Mega-Producers' Job – “Putting Out Fires”, Organization, Fear: Produced By Conference

“We want the very good and the bad.” That’s what American Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said this afternoon is the core of the competition show. “It’s the bland people in the middle we want to get rid of.” Variety, drama, comedy and reality TV all came together on the Produced By Conference’s Mega-Producers panel moderated by CAA TV agent Rob Nigel LythgoeKenneally. Grey’s Anatomy’s Shonda Rhimes, Cougar Town’s Bill Lawrence and Jersey Shore’s SallyAnn Salsano joined Lythgoe. Although their genres differ, each member of the panel seemed to have pretty much the same approach to their job. “You are putting out fires every day,” said Rhimes. “I guarantee you that everyone up here has failed more than you can imagine,” Lawrence pointed out. “I think we all have a fear of failure,” Salsano confessed. “Success or failure,” lamented Lythgoe, “you’re always fighting.”

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The fear factor aside, the panel also agreed organization was crucial to running the multiple shows each runs. “It’s all about being organized,” said Rhimes. “Wherever I am, that’s where I am going to be.” Salsano echoed the organization sentiment but said reality has different demands than scripted — at least her reality. “My shows are very high risk,” the Jersey Shore and Repo Games producer pointed out to the crowd. “I run it day-to-day.” Salsano described her productions as having to run 24/7 with round-the-clock catering and multiple crews because “if you never shut down you can catch it.” While not as fast talking or as blunt as Salsano, Lythgoe didn’t shy away from a degree of candor. “There is no typical day for me,” the Idol producer and So You Think You Can Dance judge said. “It’s all going, seeing what needs to be done and doing it.” Lythgoe admitted that his schedule often required him to be surgical with his time and decisions. Describing wading through the thousands of Idol hopefuls that he sees, Lythgoe got a big laugh from the crowd when he recalled telling his editors “I’m not really interested in the one-legged tap dancer at the moment.”

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