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Premiering Miller Williams

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  • Mark Wilcken
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I've noticed a ritual that's developed whenever I have a new show on AETN. The night of the premiere broadcast I come to AETN about a half hour early and hang out in Master Control. I talk with whoever is on duty but we both know I'm there to make sure the show starts without any glitches. This isn't something I should worry about because we have some great people in the engineering department and any issues have been worked out well in advance. But I still do it. For whatever superstitious reason I feel I need to be in the building. Once the show has started I excuse myself from Master Control and go up to my office where I watch the rest of the show on a monitor at my desk. When it's over, I go home, waving good-bye to the Master Control operators on my way out.

This past Monday my show on Miller Williams premiered and I found myself involved in the same odd ritual. I arrived at AETN a little after 9pm and stopped by Master Control to talk to Russell with whom I share an interest in the BBC show, "Dr. Who". We chatted up the Christmas special and the coming season and when the moment seemed right I asked about Miller. Russell assured me everything was ready to go, including a back-up tape if there was a problem with the computer. There really wasn't anything to worry about, but this was a unique moment for AETN. The Miller Williams episode of "Men & Women of Distinction" is the first show at AETN to have been shot, edited and broadcast in HD. We've broadcast a few other HD shows in the past, but those came from outside sources. This show was done completely internally. As the clock ticked closer to 9:30pm both Russell and I watched the wall of monitors for the change over. It went without a glitch. I stayed a few minutes longer to make sure any disasters had truly been averted then went to my office to watch the rest of the show.

Sitting in my office I watched the show about Miller Williams both critically and with some melancholy. Mixed in with my other productions and responsibilities here, it takes about a year to produce one of these shows. As I watched I couldn't help but reflect on all the moments that combined to make the experience of this production. Every show you produce is it's own little adventure filled with people and events that are unique to that adventure. So when it's over you can't help but feel a little sad that the experience is over. The same thing happened with Dr. Elders, Judge Morris Arnold and Jane Krutz. These nights, when the show premieres I'm also casting a critical eye on the work I'm presenting. Usually by this time a couple months have passed since I've seen the show in its entirety so I can watch with fresh eyes all the decisions I made over the past year. Did we pick the right location for the interview? Was the lighting right? Should I have waited longer for the walk-and-talk? Did I edit it properly. Did I choose the right music? Did I choose the right photos? Throughout a production like this a producer makes thousands of small decisions. When all is said and done you hope you made the right ones. Looking at "Men & Women of Distinction: Miller Williams" I am happy with all the decisions I made and how the show turned out. Miller was an amazing subject to work with and a man with an amazing life story. But my favorite shot, my favorite decision was to cut in the picture of Miller kissing his wife Jordan when he's talking about the greatest influences in his life. I could have cut in a picture that showed Jordan's face better; or a picture of the two of them side by side, but the photo of them kissing was so endearing I couldn't possibly leave it out. To me, that picture best represents the Miller Williams I met and got to know this past year. 

When the show was over I turned off my TV, walked downstairs, waved good-bye to Russell and drove home. At some point in the next year I'll do this all over again.