Archive for the ‘30 Years in Television’ Category

 

 

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Don’t say, the end is near
Don’t fade to black, don’t draw that curtain
My colleagues, I’ll say it clear
Directors know, they can be certain
I’ve had a career that’s full
I cued from each and every doorway
And more, much more than this, I did it your way

Mistakes, I’ve made a few
But then again, too few to mention
And now what I really want is health insurance and to grow my pension
I planned each perfect shot, each rundown step with no room for play
And more, much more than this, I did it your way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
Producers bit off more than they could chew
But we did it all, when there was no time
My crew and I, to make you shine
Directors all know we stood tall and did it your way

I’ve lead so many stars
I’ve had my fill, my share of wrangling
I’ve always been polite to divas whom I’ve felt like strangling
To think I did all that
For 30 years, in such a sure way
Oh, yes, oh, yes, t’was me, I did it your way

For what is a stage manager, what has she got?
If not her crew, then she has naught
To find the shots the director “feels”
Remind a cameraman, that thing has wheels
Everyone knows, I worked your shows and did it your way!

Yes, it was your way

www.linkedin.com/pub/kim-miller/11/23a/b36/

 

I am available for any and all TV stage managing opportunities.  Please contact me at DJGRRR17@aol.com with any leads or inquiries.

 

With love and thanks to Frank, Paul and Claude.

314799_4865839976057_1080256591_nYour resume must look sharp.  Your job search methods must be fresh, creative, powerful.  You need a prepared list of personal and professional references and a versatile cover letter that can be tweaked for every different type of potential interview.  And you need to network, network, network!  This was just some of the helpful advice doled out this morning by my Jersey Job Club leader, a lovely woman named Cynthia.

What is a Jersey Job Club?  It’s a helpful meeting place for unemployed people living in the Garden State, a “club” where job seekers can go to get ideas, get advice, get encouragement and, of course, network.  I sat through a 90-minute orientation this morning in a drab East Orange building staffed by cheerful and helpful Department of Labor workers and I left feeling better about my chances of winding up back in the workforce.  There were about a dozen other women in the room with me, ranging in age from mid-60s to early 30s and crossing a wide swath of the career and education spectrum.  We had all been downsized by companies looking to save money, stay afloat or just plain go belly up.  We were all frustrated and rather stunned by our current situations and while we may have been a bit depressed and discouraged upon entering the room at 10am, I believe we all left feeling positive and empowered.

Some of the unemployed women in the room had had clerical jobs in nearby schools.  Some had worked in collections.  A few had worked for lawyers or executives.  They had all been employed in what I would consider more “conventional” fields than mine.  For the better part of three decades I have worked as a freelance television stage manager.  It’s never been the kind of job for which you would see a help wanted ad in a newspaper (remember newspapers?), or on a typical electronic job-search bulletin board.  It’s not the sort of position that requires the help of a headhunter.  It’s the kind of job that you somehow manage to get in your 20s, hopefully right out of college, and then maintain and grow through internal networking.  The more you work, the more new job leads you hear.  The different and creative ways that people use to obtain their first jobs in the industry are about as varied and numerous as there are job titles in TV production, from following in a family member’s footsteps to interning or working as a page to DJ-ing a TV station’s Christmas party and asking everyone there to send over the person who hires crew members.  Yeah, that last one, that was my creative path into the land of television.  Smart, right?  Serendipitous, even.  It worked and I had a fabulous 30-year career.

But lately the jobs have been hard to come by.  I worked the Olympic games in London, Vancouver, Beijing and Torino but not earlier this year in Sochi, and I’m still not really sure why.  I’ve had a few freelance gigs here and there, but not enough to live on.  And at the start of this year I thought my troubles were over when I landed a position on the crew of an awesome new cable health and wellness show.  We were supposed to be on the air for at least a year, maybe get picked up for syndication and survive past that projection, but the show was hemorrhaging money and was canceled after eight short months.  So now I’m unemployed again and having a hard time with it.

