Meet the Creatives: Allan Myers

Allan Myers loves his job almost as much as he loves a good story.

'In my entire career I can't think of a day that I didn't love coming to work. I love my job, it's become an obsession and it's sort of taken over my life. But I love working with people, I love creating and being on a creative team. I like expressing myself through this medium,' he says without a hint of doubt.

Allan is Over the Rainbow's senior story producer, and his journey in television makes for a pretty good tale on its own. For a large part of his career, he worked in television news as an editor and director, working his way up the ranks from regional news in B.C. until he was a senior director on household names like W5, Canada AM and CTV National - directing Lloyd Robertson for four years.

Allan Myers on set (center) with Executive Producers Don Weiner (left) and Gerry McKean (right)
And then he answered the call of the wild. He got an offer to do live direction for National Geographic, back in 2000, when they were launching the National Geographic channel in the US. That eventually led to him working as a producer, then as an executive producer. But there's no place like home, as the old saying goes, and after an extensive stay down south, he made the decision to migrate back to Canada.

'I wanted to come home. Executive producing was taking me away from hands on creation and I never wanted to go that high up the ladder, I just sort of ended up there. And so I went back to my first love, which was direction. I started directing more competition reality, and focused more on story. I was a field director on CBC's How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, and then Recipe to Riches for Food Network for two seasons, and then Canada's Greatest Know It All for the Discovery channel, which I helped cast and direct,' he explains.

That put him on the road to telling people's stories on television, which Allan says he's 'always found utterly fascinating, you know, being able to communicate someone's personality to a TV audience in an interesting way. I'd like to think I'm a good storyteller.' This is where you might say: 'But its reality television, there's no story, it's all real, isn't it!?' Well, yes, it is real - but given how much can happen over the course of shooting a reality TV show, someone needs to go through all those piles and miles of footage and make something compelling with it, and that someone is Allan.

As he describes it, 'I deal with everything that is not live performance on the show. When they're singing and dancing, that doesn't have anything to do with me, but anytime they're not singing and dancing on the show, it has something to do with me.' Allan and his team, aptly dubbed the story department, follow our Dorothys around as much as possible and capture it all on film. 'Because there's such a massive amount of footage, we have our production assistants make cut notes on an iPad and whenever there's something interesting happening, they mark it down, then it goes directly to our editors,' he explains.

From there it's a question of sorting through that footage and finding a way to make the audience relate to and remember each contestant. 'One of the key parts of this job is to get the audience to identify and separate the Dorothys, because on the show they're all dressed the same, they're all going for the same role. And our job is to get the audience to care about them as individuals. So we focus on their strengths and weaknesses, their journeys, and through that allow their 'characters' to breathe and develop. I've always found that you if you can relate to someone emotionally then you'll remember them,' he adds.

The other tricky part for Allan and his team is getting the girls to be comfortable enough on camera to let some of their idiosyncrasies (or if you prefer - let their 'inner Dorothy') out. After all, it can get hard being in front of a camera all day long.

When asked about how he manages to relate with a group of teenage performers, he explains, 'Quite honestly to be a man who's 49-years-old and they're 16 to 20, it can be kind of difficult sometimes, I don't always understand,' he admits, laughing.

Allan chats it up with some of the girls at Dorothy Farm
'But it's important to me to be a friend to them, so that we trust each other and they feel like they can open up enough to let us in. We try very much to make the camera disappear so that it's more like they're reacting to a friend. If I can understand them and relate emotionally to them and to where they're at and what's going on with them, that's the most important part. I know that sounds really airy-fairy and very movie-like, but I find the art of storytelling is universal, it doesn't matter whether it's radio or print or television.'

So how do you tell a great story?

'There's an amazing quote from Ira Glass on This American Life that's stuck in my head for the last few weeks. He said "Great stories happen to those who can tell them." And it's my job to try and facilitate a great story and to be able to tell it. Everybody has a great story, but you can't always tell it. And that's really hard sometimes, when you see a great story but you aren't able to complete the arc.'

Add to that that in reality television you're essentially not in control of said story, or at least, you don't know how it will end, which is part of what makes it so fascinating. Allan explains that he and his team have tried to plan where they think the good stories will be, but he's quick to add 'I can tell you for a fact that I'm wrong, and that's a good thing. I can't control the ride, and that's what's so exciting about it. Surprises are captivating, and if without any sleight of hand or trickery the story goes in the other direction than you planned, that's so exciting for a storyteller.'

With only 5 days to go before our next episode Sunday night, Allan promises that there will be some laughs, some tears, and some surprises.

Allan's department was responsible for what you saw last Sunday in the first hour of the show, which chronicled the beginning of the Over the Rainbow journey, where thousands of girls across the country competed for a spot in the Top 10. 'There's a defining moment in that first hour (I can't say what it is) that gets everybody and certainly gets me, and it's not crafted, it was just being in the right place at the right time and allowing that magic to come through the screen. It speaks volumes, and we'll be seeing a lot of moments like that,' he says.

Watch the next part of the story unfold this Sunday at 8PM/8:30PM NT only on CBC.

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