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Lots of smoke and mirrors in TV production

I got to observe television production up close and personal last week and it was an eyeopening experience. On Wednesday, a Discovery ID crew was in our office to interview me for an upcoming episode of ‘Deadly Affairs’. The crew consisted of a light man, sound man, producer and assistant producer. Both producers were females. The assistant was a recent graduate of the Savannah College of Art & Design. They took over our front office, set up equipment for 45 minutes and then spent over five hours interviewing me about the Donald Clark murder case. For the first time, I had makeup applied to my face. I didn’t like it. Every time I rubbed or scratched, it had to be reapplied. It was weird. Ladies, I don’t know how you do that every day but my teenage daughters have had a blast with the cellphone photos of my face being powdered. They covered the Polo logo on my sport shirt and made me sign a personal release and a release for use of The Herald-Gazette logo and my crime scene photos. If you don’t advertise on the show, your logo won’t be seen. We had to take down a UGA banner due to licensing concerns. They filmed me coming and going from the office in my Jeep but planned to blur the logo. This is definitely a salacious, ‘˜sex sells’ show. Having covered the murder of Donald Clark by his estranged wife, Jennifer Clark, from the time he disappeared through her trial and conviction, I am something of an expert on that part of the story. The TV folks spent some time on that but were more interested in Jennifer’s multiple affairs, including that with codefendant Michael Yost. My only real information on those things came from court testimony so the producer may have left a little disappointed. Additionally, some of those involved in the case did not sign releases. Their names were changed. I often forgot to refer to the staged names, resulting in reshoots. The crew also did similar interviews with district attorney Richard Milam, former GBI agent Cayce Ingalls and Brenda Maddox, the victim’s sister. You can imagine how much video will be cut by the time the 30-minute episode is ready for broadcast. It will be interesting to see how the case was portrayed. One day later, the BBQ Pitmasters moved in, building a set on the grassy lot at our office. They brought in 25 people, including hosts Myron Mixon, Tuffy Stone and Danielle Dimovski – all of whom were friendly and approachable. One producer on site was very friendly but the rest were stiff and businesslike. We had to do the whole release thing with them, too. Our girls and their friends were zoomed in on during filming and we had to sign a release for their images as well. I can’t tell you which of the three BBQ teams brought in for the episode won. I can’t tell you who they were though their names were on their cookers. I can tell you they all cooked the same meat which was sent in early and kept under lock and key in a cooler at Gordon State College until ready for the grill. So, the competition was fair but production was staged. The crowd was told when to cheer and when to keep quiet. When I show up at a crime or other scene, I take pictures to document it. Outside the rare exception (juvenile victims or defendants, sex crime victims, etc.), if you are in the shot, your photo and the Polo logo on your shirt will get published. Reality television is very far removed from reality. Remember that when watching such programming and keep it in the back of your mind when viewing broadcast news. Much of it is staged as well. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of the Herald Gazette.

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