At the Job Club today we were reminded to stay focused and stay positive.  I have a difficult time with that no matter how much I try.  I asked Alyson Charles, one of the hosts of the show I had most recently been working on, to suggest a few daily affirmations I could say to hopefully keep my mind filled with positive thoughts that would crowd out the feeling of doom and gloom I so often experience in stressful situations.  She happily obliged.  My favorite was, “I am a being of Divine light and love and my purpose here is to embody that through my words, thoughts and actions. And so it is!”  Thanks, Aly.  I have been repeating that every day along with, “Help me please, thank you,” to stay positive and grateful and attract the job I desire.  I have treated my search as a full-time job and I have been networking my butt off.  Friends and colleagues have chimed in with leads and ideas, for which I am so very grateful.  I have looked through old contact numbers and reached out to people I have not heard from in years.  And, meanwhile, I have remained open to the idea of a new career in a similar but different field.  I’m not exactly 21st-century-ready but I’m smart and I learn quickly.

One suggestion the Job Club leader made today was to create something called a visual board.  It’s supposed to be sort of like a poster that you place where you can see it daily and it should contain images that represent your goal.  I told Cynthia and the other women in the room that I have been continuously and frequently changing my profile photos on Facebook and LinkedIn and rotating through older and newer pictures of me working as a stage manager to remind myself, other people and the universe in general what it is that I have done, what it is that I DO, still.  Then I asked if that counted as a visual board.  It does.  But just to make sure, here are some more photos that I send out, with all good intentions, to affirm what it is that I am, what I do, what I want and deserve:

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Thanks for reading this blog post.  If you have any job leads, please let me know!  DJGRRR17@aol.com


I love women. 

I also love men.  As a person who is trying her best to “Do unto others…” and lead an authentic, wholesome life, I tend to love everyone first and ask questions later.  There are, most definitely, people on the planet who turn my stomach and fill me with nothing but wholesome disgust, but I love them anyway and wish for them happiness, enlightenment and peace.  It amazes me, though, how many people there are who simply assume that, because I am a lesbian, I automatically hate men.

In the late 1980s and early 90s, I worked at a local TV station in Secaucus, New Jersey.  I would make the daily drive in from Brooklyn, against the usual flow of rush-hour traffic to my job as a stage manager, working on shows such as 9 Broadcast Plaza (with a young Matt Lauer), Steampipe Alley (with an even younger Mario Cantone) or, if I happened to be on the late shift, The Morton Downey, Jr. Show and the 10 o’clock news.  I loved my job and I worked with a lot of great people.  The place was so busy that parking spaces were difficult to find and the lunchroom was always full.

As a television stage manager I have to tell a whole crew of people what to do and when to do it.  I have to cue talent and guests out and give time cues and get the audience involved and keep the director informed about what is happening on the studio floor and backstage and do whatever he or she needs to make the show successful.  It’s an important but fun job, suited perfectly for a multitasking, think-on-your-feet, physically fit, motivational yet polite person.  You can never panic.  You can never bark at people.  You need to be able to get the audience members to applaud even when they’re not sure they want to.  And you have to stay one or two steps ahead of everyone and everything.  I have been a stage manager for more than 30 years and I can’t think of a regular job I’d rather do.  My job has taken me all around the country and the world, to presidential conventions, dog shows, basketball and football games, museums, debates and five different Olympics.  It’s been a blast.

At Channel 9 in Secaucus all those years ago, I made some lifelong friends.  A lot of them were men.  A lot of them went on to bigger and better things as the station started to shed productions and jobs.  We were there in the good old days and didn’t have a clue at the time.  It’s only now, all these years later, that we can reflect, through social media opportunities, on how good we had it back then, when we all worked together and thought of each other as family.  I had friends who were cameramen and audio engineers and technical directors and associate directors and show directors and janitors.  There were women in all those jobs, too.  Everyone said hello to everyone.  The hallways were abuzz with activity.  There were days, back then, when it even seemed like everyone was “sleeping” with everyone.  That sounds like an idea for a future blog post.

Recently I was hired to work on an independent TV production that airs daily on cable.  The broadcast company needed studio space so they shopped around and found some nice, clean, available studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.  Channel 9 is nearly empty now.  Almost everyone who ever worked there is gone.  The hallways are quiet, the whole upstairs floor is dark and old equipment litters the studios and control rooms.  Two of the three studios have not been converted to digital, so no one wants to rent them for anything.  Studio C, though, where up until recently WWOR created its own nightly news program, is fairly up-to-date.  The audio board is an ornery relic and the arm on the jib camera isn’t very long, but the whole place works so it was available to rent.  A friend called me and told me to get my butt over there and ask for a job.  I got one.  Not exactly the job I was hoping for, but after three years of almost complete unemployment, I’ll take it.

