candice Glover. She got cut in Vegas last year. I had heavy goosebumps here and Randy and Mariah gave her a standing ovation. Mariah said she was the best singer they had seen so far.

CandiceGlover

Candice Glover

“Frog Killer” Ja’Bria Barber sang Bonnie Raitt’s “Pride and Joy.” Is she related to Rodney Barber?  After hearing Candice Glover, this was just okay, not spectacular.

JaBria

Ja’Bria Barber

Brad Harris was rapper “Bakon” in Houston? Poor Houston.  He should just sing for pleasure.

Seretha Gunn would close the show with “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” By the look on the judges’ faces, they thought it would be a disaster. It was good. Her daughter, London, accompanied her. London nicknamed Nicki — DunDun (of course that is the same as saying London to that small of a child).

Seretha

Seretha and London Gunn

A total of 37 contestants made it through to Hollywood week. Next up: Baton Rouge, Louisiana