The Making of Images of Arizona
The following was adapted from a speech that Jillian Robinson gave to a Phoenix cultural organization three months before the premiere of Images of Arizona.
I was asked to speak about the making of Images of Arizona and share some of my experiences from the production. Now that I've told you about KAET and our Arizona Collection, let's look at the production of Images of Arizona from "cradle to grave," as we like to call it.
Research & Development
People often ask, where do we get our ideas? From a variety of sources: Viewers, community partners, brainstorming with people at the station and ongoing research. In the case of Images, we'd received the Friends of Arizona Highways photo workshop catalogue for years and always thought the trips would make interesting topics. We planned to tape three of them as part of a 13-part magazine series. When all of the funds for that project weren't raised, we decided we could still produce a wonderful special combining three segments into a single documentary. Basically, the notion was to tag along on the workshops and see some of Arizona's most spectacular destinations through the eyes of three of the magazine's top photographers.
Proposal & Fundraising
So we created a proposal. Our marketing department uses these to help raise funds for productions. We were delighted when Salt River Project agreed to underwrite the program. We had worked with SRP in the past. They had provided auxiliary production equipment for another project inspired by Arizona Highways and funded past KAET productions. So it was great to get their support again. Additional funding came from KAET's Program Partners. The Program Partners are KAET members who provide additional gifts for programs about the Arizona experience.
Pre-production: It's time to select the production team. For Images, the crew consisted of a segment producer, videographer and an audio person. Sometimes for a very large production like the 13-part cooking series we made, Savor the Southwest - we needed to go to bid to hire producers; we are a university licensee and follow ASU's guidelines in these matters. In the case of Images, we could draw from our freelance producer pool.
We found two producers that were uniquely qualified for the job. Lew Steiger, the producer of Jack Dykinga's workshop that rafted the Colorado River, is a river guide when he's not making films. He has been down the river nearly 200 times so he knows it like the back of his hand. Michael Tobias, the producer/director of the other two segments, has extensive experience making films with photographers. He has made such documentaries as A Day in the Life of India and A Day in the Life of Ireland, which dispersed dozens of photographers at a time to capture the essence of those places.
Once the team is formed, all of the logistical planning begins. Two shoots four to five days each. The Colorado River trip would run eight days. So we begin acquiring film permits, arranging travel and lodging for the crew, coordinating with the Friends of Arizona Highways about schedules. The list of details is awesome. Fortunately, several years ago I hired an intern from ASU. Suzanne Stock has evolved into a full time researcher and a crack production coordinator, so she handles most of these logistics now with minimal supervision.
In addition to the television production, we planned to have a parallel "Web production." Beth Vershure, KAET's station manager and my fellow executive producer, and I were the Web duo on location. We also formed a partnership with Arizona Central who had designed a beautiful Web site for our Savor the Southwest series. They would be our site designers for this project as well. There were numerous Web production details we would need to attend to before we hit the road too.
Whenever we go on location, we try to have our story outline as fleshed out as possible. Our motto is: "Know as much as you can about the subject, and what you hope to get in the field. Then look forward to the unexpected."