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WQED TV producer and PITTSBURGH Magazine back-page writer writes about his current work and assorted other things.

We start with a 30-second promo.

November 3rd, 2009 · 12 Comments

Breakfast reading

I’m still reading as much as I can about breakfasts near and far, standard and exotic, sunny-side-up and whole wheat or ciabatta, when I get word that the head of WQED’s Production Department, Darryl Ford-Williams, would like a 30-second promotional spot for the show by next Thursday when there’s a big WQED Board Meeting.  Darryl knows we haven’t shot anything yet but she trusts we’ll come up with something.  We need to make like mad men and create a commercial in a week for a show that doesn’t exist yet.SF breakfast beauty

I have an idea.  Just a table with beautiful plates of breakfast quickly coming and going, being eaten and finished, cups of coffee and big glasses of juice, silverware and crumbs all appearing and disappearing, and a voice-over narration that sort of explains what we hope to do.  I talk it over with cameraman Bob Lubomski, editor Matt Conrad and sound guy Glenn Syska, and they think we can make this work.  Matt wants to come with us on location (because he’s hungry?), especially if I can convince the folks at Square Café to let us go there to shoot it.Cafe front

Square Café is a groovy little breakfast place in my neighborhood called Regent Square, just east of Frick Park here in Pittsburgh.  Sherree Goldstein, the much loved owner of the place, is excited by the idea, and she’s very accomodating, so we set a date to invade her little café:  Tuesday morning September 22 with an ETA between 9 and 9:30.

We’ll invade and take over a portion of the cafe, but we’re hoping that we’ll be after the breakfast rush and before lunch.   Matt meets us at the cafe.  He’s drinking coffee by the time we get there.  Bob and Glenn and Matt and I start hauling things in, schmoozing along the way.  We’ll set up some lights and try to do this right.Bob sets lights

We were going to use the yellow kitchen table but decided it might be more difficult because of its rectangular shape, and we choose instead one of the newer, smaller orange-top tables that have that classic boomerang formica design on top.  Bob sets the camera on the tripod so it’s looking straight down to the table top.Camera & Eater

We haven’t figured out all the details, but we’ll need different “eaters” for the different plates of food, and so we decide to start with Sherree as our first “eater” with the oatmeal and fruit.  Matt is a goofball

Then Matt steps in to eat the second plate which is a somewhat standard Square Breakfast with eggs sunny side up.  (It turns out Matt is not a big egg eater and he eats around the yolks like my sister did when she was 6.)

Then we wanted to involve some of the people from the kitchen who were being so helpful.  The cafe’s chef, Doug Genovese, came out and ate the pile of pancakes with bananas.  Debbie Thomas who was washing dishes agreed to tackle the breakfast burrito.

And the last plate, crepes with brie and fruit, was attacked by Ron Crosby, one of the cooks from the kitchen.  All the food looked beautiful, and I was happy that all this might work.  Eater with forkful of crepe

We marked the table with tape so that the eaters would know when their hands (and silverware?)  were in the frame.  We wanted a variety of moves, an occasional drink of juice or coffee, and of course, quick removal of plates when the eater was finished.

High angle at blueberries

We had consulted with our designer Paula Zetter before we went to the cafe, and she had asked that we get an empty plate being delivered so she could put the program title on the empty plate, but we totally forgot.  She came up with a wonderful alternative however.  You’ll see.

We took all the footage back to the station.

Fingers on keyboard

Matt digitized the images from the tape onto drives in our editing suites, so we could use all the pictures in our Avid editing system.  I had to write some copy that I could cut as 30 seconds of voice-over narration, and Matt played with the pictures, letting parts run at normal speed, making other parts go must faster.  We found a 30-second chunk of Buddy Nutt music that we liked.   And I think it all turned out OK.

Watch it here.

Tags: "Breakfast Special"

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bonnie Jeanne // Nov 5, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I love that line at the end… “there’s more to life than a bowl of cold cereal”! Thank you, Rick, for this wonderful behind the scenes post!

  • 2 Brent Fiore // Nov 5, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Great promo! Can’t wait until it airs! By the way, the end web address is wrong, it says http://www.org/breakfast rather than http://www.wqed.org/breakfast

  • 3 Jack Ashoff // Nov 16, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Bret Rocks! Do something on International Hoagies!

  • 4 Nora Weston // Nov 30, 2009 at 11:43 am


    Hello! Your blog is very entertaining, so I’ll be sure to visit it again. I lived in Canonsburg, PA for almost seven years. It was fantastic living that close to Pittsburgh. It’s a great city.

    Take care,
    Nora Weston

  • 5 Rick Sebak’s Blog » Square Cafe is hip, not square. // Dec 5, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    […] The next day, Wednesday, October 14, we went back to the Square Cafe where we’d shot our 30-second promo about three weeks earlier. […]

  • 6 Douglas Roesch // Dec 7, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Just saw this — it’s wonderful. Very entertaining to see the behind-the-scenes work as it progresses along.

  • 7 btezra // Dec 11, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I have long been a fan of Rick Sebak’s specials…this one is definitely on the must-watch list

  • 8 Joseph // Jan 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Hi, I was having breakfast when you taped the breakfast special, I was wondering when it is going on air. Thanks

  • 9 rick // Jan 24, 2010 at 10:28 am

    We expect that BREAKFAST SPECIAL will air in the summer of 2010, maybe June or July.

  • 10 Joelene // Jan 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Love the promo! It turned out just like you imagined in that creative head of yours. Can’t wait to see more!

  • 11 Amanda // Jul 15, 2010 at 8:40 am

    I watched Breakfast Special last night (7/14/10) and the Square Cafe was not on. When will it be on?

  • 12 Rick // Jul 15, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    We had too much good material, and we came to a point in the editing when I decided to split the show in two. We are working on BREAKFAST SPECIAL 2, and Square Cafe will be included in that program. I love the Square. I just couldn’t squeeze all the great material into 52 minutes. I shot too much.

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