Welcome back to another exhilarating season of Dragons' Den! You're reading what we hope will become a best-selling (er, most-read?) new feature on the website. This weekly column will be dedicated to giving you, dear reader, an insiders guide to everything you don't see on the small screen. Written by a variety of producers each week, we'll be answering your questions, de-bunking myths and profiling the men and women who make the show what it is. They say nobody likes to see how the sausage gets made, but we're pretty sure you'll enjoy how Dragons' Den gets to air.
This week's 'Tale From The Suites' is a bit of a misnomer. It's actually more of a combination of tales from the studio and production office. Week two and we're already switching things up...
One of the busiest and most exciting parts of our production schedule is when we're in the studio, working with the Dragons and shooting the pitches. Unlike many of the shows at CBC like the Rick Mercer Report or Steven and Chris that tape new shows each week, Dragons' Den tapes all of our pitches in just 19 days over a period of about 5 weeks. It's a whirlwind of 14-hour days, props, animals, de-shining Kevin's bald head, backstage antics, diets consisting of coffee, diet coke and sandwiches - and of course, innovative Canadian entrepreneurship.
Why wouldn't we make life easy on ourselves and just tape a new show each week? Well, for a number of reasons. A lot of it has to do with getting the Dragons together at once - trust me, it's harder than algebra to coordinate the schedules of five tycoons who are all busy running their own international businesses.
And it's not like being in the studio is any kind of vacation. The Dragons are here every morning by 7 am (even earlier for Arlene!) and we tape some nights until 7 pm. Save for a few short meal breaks, the Dragons are in their chairs, on camera, listening to pitches for up to 10 hours a day. Not my idea of a party. After an early call time and 12 hours at my job, I look and feel like a rusted out 76 Cavalier on blocks on the side of Highway 11. And I don't have to do my job under of the harsh glare of 8 expensive video cameras.
But I digress.
Another major reason we tape in such a marathon fashion is something I mentioned in last week's post. While all of us producers like to pride ourselves on our keen ability to spot a winning business the Dragons will "without a doubt, for sure, 100%" invest in, we're just TV producers, not millionaire investors, which means we ahem, occasionally, get it wrong. Pitches we thought were a shoe-in have been kicked out after just a few minutes while others end up with an out-of-left-field, 5-Dragon deal. This means that no two days in the studio are ever the same. We've had up to 6 deals in a day, followed by three days without so much as an offer.
But this is the reality of our show. We never know what's going to happen. Because of that unknown, we can never guarantee getting all the elements we need to put together a bang-up episode. I mean, how boring would it be if you watched 3 weeks worth of shows and there wasn't a single deal?
By taping everything at once - and by having the Dragons wear the same outfits each episode (don't worry, they have two versions and we get them dry-cleaned on alternating days) - we end up with a massive pool of pitches we can draw on and mix and match to make the best episode possible.
Which does kind of leave us with another problem. Over the course of our 19-day shoot this season, we had 264 pitchers through the Den. That's a lot of material to fit into 20 episodes. To make our lives easier, we created (piano vamp, please) The Board. We use different colored index cards (not 'cue cards' as I incorrectly described them last week) to differentiate between the different kinds of pitches you see in the show.
Now that process could be a whole column unto itself, but putting the show together basically consists of the production team coming together, having a healthy debate, switching things around, debating a bit more, lobbying strongly for our favorite pitches of the season, and then making another swap or two. And kind of like an astrophysicist or a good bartender, The Board helps ensure we have the right mix, blend and balance of everything in the final product.
So while The Board may bring back memories of elementary school classrooms for some of you, to us it's the Holy Grail.
See you next time in the Den,
Is there a Dragons' Den fact you're dying to know? Anything ever puzzled you about our show? Send us your questions: firstname.lastname@example.org We might not get to them right away, but we do promise to read them all...eventually.
Associate Producer Lindsey Neely has been involved with the show since Season 2. A proud holder of a B.J. (Bachelor of Journalism) from Carleton University, Lindsey began her television career in Ottawa, researching and producing political stories on Parliament Hill. After returning to her native Toronto, she quickly traded in daily news for the excitement of entrepreneurship, working for both the Gemini-nominated Fortune Hunters on CBC Newsworld and honing her producing skills on DD. These days, when not spending time in the den, Lindsey enjoys rap-battle throw downs, asparagus and Zach Galifianakis
Posted on Sep 28, 2010 8:00:00 AM