When I walked in for my interview, the first person I saw in the studio was Richie.  He was up on a scissor lift, working on some lighting in the grid.  “Yo, Bro,” I yelled up to him, to the surprise of the production manager who was leading my interview.

“Slim!” Richie yelled back, using his old nickname for me.  He brought that scissor lift down and gave me an awesome hug.  Soon, Billy was there and hugging me, too.  Then Tommy and Jim.  My old stagehands.  My men.  My brothers in production.  I had known them all for at least 25 years but hadn’t seen any of them in eons.  They were old.  I was old.  We’re in our 40s and 50s and 60’s now, but working together again has given us all a renewed youth and a chance to scoff at the kids working alongside us who seem to have very little respect for the accomplishments and experience of their elders.  Twenty and 30 years ago, we weren’t like that.  Richie and I discussed what it was like coming up in the industry in the early 1980s, when the old guys then were all part of the greatest generation.  They were WWII photographers who became cameramen, Navy radiomen who became audio engineers, men who, as mere kids, parachuted into France to free the world of Nazis.  By the mid-80s they were middle-aged, the way Richie and I are now.  And we treated them with the utmost respect and reverence.  We listened to their stories and learned from them.  We loved those men.

And I love my men.  I love Richie and Billy and Tommy and Jim.  We don’t see eye to eye on every little thing.  We come from different backgrounds.  We’ve taken different roads.  I have always been out to them, though, and could not even imagine any of them acting judgemental of me because of my sexual orientation.  I have told them all, many times, if a crazy war suddenly broke out in our backyards, I would want them on my side.  They have said the same about me.  We work well together and treat each other with respect.  No, I don’t want to sleep with them.  But I really do love working with them.  And back in the day, I really loved partying with them, too.  When we were kids who had the energy and the time.

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, as of yesterday, my position at the new show has been eliminated.  I still love my men, but they will have to carry on without me.  Anyone who knows of a production looking for a good, reliable, professional stage manager or A2, please let me know.

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Superpower

Posted: October 11, 2013 in 30 Years in Television
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I’d love to have a superpower, although I think it would be a huge responsibility.  I’ve gone through moments of wishing to be strong like Superman, or just to be able to fly, so I could go anywhere I wanted.  I’ve thought about being able to become invisible and how I would not use my ability to rob banks and spy on people but I might use it to sneak onto airplanes so I could see the world, maybe even help people somehow.

Today I have been thinking about a Twilight Zone episode I saw a million years ago about a street peddler who sometimes would hand people, for free, an item he just knew they would soon need.  He had an ability even he couldn’t understand and in the episode he hands a pair of scissors to a total stranger, a man in a suit and tie with a scarf around his neck.  The man tries to argue and give them back but the peddler insists and rather than go on fighting about it the man puts the scissors in his pocket and walks away.  Soon after, he gets into an elevator and his scarf, both ends of his scarf, get caught in the elevator doors.  As the elevator rises he begins to choke and tries in vain to free himself.  Then he remembers the scissors in his coat pocket and uses them to save himself.  The look on his face is priceless.

I think I would like that power, on a grander scale.  It would be awesome to know exactly what people needed, really needed – like a new well for clean water, or a job with better hours so a single mom could work and spend time with her kids – and then have a special way of making it happen.  It makes me wonder if it’s not time to go into a different field, a new line of work where I could make a difference in the world.  I don’t even watch television, yet I enjoy making television.  It’s a stupid job but it’s how I’ve been earning a living and wasting my time (on and off, mostly off right now) for the last 30 years.  Whom have I helped?

 

Image      I once spent an entire day with Susan Sarandon, working on a Public Service Announcement with Christopher Reeve, shortly before he passed away so tragically.  The producer spent a lot of time with Christopher and his wife and the director and LD, discussing exactly how to capture the essence of the copy that was written for the two of them, the actors, so Susan just kind of held herself back and waited until they needed her.

