Chapter Nineteen / The First Episode
Even though our funder had already offered the financing needed to begin producing what would be known as "The BURNNIE Show," he still wanted to meet and ask a few questions that would solidify our partnership. At a restaurant, each with a cup of coffee, he asked, "Do you have any skeletons in the closet!"
I contemplated his question and I thought about the time I did try to shoplift when I was 10 years old on a vacation with relatives in California. A group of boys asked, "Do you want to be a part of our gang?" I didn't know why that would be bad at the time and said, "Sure." They convinced me to walk into a convenience store, load up my pockets with candy, and try to walk out. I wasn't very good at it and got caught.
The storekeeper talked to me for a while and asked, "Do you know those boys?"
I told him I was from Minnesota and was just here on vacation. He explained to me that sometimes kids do things they shouldn't and I agreed. He said he would let it go but for me to think about not always doing what people ask me to do especially when I know that it's wrong. I used this story many times within our messages when performing for Vacation Bible School and camp programs. I wasn't really sure if our funder wanted to know about this particular incident, but I mentioned it anyway. He gave a grin and said, "Anything else?"
My mind scanned through the events of my life as I tried to determine if I had anything discreditable or embarrassing that I wanted to keep a secret. I accepted the Lord at the age of 10 and absolutely tried to follow His path as clearly and closely as I could. I certainly did wrong things when being lazy, or impatient, and I have been unkind and unforgiving. Any of those things I would be willing to discuss, because they are faults that I acknowledge in order to improve. I responded, "There is no murder, predatory behavior, or any type of criminal history in my past. And I don't plan any for the future."
He seemed pleased. "Have you ever done any directing or editing before?" he asked.
"My only experience would be performing in plays when I was in high school and college and then writing the radio program and producing the TV show with Riddles the Clown. But I didn't edit the television show. Someone else did that with equipment that was used about 20 years ago, so a lot has changed since then," I explained.
"Do I need to send you to Atlanta for some training on Final Cut Pro? I saw there was a five day workshop offered there a few weeks from now?" he explained.
At first I thought it might be kind of fun to independently make a trip to Atlanta and feel all important and business-like talking about my brand new television series I was beginning to produce. But instead I said, "Well, no, because I would probably learn a great percentage of material that wouldn't be useful to the type of program I'll be producing. I am planning to simply use the internet and do searches on plugins or editing tips and tricks when needed. Otherwise, I'll read the manual and learn as much as I can about the intricacies of the software before I begin."
Our new funder also wondered, "How do you plan to continue financing the rest of this ministry? It can be very expensive to produce a television show."
"We're saving a lot of money, since I will be doing all of the editing myself. I plan on getting volunteers for all of the camera operators and our actors will all volunteer their time as well. There shouldn't be any additional cost. If we need locations like a restaurant or a flower shop I plan to get local businesses involved," I said.
All of this sounded as though I had really thought this through. And I had. It took one year for us to find our amazing funder who changed the course of my life by offering this financial help and his following of God's leading in the creation of this important program for children. I would often visualize producing the first program. I saw exactly where the cameras would be placed, the lighting that would be used, and who we would find as performers for this critical first show. This had to be carefully developed since every show after it would depend on the format that was first created.
It is also important to mention that our funder and his wife decided to give us $1,000 a month to help us with whatever costs the show might incur. This generous gift was given until after 5 years, our mortgage was paid and we owned our home. Our freed up funds enabled them to move on and bless another ministry.
When the equipment and software was purchased, it was then time for our first show to be filmed. There were to be three recurring sets that every episode would contain. The program would usually open at the TREGGLLUSIONS Magic Shop where BURNNIE was an employee with owners Steve and Faith Treggllusions. I wanted the second location to be a meeting place like a coffee shop. It was determined a better gathering opportunity for children would be an ice cream parlor. To my surprise, our daughter Christy was interested in being on the show and her set was then called "Christy Creams." The final recurring set was the grand illusion with the beautiful TREGGLLUSIONS banner which I had visualized for many months and was part of our funder's initial purchase package. This item alone was received at a cost of $3,000 and was used in every episode over the course of nine years of filming. The Faith Factory was also a recurring set concept, but in our first several episodes, it seemed confusing to the viewers and was eliminated.
The TREGGLLUSIONS Shop required five glass display cases which were miraculously offered to us by a friend of our son-in-law. His mother had sold phones at the mall and when that fell through, she had display cases she no longer needed. Even though these beautiful cases were originally extremely expensive, she was willing to just let them go to get them out of the garage.
