(From Yael Federbush, TODAY Producer)
I was asked to produce a taped piece for Ann Curry's 10th anniversary with the TODAY show highlighting some of the key moments of her time on the show. WATCH VIDEO
What that entails is watching 10 years worth of footage of Ann reporting the news from the news desk in the studio, covering stories in the field and also documenting some of the lighter moments; as Al Roker pointed out to me, "like when Elmo gave Ann a hickey."
After the Senior Producer screened the final piece, he suggested that I book Elmo as the surprise live guest when we celebrate Ann's anniversary in the studio.
This, by the way, was great material to talk about with my girls, ages, 4 and 2.
My 4-year-old daughter was excited to hear about my conversations with Elmo and Cookie monster's publicist. My daughter pointed out that if we book a ticket for Cookie Monster, who is based out of Chicago, we should be careful that he doesn't eat the airline ticket. But I have to say Elmo's a bit of a premodonna. Elmo was unable to come to the studio because he's going to be in Italy. Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. That said, Elmo did do a lovely taped message for Ann to the tune of "You light up my life". He asked his buddy Cookie Monster to be there instead to present Ann with flowers and a fruit basket.
I interviewed Matt, Meredith, Al and yes Ann for the piece. It's always a little challenging to interview the people who host the show. After all these guys do this for a living. They are arguably, the top interviewers in the country, working on the top rated morning show.
What if there's a technical problem and bright red lines are recorded through out my tapes. Don't think it doesn't happen. It happened to me in 2000 when I produced Willard Scott's 50th anniversary with NBC. By some miracle we were able to correct the problem. And if it were not correctable, don't think it's so easy to re-schedule interviews with these guys. They are constantly being pulled in 100 different directions.
Before I interviewed Matt, the cameraman suggested that Matt button his jacket. Matt said he was more comfortable with it open. The cameramen sometimes want to make those suggestions to let the talent know they're looking out for them.
Before we started rolling on Meredith's interview, I told Meredith I was expecting my third child (She has three children of her own). We talked about the fact that NBC is very generous with maternity leave allowing mothers to take up to 8 months off. I learned from Meredith that Ann was welcoming when she first started on the show. Meredith says, "She made me feel, from the moment that I came here, that I was welcome... And made me feel that this was a safe place for me and a warm place for me and an extremely inviting place for me."
Al told me that after the interview he was going to parent-teacher conferences for his little guy. As Al says, I sit in one of those teeny tiny chairs the kids use as the teacher conducts a 45-minute discussion. These kids color and play all day what can they possibly be talking about for 45 minutes!"
During Al's interview I found out that Al and the others worry about Ann when she covers stories in questionably safe locations, such as war zones. You don't stop to think about that when you produce these segments but they do.
The only glitch was during Ann's interview in which I broke down in a coughing fit...eyes tearing up..the whole deal. That's never happened while I interviewed anybody else. How embarrassing! The coughing fit lasted a good 3 minutes, which felt like three hours. Luckily I had a Vicks cough drop handy in my bag. Ann was a sport and got me a glass of water.
The interview went well. I learned a lot about Ann. She calls her daughter, Mackenzie, Mack-a-doodle, She preferred to do the interview without much make-up, she sees herself as a field reporter more than a news anchor. And bottom line, she has a real passion for covering news stories that make a difference. And as she says "it's been a dream come true".