Adam Gayheart, Post Production Supervisor, on working on MTV's "The Hills," Project Management, & Navigating the world of Post Production.
September 25, 2015
I’m originally from Massillon, Ohio. It’s a small, football town and the subject of the IFC documentary ‘Go Tigers.’
This was the first production I ever witnessed, as I was a sophomore when they filmed, so I was very enthralled.
My background has been focused on managing post-production and sometimes physical production.
First Job in Entertainment
I landed my first gig a few months after moving to Los Angeles. My roommate at the time, Brandice Lawson (now 2nd AD), was originally supposed to move here with her friend Kholi Cross (now an author).
Kholi, however, got an internship on VH1’s ‘Hogan Knows Best,’ filming in Florida, so I took her place.
Kholi then moved here 3 months after us and with her new connections got a transcribing/logging job on Comedy Central’s ‘Con’ and got both Brandice and I on board, too.
My position isn’t that creative, outside of coloring a show and making a schedule work, but I am hugely inspired by Walt Disney, both for his innovative, creative works and his entrepreneurial vision.
Roles Within Entertainment
All my roles have been as a facilitator, I feel, both as 1st AD and Post Supervisor.
It’s really about keeping everyone on schedule and supplying them with the tools they need to do so.
I became involved in post-production through working as a transcriber in reality television, which is in the post department.
From there I got work on MTV’s ‘The Hills’ as a post PA, and then post coordinator and now supervisor.
I actually always planned to 1st AD in this industry, but with mostly post credits, kept moving along, up that ladder and really enjoy making television on either side of production.
Post Production Supervisor
As Post Supervisor, a lot of the job, again, is scheduling, making sure we’re delivering episodes within the allotted edit days and weeks to make air and promotional content beforehand.
Once content is cut and a legal department makes sure, in the case of reality television, that there are no curse words, or anything unapproved for air.
Then we take it through a mix and color process, to really break it down simply, and then it gets screened before it airs to make sure there are no technical difficulties.
I have been in the industry just over a decade and it’s changed dramatically with technology.
When I first started, we were still using VHS tapes, beta tapes, and we didn’t have iPhones!
Now, everything has moved into the digital realm and I mean everything (only with a tight deadline do we still deliver a physical tape of a show)– also, how did we get anything done before smart phones?!
As far as outreach, social media has allowed us to see, outside of Nelson ratings, how our shows are trending. It’s great to see feedback in that manner.
My advice to someone trying to enter the entertainment field is to get a job as an assistant and if they have the choice in the department they want and for the person whose job they aspire to.
You will learn so much that way and navigate your career from that jumping point.
I would suggest assisting over film school. It will save you money and gives you so much more experience, in my opinion.
The Producer's Guild of America
The Producer’s Guild of America is another great avenue for continued education and networking – along with the perks of Oscar screeners!
The PGA holds both a yearly conference and monthly workshops to educate members in a huge range of subject matter to make them stronger as producers – their next class will cover the basics of content strategy and social media platform planning.
Approach to Creative Projects
You know, everyone in the industry seems to write, so this applies to that, but also can really help if applied in a similar way to scheduling.
A big part of my creative process, that even I’m still trying to refine, is using color elements, i.e. pens and index cards, to create both a timeline of events in a story and where the tone or emotion is landing.
So, if you place one scene on one card and say the emotion of the scene, let’s say dramatic, you’ve deemed to place on a red card, if you have too many red cards together, you may want to rethink how to deliver a scene a little lighter and say you may that card green, now you’re making a more evenly paced story.
If you use it for scheduling, it’s just easy to separate where you are in the process (am I in mix, color, addressing notes) and it’s visually easier to see where you’re at in the process so you can cross things off your list.
I’ve actually had to answer how I deal with difficulties and challenges in this career for the Director’s Guild Trainee Application and I have to tell you it’s this question that is most challenging for me to answer, because I haven’t had an out of the ordinary instance that’s felt difficult, like let’s say the hurricane that struck the set of Jurassic Park.
So, in that way, I don’t look at the typical day-to-day frustrations of the job as world-ending, I really do just try to, literally, smile or joke away any stress.
What Was One of Your More Challenging Projects & How Did You Make it Work?
MTV’s ‘The Hills’ was challenging for me, only because it was one of my first big shows, in a new role (I came in at the beginning of Season 3 as a Post PA), and I had just turned 25.
Really, it was too much for one person to do in a day and luckily the show recognized that, too, and we were able to hire a second Post PA.
It really taught me that you have to recognize your limits and ask for help if needed – they might just give it to you!
Top 5 Memories in Entertainment
My first gig as 1st AD was with the inspirational Jane Fonda and my mom, Debra, happened to be in town, so it was made even more special to have her visit the set.
Attending the Oscars for the first time this year with my dear friend, entertainment editor Josep Parera.
Dancing with Vanessa Williams at our wrap party on Ugly Betty – that was an amazing cast and crew!
Working on MTV’s ‘The Hills’ will always stay with me.
Lastly, LA has become a small town to me, so the random 7 degrees of separation always makes me smile.
Something I wished someone would’ve told me just starting out is not to rush.
In my case, I seem to wired to react too quickly sometimes and hurry too fast, but not only does that excite those around you unnecessarily – and yourself, it dwindles your attention to detail and trust me, it’s better to measure twice and cut once, so if you need 5 minutes to do so, your team or supervisor will appreciate the time estimate then to be delayed twice for the same request.
I knew since I was 8 years old that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, so it really led me to look for anything I could do that I thought touched upon that direction.
So, before college, I did a lot of community theater as stage manager.
Then I went to Full Sail University and studied film. I loved my time there and the friends I made, because we were all so passionate about what we were learning and creating.
We seemed to find the perfect balance of work, more work, and fun.
It took me a long time to find someone I’d consider a really good mentor. For me that person is Amelia Tabullo, a post supervisor.
I was her coordinator on Discovery’s ‘Fast N’ Loud’ and she really just kept an open line of communication, which we all know is important with anything in life, and because of it, I learned so much from her just keeping me in the loop with how she did her job.
Additionally, she allowed me to shadow her a lot. She’s just a class act and very cool.
Currently, working on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ on Fox Sports 1. I can’t say much about it, since it’s a competition show.
That said, I really enjoy the world of MMA fighting, so it’s a great show to be on.
Remember, as Jeff Goldblum says; “Life finds a way.”