Lights, Camera, Action! Media Studies Program Attends Taping of ‘Harry’

As a Media Studies and Production student, Marist’s proximity to New York City is invaluable.  Being only about an hour-and-a-half drive from the center of Manhattan, Marist takes full advantage of the opportunities in NYC to enrich the Media Studies Program, with day trips to give students like myself a glimpse into the real world of production (there’s also the Marist in Manhattan semester-long program that allows students to get even more of an immersive experience!)

On March 1st, about fifty students and a majority of the Media Studies faculty headed for the CBS Broadcast Center to view an afternoon taping of Harry, the newest talk show hosted by Harry Connick Jr.  The show is shown on Fox, owned by NBC, and filmed in the CBS studios.  Confused?  So was I, until the producers explained to us that that’s the world of syndicated television, meaning one studio can own the “idea” of a show (NBC), another can win the bid to air the show (FOX), and another can rent out their studio space (CBS).

CBS front

After having some free time to grab lunch, (my friends and I found an underground food market called Turnstyle on 57th and 8th that I would highly recommend, the grilled cheese gets a 10/10) we entered the studio to meet with Harry’s Audience Coordinator.  With live, audience-based shows such as Harry, we learned the importance of getting the audience excited for the show, kept in suspense about the guests, and ready to actively participate on camera.  

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Even if media production isn’t your thing, I’m sure you can appreciate this photo of a delicious grilled cheese from Turnstyle.

Finally, we were able to enter the main stage, which was where the magic of television happens.  The first thing you notice is how cold the studio is – and not because we went in the middle of winter.  The studios are kept purposefully cold for many reasons, one: so the host, guests, and audience don’t sweat (which is never attractive on camera) and to counterbalance the huge amounts of lights suspended from the ceiling producing heat.  The Marist group was directed to the front, and I found myself seated in the second row right on the aisle (when I was informed that due to camera angles, aisle seats get featured on TV more, I realized I’d probably see my frizzy, rain-soaked hair on TV more than I’d like.)

Even though filming didn’t start until about 45 minutes after we entered the studio stage, watching the production crew at work was enthralling.  Harry Connick Jr.’s band provides all the sound for the show, so they were tuning their instruments and practicing intros while the floor manager directed cameras, set up marks, and made sure everything was running according to schedule.  Meanwhile, the audience was given a few instructions of our own, including a run-down of how a typical daytime talk show is filmed.

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I’ll let you in on a secret: (if you don’t want to ruin your viewing experience of daytime TV, I won’t be offended if you skip to the next paragraph) multiple episodes are shot in one taping, and the guests are shot out of order.  This meant that, quite hilariously, we had to greet Harry and his first guest, (since the episodes haven’t aired yet I don’t feel comfortable spoiling the surprises of who we got to see!) then the cameras stopped rolling, and Harry told us, “Okay, now we’re going to shoot that a second time with a different guest, and you have to pretend like you’ve never seen me before.”  While deep-down I’d always known shows were filmed out of order like this, getting to see it unfold in front of me was a completely new experience.

Harry is an incredibly audience-interactive show, which meant we got to see the Audience Coordinator and Floor Manager actively at work, directing the production crew, the audience, or Harry himself.  Between guests or commercial breaks, the set doesn’t slow down.  The team works flawlessly as a unit; the audience is briefed on the next segment, sets are changed, makeup has to be reapplied, and scripts have to be checked.  There was even a few free moments during break where Harry answered questions from the crowd about the other side of live television which – I, as a production student, often forget about – is being in front of the camera.  

IMG_1004After about three hours of shooting, we got to speak further with the Audience Coordinator about his career path, industry advice, and opportunities for undergraduates internships with major networks.  

Sometimes, it’s very easy to get caught up in the classroom environment, forgetting that there is a real industry out there, with real production units putting the skills we learn every day to work.  This entire experience reinvigorated my excitement for my major and future career opportunities, and I was truly grateful to the Media department for organizing such a wonderful opportunity for students.

Learn more about Marist’s Media Studies and Production major here.

Visit HarryTV for more information about the show.

Have any questions about the Media Studies major? Feel free to comment below!

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