Yes, this is a stereotype. The meteorologist is going long, again… and again… and… well you get the picture. The thing is, this really does happen a lot. You are given 2 minutes, but take 2 and a half or 3. The exasperated producer asks you why and you tell him/her: “I had a lot of stuff today… someone sent in a weather photo … the bosses are requiring me to put too much into the forecast each night.” Here’s the thing: The producer doesn’t really appreciate any of these reasons. Think about it. The producer has a lot of elements, then gets stuck with your weather photo also at the last minute, and is often required by management to put too much into the newscast. Still the producer has to hit the meter points and time the show out correctly start to finish. So let’s take some producer timing tricks and apply them to weather casts so you can time them to the second. Here’s how:
- Pad it
- Explain escape plan
- Watch the clock
- Practice “feeling” the time
First pad your weather cast with an extra element or two in each hit. This is an element that is nice, but can be done on any given day. If you can, put it in the same place in your weather rundown for the director/TD’s sake.
That’s where explaining the escape plan comes in. Let the director/TD know what element is considered an extra and how long you need to get through it. That way they can help you dump out quickly and make time.
Now, let’s talk about watching the clock: It can seem difficult for a meteorologist since your content is so literally hands on while you are live. To get around this, you can do 1 or more of the following things: 1) Wear an IFB so you can get time cues and tell the producer specifically what you want. 2) Write what time you have to wrap up on an index card and place it above your camera. That way you don’t have to do math in your head. You can look at the time casually and know what to do. 3) Have the production crew time cue you to the wrap up element so you can get out quickly.
Another trick that isn’t as common but can be effective is to get a stop watch and practice doing forecasts to time. Stand in front of the green screen and practice each of your hits several times with all the elements management is requiring. Use the stop watch to help you figure out how to time youself. Then repeat what you did several times over. You will start to develop an internal clock that let’s you know what, say, 2 minutes “feels” like. A lot of seasoned producers have this. They can time out segments of their newscasts almost to the second, by feel, as much as by watching a clock.
Now let’s talk specifically about when management throws extra elements at, then says you must find a way to pull off without extra time. You know you cannot do it in the time allotted. So, spell that out directly to the producer as early as possible. That way the producer has time time to find a work around in their format to hit meter points. There is nothing more frustrating than watching weather go long, then hear from the meteorologist that she/he knew the wx was going to go long, but didn’t warn the producer. Sometimes management forgets if a section of a newscast is particularly crucial for hitting meter points. The producer or EP may need to go in and request some formatting changes so you can do what you need, and hit meters. Yes, you would think management would let the producer know so you can just focus on doing the weather. But often that’s simply not the case. The producer goes into the newscast blind, then gets royally screwed on air. Yes, it makes the producer bitter. You don’t want the producer cheating you on time or, worse yet, complaining that you cannot time manage and are difficult to handle. Weather may be the most watched element, but solid producers are hard to replace. It’s probably best not to test your luck and potentially rock the boat. Just provide a heads up so the producer can prepare.
Lastly, if you are asked to reformat your weather cast and add a bunch of new elements, try to add 1 a day. That way you can figure out what fits and doesn’t in a given hit, then provide that feedback to management and/or the producer. That helps everyone time out the changes better so you aren’t stuck going long and the producer isn’t pulling their hair out.