Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Day in the Life of Richard Fellbaum

Hi everyone,

As you know, I am currently attending Ryerson University for journalism and I just thought I'd share one of my assignments that I've completed this semester, which was a lot of fun to do.

We had to spend a day with anyone and observe how they go about their day.

Here goes!

With tea in one hand and clipboard in the other, the man in black from head to toe looks over the list of people he is going to meet for the day.

But for Richard Fellbaum, this isn’t your average meet and greet.

As an audience co-ordinator, everyday his inbox is filled with stories and requests from fans aching to join the audience of CBC’s Steven and Chris, which keeps him busy during his time off set.

But when he is on set, he uses his charm and personality to warm up the audience.

“We’ve got a great show lined up today,” he says. “And your beautiful faces will be shown all over Canada and in the United States.”

Fellbaum, 48, is in his third season with the show, but he is no stranger to the CBC family, having worked on Dragons’ Den, The Hour, and Battle of the Blades before finding his place at Steven and Chris.

Standing calmly in a room filled with beauty products, home decor items and colourful fitness gear, Fellbaum stuffs a large black gift bag with items pulled from the packed shelves.

As he crinkles thin sheets of cerulean blue, lime green and white tissue paper and fills the bag to look like mystery gift on a game show, he says, “This is going to be a boring day for you.”

But what he doesn’t realize is that thousands of viewers would gladly give up their homes (and the entire decor inside) to work with a room full of prizes, weekly guests, as well as one of the funniest duos on television.

Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman, formerly seen on HGTV’s Designer Guys, have been the faces of Steven and Chris for four seasons, but it seems the success of the show is thanks to a team of enthusiastic people.

And that is where the in-studio audience comes in.

“Today we’re not watching television, we’re making television,” he says.

This audience preparation process proves to be more complicated than simply gathering a group of people to cheer when cued.

In setting up the seats, the configuration needs to be precise and in a specific shape - today’s shape is a “pie” - which requires testing different locations for the cameras, ensuring there is no “dead space.”

And with the bright lights overhead, the orange and white floral printed walls and the cheerful backdrop to the ornate set are illuminated alongside the shelves full of ceramic vases, fake fruit, and leafy potted plants.

Like a mascot at a sports game, audience co-ordinators give everyone that extra pep.

Fellbaum spends most of his time near the entrance of the set and has just as much enthusiasm with and without the microphone. There is no need for a costume to get the crowd going.

“Welcome to Steven and Chris on this wonderful Tuesday morning!”

The audience is immediately drawn into the world that the production crew has put together as Fellbaum’s cheerful voice fills the studio.

Although Fellbaum doesn’t necessarily play a large role in the production process, his skills are demonstrated during the quick turnarounds between segments.

“People tell me things like brain surgery or just recovered from cancer, and I don’t always know if they want it publicized,” he says. “So I kind of just have to feel it out.”

Fellbaum, whose favourite part of the job is meeting new audience members, always makes it a point to shine the spotlight on the most loyal and enthusiastic fans.

The audience in particular for this taping includes the show’s biggest fan, who is celebrating her 80th birthday, and another loyal fan, a cruise ship dancer.

With his arms full of the gift bags he put together that morning, he brings smiles to their faces as he hands them out.

“We even have a celebrity in our audience today,” says Fellbaum.

In fact, Bev Warriner, wife of Todd Warriner, a former contestant on Battle of the Blades, is in the audience with a group of friends.

“Those are the good time girls, here for a good time,” he says.

He knows how to keep the audience in good spirits.

And coming from that infamous prize room, Fellbaum pulls out something familiar from another CBC show.

“Does anyone know what this is,” he says.

And as people exchange puzzled looks, a woman in a red jacket yells, “It’s a banana guard!”

Indeed, the black banana shaped plastic case was a product launched from CBC’s innovative hit show Dragons’ Den.

He scans the crowd.

“My life’s goal is to save the world’s bananas. Does anyone have a banana for me to save?”

Three women immediately hold slightly bruised bananas above their heads, hoping to get a banana guard for themselves.

For a show that started three years ago, with an audience of 20 people, it has come a long way. Fellbaum aims to have 100 people at every Monday to Thursday taping, which is a challenge at times.

But nevertheless, Fellbaum doesn’t fail to bring the audience to life while encouraging them to participate with applause, shouts, or even by taking off pieces of clothing.

“What happens in Studio 65, stays in Studio 65,” he says.
Thanks for checking it out! And thanks to Richard for letting me follow him around for a day!
- Christinaaa

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