Posts Tagged ‘ON THE SCENE’


Rockin’ With Raphael Saadiq….And PBS?!

August 28, 2010

Right this minute I am watching one of my favorite shows…maybe second only to “ON THE SCENE.”   Well,  I’m also nuts about CBS Sunday Morning. Oh, and I’m partial to “Private Sessions” on A&E.

“Live From The Artists Den” is on PBS tonight.  They’re replaying the Raphael Saadiq concert, who happens to be one of my favorite singers. He became famous when he was in Tony! Toni! Tone! and then went solo.

“Live From The Artists Den” is the best new show on television as far as I’m concerned. They have full concerts taped in unconventional  locations (multi camera and great in-the-moment photography) with break-out interviews with the artist.

All of you who’ve enjoyed watching me, and what we do with ON THE SCENE can imagine this is just the kind of show I would dig.  I want to publicly give props to the creators and producers.

I can say this because it never airs the same time as ON THE SCENE!

Oh, that reminds me…a new ON THE SCENE episode is coming your way in September and we’re breaking the mold on this one…AND..a special ON THE SCENE treat also coming this fall to be announced soon. I’m excited about this one because I’ll have the chance to talk directly to everybody about why this project has transformed me,  personally and professionally,  and what I hope it has given to our audience.


Interviewing David Bryan of Bon Jovi and “Memphis”

July 9, 2010

Today I got one of those unique, wonderful surprises that being an interviewer brings: meeting a performer from my favorite…and one of the world’s most famous..rock bands. Ok, the interview was not a surprise. I knew I would be taping a conversation with David Bryan, the keyboardist of Bon Jovi, at his New Jersey beach house, it had been in the works for a couple of weeks.

The surprise came in the impression he made on me. For more than a quarter century he’s been in the shadow of larger than life frontman Jon Bon Jovi, and to some extent guitarist Richie Sambora in particular his headline grabbing marriage to and divorce from  Heather Locklear. I’ve seldom heard David say a word, so his personality was a mystery to me.

But suddenly he is stepping into the spotlight in his own right, winning three Tony Awards last month for writing lyrics,  orchestrating and producing the Broadway musical, “Memphis.” At age 48, he has a new aspect to his career that is clearly rejuvinating  him. “I could talk about this show all day” was one of the first things he said to me.  He was effusive about it.

We spent the better part of two hours at his home in a wide ranging conversation about “Memphis,” and Bon Jovi. He showed me how he’s been using a champagne tote purchased at Harrods in London to carry his Tony Awards from country to country while Bon Jovi is on a world tour.  The “Tony tote.”

But what I noticed most was his passion in how he talked about “Memphis.” When I interview someone I can tell the difference between when the artist is simply “selling” the show or pushing tickets, and when they believe what they’ve done has real quality.  He talks about “Memphis” in personal terms, a nearly nine year journey from script to stage. I also noticed his broad based knowledge about musicians and the industry (every performer I happened to mention in conversation, from Tony Bennett to Duncan Sheik to Keb’ Mo’,  he had an opinion about their work). I also have personal admiration for anyone willing to  take professional risks, in his case,  to go outside his comfortable rock genre and take on musical theatre. It all points to a creative intelligence and musicality that I have to believe has been a glue holding Bon Jovi together all these years. And I don’t think the public or critics have always noticed that.

We also discussed criticism of “Memphis” that the music is too pop, some of the songs too “light” for Broadway and you’ll hear what he has to say about that many more things in two weeks when the next ON THE SCENE episode airs, times to be announced next week.

I love days like this.


“Memphis” The Musical

July 3, 2010

A friend and I headed to Broadway the other night to see “Memphis” the musical, which won the Tony Award  for Best Musical.  Part pleasure, part research.  I’m scheduled to do an ON THE SCENE interview next week with a powerhouse talent behind this show and I’ll be writing more about that after the interview.

It’s an enjoyable, song and dance packed show, but  with the simmering undercurrent of race relations and discrimination in 1950s America. Putting one of the most divisive periods in our country’s history to a good beat that you can dance to, well, that’s tricky. “Memphis” does not make the mistake some musicals of late have…to0 much dialogue, too few decent songs.  There’s debate whether “Memphis” was a strong enough show to beat “Fela” for Best Musical, but there’s always going to be complaints over who wins and why. Everybody has their favorites.

Check back in a week, I’ll be writing much more about the show, the interview and the next ON THE SCENE episode hitting the air in just a couple weeks.


The Interview Addiction

June 25, 2010

I participated in a seminar at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) New York a couple weeks ago.  A career-enhancing type workshop about goal setting and identifying strengths.  We went around the room introducing ourselves and I said, “my name is John. I’m addicted to interviewing people.”

Most people in the room chuckled. A couple others looked as if they’d mistakenly stumbled into a 12 step meeting.

It was an ice-breaker, but may be the clearest description of me I can offer. When I look at my calendar and there’s too much time between ON THE SCENE shoots, I get crazy. I need to know there’s something…someone…interesting on the near horizon, artist, an actor, filmmaker, musician, or singer to be interviewed for ON THE SCENE.

Because ON THE SCENE is a recurring special presentation airing once a month or so, we don’t shoot interviews every day. And because all of the content is shot on location in the artist’s environment, setting-up the shoots takes extra time.

