In Uncertain Times, One Thing is Certain: “Some Good News” is Happening Somewhere
Image source: Senior Post.
“Hey, I’m friends with John Krasinski and he’s trying to make this TV show that he wants to put out on Sunday. I know it’s Friday at midnight. Do you want to help?”
This message may well be the defining moment of Josh Senior’s pandemic experience. The founder and CEO of award-winning production and post-production studios LEROI and Senior Post, he jumped at the opportunity to work on a project whose sole purpose was to make people happy in the most uncertain of times.
The show is Some Good News (SGN), the brainchild of award-winning actor and filmmaker John Krasinski. It was born of a question he’s asked himself for years: why isn’t there a show dedicated to good news only? A few weeks into isolation brought about by COVID-19, it became clear that, despite the hardships people were facing, there was a lot of good still happening in the world – and a growing appetite for some good news.
The beginning of something wonderful
After receiving that message, Senior roused his team early the next day and they got straight to work, downloading and reviewing assets Krasinski had shot on his iPhone. By then, they had all been working remotely for several weeks and had the necessary hardware and connectivity in place. Senior Post joined a video call with Krasinski and his team to hear firsthand their goal for the final product.
The team meets on Tuesdays to plan the next SGN episode. Image source: Senior Post.
“They didn’t want it to feel over produced,” explains Senior. “It’s not supposed to be broadcast-quality, it’s supposed to just be what it is – an authentic way to connect with people and bring joy to their lives.”
Senior Post took footage from a Zoom call, a loose script, links to selected tweets, and a rough lineup to put together the first episode. Following initial feedback from the team, Krasinski re-shot some footage on Sunday. With little time to spare, SGN made its YouTube debut the evening of Sunday, March 29, 2020. It was only fitting that Krasinski, who rose to fame playing the character of Jim Halpert on The Office, interviewed Steve Carrell on the first episode of SGN to mark the 15th anniversary of the hit sitcom.
At the time, nobody knew if that first episode would also be the last. But overnight, the show amassed 330,000 subscribers.
Today, more than two million subscribers watch Krasinski deliver SGN weekly from his home office. Each episode highlights the ingenuity of the human spirit in the face of a crisis – while offering up a few surprises. From an online performance by the original Broadway cast of Hamilton for a little girl whose tickets were canceled, to hosting a virtual prom for graduating high school seniors, the show is packed with feel-good moments.
Senior and his team have also hit their stride since that harried first weekend. “There was a lot of experimenting in the beginning, but we’ve since formalized a process that’s reflective of the fact that we’re producing a full-blown show every week,” he says.
It’s a sprint not a marathon
It all begins on Tuesdays with a creative session to determine the theme of the show, including the week’s surprise – which has included lifetime season tickets to the Boston Red Sox for five local healthcare workers, a $3 million donation by PepsiCo to Guy Fieri’s Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, and three months’ worth of free cell phone service from AT&T for doctors and nurses across the country. The team also begins to curate #somegoodnews social content that fits the week’s topics.
On Thursdays, Krasinski shoots his self-take, posts it with his shooting script, and Senior and his team begin building out the first half of the show. At this point, Senior has put together a rough how-to guide to help capture the screen recordings and Zooms. The shooting schedule for the second half of the show – the surprise – varies, but once completed is merged and delivered on Saturday night. On Sunday, the team is busy editing, shipping cuts, and re-shooting until the cutoff time of 9:15 p.m. ET. In fact, they can receive new assets from Krasinski via text as late as 8 p.m.
An uncomplicated workflow makes it possible
Because everyone is working remotely, the production team works on a mirrored local drive with proxies. The master asset resides online on the server at Senior Post, which makes file sharing simple. Collaboration between the editors takes place primarily over a Slack channel and group texts.
All the editing, including most of the visual effects and mixed media integration and compositing, is done with Adobe Premiere Pro. The team also does some light color correction using the Lumetri Color panel in Premiere Pro to create a consistent look.
The team works remotely to edit each SGN episode. Image source: Senior Post.
“The prospect of using a software application that requires the extra step of transcoding MXF files, for instance, would really be a setback for the timeline of getting the show produced,” says Senior. “The ability to do some of the composite work directly within Premiere Pro allows us to work quickly to achieve a visual style that is authentic to the show and doesn’t feel overdone.”
SGN timeline in Adobe Premiere Pro. Image source: Senior Post.
Senior is taking his SGN experience and applying it to another one of his projects – Ramy, an original series for Hulu. Because they can’t assemble the cast and crew to re-shoot scenes, he sent the same how-to guide he shared with Krasinski to the Ramy team so they could shoot a FaceTime scene. “It’s not complicated, but it achieves the goal,” he says.
While Senior and his team may not know what more routine content production and post will look in the future, making content that brings people joy is enough for now. “For me this has been such an incredible reminder of why I do what I do,” he says. “The ability to derive this kind of satisfaction is probably the coolest part of being at home.”