Shelves were built for the magic shop to fit into an alcove space in the church area that we were going to use for this location. Abiding Savior Church allowed us to film several sets at the church as long as they were taken down after filming and everything was cleaned up. The TREGGLLUSIONS Magic Shop set took an average of 4 hours to get the display cases out of storage and fill them with magic tricks and props. The shelves also had to be assembled and more magic tricks were strategically placed for the best viewing on camera. Backdrop curtains were added on both sides to give the impression of walls and a creatively designed carpet was placed in front to give a magical look. Then, after 4 to 5 hours of filming, this all had to be taken down which added another 3 hours of work to this session. It was common to have 12 to 13 hours of work put into the filming of this 2 - 3 minute segment.
Perry Groten from KELO television, Sioux Falls, came by on our first day of filming to interview and do a special piece on this independent television project. It was very exciting to get this media exposure, and yet very stressful, since I was trying to give the impression that I knew what I was doing. Faith and I shared the purpose of the program which was to bring children an entertaining television option which would also be educational and spiritually uplifting. We didn't want to be "preachy", but instead intended the message of God's love to be truly visible in every show.
It was time to begin the very first filming of, "The BURNNIE Show." Lines were memorized and I called, "Action." Our first performer came on set and in a very "actory" fashion said, "Hi, BURNNIE? How are you doing?" He sounded very stiff and unnatural. I knew immediately something would have to be different. This was the beginning of my need to direct one phrase at a time. Most actors would be insulted by having the director tell them exactly how to say each word and phrase, but we didn't have professional actors. We utilized anyone who was willing to volunteer including sometimes a receptionist at a business, or the owner of a florist shop. They had no acting experience and certainly wouldn't have the experience to memorize lines and present them naturally.
I would coach one word or phrase at a time. First say,"Hi, BURNNIE," I would instruct. The actor would then repeat what I said, but not always exactly the way I said it. "No, that's not quite right. Try it this way, "Hi, BURNNIE. Now say it exactly the way I said it," and they would give it a try. Sometimes that would work and sometimes we would have to go over it two or three times before they would get the exact ennunciation I was hoping for.
Phrase coaching was a tremendous way to get each performer to say the line as I envisioned it since, I did all of the writing and knew how best to interpret the material. It was not a great technique when the film got into the editing studio. I would have to piece together each word and phrase which meant I needed to listen to every second of footage in order to find the correct presentations. To keep the video from looking unusual, it would be necessary to go to a new camera angle if they stopped and said the next phrase of a sentence so the end result would look like they were saying a full line or several lines very smoothly. This required extreme patience and many hours upon hours of editing work. But the final result was amazing.
In addition to the recurring sets, we would also go on location to businesses or organizations who were willing to open their doors to our production. One of our first needs was a restaurant. In the episode "BURNNIE'S Way," BURNNIE felt the only valid and important opinion was his. Within the script BURNNIE, in addition to working at the magic shop, receives a second job where his responsibility is to make sure the food preparation is correct for the customer. However, since BURNNIE loves black olives, he determines every dish should receive this marvelous addition. I gave the Sioux Falls Panera Bread a call.
"Hello, I was wondering if I could speak to the manager?" I asked.
"Speaking," was her response.
I explained the "BURNNIE" television show and our need for a restaurant.
"Is this Mr. Treague?" the manager asked.
"It sure is," I said.
"We would love to have you come and film here. I was a student of yours in 5th grade and I remember BURNNIE, the radio program, and that you guys traveled in the summer and did shows. It's so cool you're doing a TV show now," she said.
It was amazing and fun to know that my former students were now very successful in a variety of businesses and organizations within Sioux Falls and beyond. I explained how it would be necessary to film the restaurant when it was very busy for b-roll, and then to bring a crew in when they were closed, since all of our lights, cameras, cords and sound equipment would be very much in the way. I informed her that it could take from 4 to 5 hours to film and she said it would be best to come in the evening at 10.
I also invited her staff to be a part of the filming if they wanted to be on the show and a good number of them thought this would be very exciting. They were a little concerned about acting but with "phrase coaching" that was not an issue. The filming of the restaurant scene was extremely successful and a very humorous inclusion to this episode.
Editing all of the various pieces of our restaurant scene took a total of 5 hours of editing which, when adding the filming time, made this a 10-hour job for a 3-minute segment. This was a labor of love for everyone involved, but especially for myself as I played the roles of writer, performer as myself and the character of BURNNIE, director, music editor, video editor, graphic artist, marketing, and distribution.
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