Forget the speech I gave when I ran for student council president, that night I performed in front of five thousand Iowa State Fairgoers, or even my wedding day; I hadn’t experienced pressure until I’ve been locked into a 6 x 12 foot trailer with ten colleagues, 66 monitors, and two and a half hours of live television.
Our fifty-three foot Sweetwater Double-Expando, Multi-Format, High Definition/Standard Definition Truck was the nerve center of the entire MTV News Movie Awards Pre-Show operation. Everything was wired into it: dozens of cameras, and full-staff’s worth of communications, and a direct satellite feed to MTV’s Long Island Broadcast Center.
It was like “The Truman Show.” One minute, my boss (the guy who founded MTV News) is calling out for coverage of a patch of unsightly concrete and bike rack (the fencing we use to keep photographers and fans from celebrities), the next, our monitor wall revealed nothing but red carpet, enthusiastic fans, and smiling celebrities.
Years ago, Kurt Loder described live television to me thusly: “You spend days and days scripting and rehearsing and the moment you go live you toss it all out the window.” As always,Kurt was spot on.
Twenty-five feet away, limos were dropping Miley Cyrus, Will Ferrell, Paris Hilton, Sasha Baron Cohen, Vanessa Hudgens, Chris Pine, Megan Fox, Lauren Conrad, and on and on. In the Sweetwater, though, it was as if we’d fallen through a wormhole. Time was compressed.
Four minutes before air, my colleague, Ryan, lost communications with his floor producers. One minute to live and we still didn’t have our first guest (Bruno). The Hills’ Audrina Partidge slips into position next to Sway as the AD counted “3…2…1…” No sooner than we we were live, and everyone is yelling.
The remaining two hours unfold in roughly the same way, juggling some sort of three-dimensional space and time puzzle with supernatural precision: rushing to pre-tape interviews, then slotting them in future segments; cutting back to live; dropping Tweets into chyron; rushing celebs into place with seconds to spare. It was a two and a half hour nail biter.
Frankly? I’m not even coming close to clarifying just how unnerving it was.
At the end of it all, Sway tossed (from tape) to Adam Samberg’s opening moment, and we sat silently as the big show took over. Then I took a deep breath, mopped my forehead, stepped out into the California sunshine, and quietly rode the golf cart down the hill for the twelve more hours of wall-to-wall behind-the-scenes Movie Awards coverage.