Meet the Creatives: Don Weiner


Click your heels three times and imagine this is your typical day working in television...

First, you meet with the show's choreographer and talk dance steps. Then you're in a meeting with the costume designer mulling over gingham. Then you're on the phone with the set designer, then the sound designer. Coffee break! Then you're helping direct a promotional photo shoot. Then maybe you're back in your office handling everything else you've missed while working on the first few things.

And then someone asks you for an interview while you're on the phone trying to order a prop - in this case - a large moon...

Sounds like the dictionary definition of multitasking, doesn't it?

Meet our Executive Producer, Don Weiner.

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Executive Producer Don Weiner (left) and Coordinating Producer Millan Curry-Sharples look over still photos from an Over the Rainbow promo shoot.

Don admits that 'producer' can be a nebulous title and that the job description can change from project to project - but you can think of him as the cog in the wheel that keeps the show's creative side moving forward.

Or as he puts it, 'I'm charged with helping form the concept of the show, which means taking the vision of the creator, like Andrew Lloyd Webber and the network and kind of forging a path for the show and keeping it on track.'

Don then takes that vision and relays it to all the different departments involved - and that's where the execution begins. Everything from what the set and the lighting will look like, to the sound and music, to the costumes - all of those elements fall under Don's umbrella.

'Once you bring the people together, then you motivate them, you light the fuses under each of them. Then you hand off the vision to them, they give you feedback, and then the show starts to grow and all the pieces of the puzzle start to come together,' he explains. 'I have an idea of what the show should look like, but I'm trying to tap into the creativity of everyone involved.'

He confesses that the whole process can be scary, and that sometimes keeping abreast of everything can be challenging, but incredibly rewarding. 'There's a ripple effect to each decision you make, it's important to anticipate and keep your head above water. And you hope that you've armed your team with enough tools and understanding that they can do their jobs, he says.

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Don (center) at the Dorothy Top 100 Callback day.

Any fears Don might have about the challenges that lie ahead are tempered with excitement and enthusiasm. In particular, he's excited to see Over the Rainbow's young performers flourish and grow. 'I think one thing that's very exciting about what we're doing is that the ladies who are part of the show are very young, and in almost every case they're taking the first steps in their journeys as performers. I think the pressure is going to be heightened because of that and that leads to great performances. In a lot of ways their journeys are very much like the role they're trying to win. Like Dorothy, they're teenagers who have a dream. It's been really interesting for me seeing those parallels, and it's really exciting as a producer to put on a show like this, when you don't know what's going to happen,' he explains.

And Don has been around the block enough to know what a show like Over the Rainbow can do for someone's career. His credits include Star Search, Solid Gold and Showtime at the Apollo - which ran for 20 years in the U.S. If that's going back too far for you, he's also got So You Think You Can Dance, So You Think Can Dance Canada, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader, and the CBC's Cover Me Canada under his belt.

He explains there's a pattern there, 'Early on in my career I had a chance to work with one of the legends of early TV, a man named Bob Banner, who did a lot of big musical and comedy and variety types of shows, like the Carol Burnett Show and the original Candid Camera. Bob gave me entrée into that world. And I've always enjoyed the spectacle of live theatre and dance and for me that segued into shows that involved theatricality and performance. I've always been drawn towards putting on a show for an audience, it's exciting.'

With less than 10 days to go before our two-hour premiere on September 16th - you can be sure Don's getting all the pieces in place for a knock-out show - with or without the prop moon.