Working on Lazy Band reminded me just how challenging pursuing a creative goal can be. The women of Raining Jane who I attempt to green on this episode have been on the road for ten years writing music, refining their sound, and jamming on stage for audiences all over the country. To be that dedicated to a vision is rare. To be so in love with doing something such as playing music is a gift in itself. To see it through amidst cramped hotel rooms and thousands of long miles logged on the road requires levels of perseverance that go beyond what most of us believe we are capable of doing.

Discussing this aspect of Raining Jane’s experience with the band members during a break in filming one day reminded me of how surprised I was to discover how much work goes into producing a television show. In February of 2009, we started filming season one of THE LAZY ENVIRONMENTALIST. Our executive producer, David Metzler, brought me out to Los Angeles from Brooklyn about two weeks before shooting started. We’d been talking regularly on the phone and sharing notes via email, but Dave wanted me in L.A. for a specific reason; he wanted to make sure I understood and appreciated how hard so many people were working to make our show a success. Producers, associate producers, and production assistants were already working amazingly long hours doing research on all aspects of upcoming episodes.

From a production perspective, part of what makes our television show uniquely challenging is that we film in different locations everyday and constantly attempt to green professionals across different industries. On top of that, we are intentionally never sure what the exact path and outcome of each episode will be. So we never fully know the kinds of production challenges to anticipate. Perhaps the easiest way to think about this is to imagine the different production issues that might arise between preparing to green a hair salon on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and preparing to green the mayor of a small city on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The two endeavors are very different. In contrast, production would be different if this were, say, a green home makeover show and each week we took on generally the same challenge only did it inside a different family’s home and could develop a sense over time of the production issues that might routinely arise.

Given the way our show works, I also quickly gained a lot of confidence and respect for how thorough Dave is as an executive producer. For example, when we were preparing to film Lazy Mayor, one of the issues that we thought about tackling with the mayor was how to improve his city’s recycling rate in order to divert more waste from the landfill. The producer assigned to the segment suggested that I take the mayor up to the city’s landfill and together watch while one of the garbage trucks unloaded its trash heap and then literally point out to the mayor all of the recyclables that were going into the landfill. The producer thought it would be a powerful visual for the mayor and for our viewers. To me, it sounded like a cool idea and a fun, albeit, somewhat disgusting field trip.

Then Dave started asking questions.

Dave: “Are you certain we’ll see recyclables mixed in with the regular trash?”
Producer: “Definitely. The city’s recycling diversion rate is only 25%, so there has to be recyclables in there.”
Dave: “What if for some reason there aren’t any and we dump out the trash and see that it’s all food and scraps that are supposed to go in the landfill?”
Producer: “It won’t happen.”
Dave: “How do you know?”
Producer: “I spoke to one of the managers up there who told me that recyclables are constantly going in the landfill.”
Dave: “Good. I’m glad you spoke to someone. And what does the trash look like when it’s dumped out of the truck?”
Producer: “Like trash.”
Dave: “Are you sure? What if it’s all inside black garbage bags and we can’t see specific objects?”
Producer: “It won’t be.”
Dave: “How do you know?”
Producer: “I don’t know for sure, but doesn’t there have to be at least some trash sticking out?”
Dave: “That’s what you need to find out. I don’t want to get our whole crew and the mayor up there, get the permits to shoot, shoot the thing, and only see a visual of a sea black garbage bags and have Josh unable to make his point.”
Producer: “Got it.”

The producer left the room to look into it. I looked at Dave. He kind of half-smiled and said, “I’ve done this for a really long time.”

Then he went back to work.

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