If it happened today she might have spent all her down time on her iPhone or iPad, texting and keeping up with Twitter or Facebook or the news, but this was at least 15 years ago and those options weren’t available to her.  So she hung out with me.  The whole day!  And every now and then we would actually shoot a part of the PSA, but then we would stop for more discussion, more tweaking.  So Susan and I would gravitate toward each other and chat some more.  She talked to me the way she might have talked to a sister, telling me about her relationship with David Bowie after they made The Hunger together, which I made sure to tell her I loved because what’s not to like about Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve in the same lace-shrouded bed?  She told me she loved living in Connecticut so her kids didn’t have to grow up in Hollywood.  And she told me Christopher Reeve was a good friend and she was glad he had asked her to be a part of the PSA, a 60-second spot to raise awareness for his Christopher Reeve Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis Foundation.

It was an exciting day of work, but I don’t go nuts over celebrities in the studio.  I am a professional, remember.  Or, I was, back when I had a job.  I really need to get back in the game.  I worked early yesterday morning at the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th Street.  It was just one day of work.  My first this month.  As far as I can tell, I have at least 5 more gigs this month.  I’ve been praying for more, for abundance.  Not too much.  Just… enough. 

For the work that is beginning to trickle in again, I am grateful.  For my own wonderful, Susan Sarandon-like friends, I am very grateful.  And for my limbs that work and every breath I take, I am extremely grateful.   Image

Image                Probably half of the celebrities I met in the very early days of my stage managing career are dead now.  I spent those first few years at Channel 5 in New York, back when it was still WNEW and owned by Metromedia.  Phil Rizzuto, Donna Reed, Rocky Graziano, Carroll O’connor, Gwen Verdon, Dizzy Gillespie, Jim “Catfish” Hunter.  I could literally go on and on.  People always ask me what celebrity I’m the most proud to have met and my automatic answer never fails to make me smile and start me reminiscing about my days at Channel 5.  I grow almost misty-eyed when I tell them:

Rosa Parks.

Sister Rosa, as the Neville Brothers so eloquently call her in their song about her.  She was old and frail already back then.  It had to be 27 or 28 years ago.  She was wearing a long cloth coat and wire-rimmed glasses and her silver hair was tied back and off her face, maybe even up in a bun.  There is no photo of the two of us together, unfortunately, but I can say that when I greeted her and shook her hand it was like shaking hands with history itself.  I was in my early 20s, a baby, but I knew it was a special moment and I will never forget it for as long as I live.  At least, I hope so.  I hope, if I do live a long long time, to be one of those feisty old grandmas, with a perfectly intact memory, who sits on a rocking chair under a blanket, sipping tea, and tells the best stories about the good old days.  You know, the ones who curse and tell it like it is, or was.  While all the grandchildren sit around mesmerized and their moms, my daughters, tell me to stop swearing and tone it down.

Rosa Parks was the most relaxed, most dignified, most patient celebrity I have ever met.  She traveled with a very small group of people, there was no fuss, she smiled and shook everyone’s hand and gave a great interview while the whole crew watched, amazed.  When the interview was over she smiled and graciously thanked the entire crew and quietly left with the same small group of people who had escorted her in.  I watched Rosa walk across the semi-dark studio, all the way to the door.  The image is etched right behind my closed eyes.  I am blessed to have made her acquaintance.

Mort Shorts

Posted: September 20, 2013 in 30 Years in Television
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2/17/91

Shortly after Mort figured out that his favorite stage manager was a lesbian, the producers put together a show about beauty contests.  About a dozen young, female former contestants were scheduled to appear on the program, along with their promoter, a loud and obnoxious, raspy-voiced woman who seemed very protective of her “girls.”

During the promo session, before the taping of the actual show, Mort came up to me, put his arm around my shoulders and quietly said, “Hey, pal.  This is one show we can enjoy together.”

I told him no, I didn’t think so.  “I respect women as human beings,” I told him.  “They’re not objects to me”

He chuckled.

He didn’t get it.

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Morton Downey, Jr. according to Joe Franklin:
“Grrrrrrrreat guy.  Full of energy, right?  He gave a lot of presents he couldn’t pay for to a lot of people.  Including me.
I didn’t go into it.

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A few audience members actually sneaked up to the set after some shows to take Mort’s cigarette butts out of his giant ashtray to keep as souvenirs.  Mort smoked approximately seven cigarettes per show.