And it’s that in-between time when the interviews are being lined-up that is a challenging period for me. I do want to being doing these kinds of in-depth interviews everyday. The preparing, the studying-up, is fascinating to me, healthy for me and more importantly essential for a great interview.  And then the interview itself, spontaneous, one thought leading to the next, revealing.

But this is not just about me and what makes me feel engaged. The greatest thing…and this is the addictive quality…is knowing that people are participating in the experience with me, the viewers who are watching and learning, and yes sometimes objecting, to the conversation.  (At least their watching and not indifferent.)

At the end of the evening we were asked to go around the room once more. I smiled and said, “my name is John. And I’m still addicted to interviewing people.”


Time To Exhale (Sort Of)

June 4, 2010

We did it! It’s done. A marathon-non-stop-no-time-to-blink day long edit session is over and the next ON THE SCENE installment is ready to premiere Saturday morning. My editor, Shannon Gillece, is astounding, we both focused like lasers, as I often say, and got this job done!

Hard work and a job well done is the best feeling.

And exhausting.

The reason today was so much work is a new graphic design look was created to update the show’s appearance (something I had wanted to do for a while) and it involved much more effort in editing, but was so well worth it.

So I spent the day with Duncan Sheik, Joy Behar and these two incredible Iraq War veterans who’ve discovered creativity can help overcome a difficult transition back to civilian life. (Well, at least watching them on video as we put the show together.)

Now, I’m calling it a day…but the weekend is barely going to give me a free minute it’s looking like…I’m off to a film festival tomorrow and Sunday and will tell you more about that later..


Seriously Under The ON THE SCENE Gun

June 3, 2010

Ok, the new ON THE SCENE episode debuts 7 AM Saturday and replays five more times this weekend. It’s good. Very good. Take my word.

But if I wasn’t steady as a table about things I would be freaking out bigtime right now. One piece is not completely edited, “Art Of A Soldier,” and it’s a complicated, emotional story. Then all of the  ON THE SCENE elements need to be edited into show form. The new graphic design is being completed as we speak, and just today I taped my host segments on location bridging everything together.

Fortunately, I have an exceptional video editor and we work like laser beams in the edit suite so this show will make air and you’ll all learn more about Duncan Sheik, Joy Behar and the Combat Paper Project, the program “Art Of A  Soldier” is about. 

But this is television. We work down to the wire so often and that’s part of the thrill. Like an actor right before opening night, when the lines aren’t flowing naturally yet, the paint on the set is still wet, and three props are missing. And yet somehow it all comes together, always. 

And this will too!


A Night To Remember: Emmys 2010

April 24, 2010

First of all, if you go into an awards show with your only interest being winning the award you are nominated for, chances are you’re in for a miserable night. There’s only one winner. And Sunday, we were not in the winner’s circle! The amazing ON THE SCENE team was up for two New York Emmy Awards for creative, inventive, and downright hard work to create some moving and memorable television.

But the Emmys went to….somebody else!

That takes away nothing from the value of our work, its impact and artistic merit. And I congratulate the recipients once again, as I did that night. 

But I have to tell you, and this may sound surprising since we didn’t bring home the gold, but it was one of the best nights, ever. My special guest, choreographer Heidi Latsky of the Emmy nominated piece, “GIMP” from ON THE SCENE, is a remarkable person and we had a blast. It was great to be with my colleagues enjoying a night out in Times Square,  talking and laughing and telling stories. And, of course, seeing the finest work in our industry of the past year being honored.

Television awards are about celebrating the art form and encouraging good work. It’s bigger than an individual nomination. 

Also, once again the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences invited me to be a presenter, so while I didn’t go home with an Emmy, I did get to hand out a few! Thanks to Jacqueline Gonzalez and everyone at the Academy for being such a gracious team and working all year to pull off this show.

So check back, there’ll be some new photos posted from the Emmys in the gallery and homepage, soon.

When I was a college kid, I dreamed of being part of events like this, doing quality work that I believe in, and collaborating with talented people. The dream keeps unfolding.

As the dinner was served I offered a toast at our table of nominees, and if you’re a reader of the blog it’ll sound familar since I’ve written about my feelings about awards before…I raised a glass to say, “tonight is more than the awards. It’s about everything we did in life and in work to get here.”



And We Begin…

February 19, 2010

Another ON THE SCENE episode behind us, the next is coming together quickly!

First, thanks to those of you who’ve emailed me about  last weekend’s show…there are certainly some Dave Koz fans out there who I heard from and a number of people wrote to say they are happy to see Ben Vereen back on stage, too.  Both men were great interviews and generous with their time.

And I always love when every person I hear from names a different segment as their favorite, which happened this time. That means the show offered something for everyone, a true variety that many viewers could relate to. I’ve learned that if everybody likes the same thing, the rest of the show might be falling flat!

Now, it’s the interesting challenge of putting together the next one, which really always begins before the previous show airs. About three weeks ago we spent a fascinating afternoon in a rehearsal studio in Nyack, New York with the guitarist, Al Di Meola. It’s a true inside and candid look at how he and his band make music .  We have several other artists confirmed and I’ll be talking more about those interviews in a couple weeks.

This is one of the most exciting times for me because you see the possibilities, all the things “the next show” can bring.