‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Producer Arthur Smith Reflects on How Production Has Changed and Hasn’t Changed



In his 40 years of television production experience — spanning shows such as Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” and Netflix’s “Floor is Lava,” Arthur Smith has seen a lot of change. Nothing to do with the last two years, however.

“There was a time between March and July [2020] where we were stuck in neutral. We couldn’t produce anything,” the president of A. Smith & Co. Productions said on the latest episode of the Digiday podcast.

In fact, overnight, six of Smith’s shows slated to go into production that spring were shelved. “The day the NBA canceled its season was the day we were supposed to start shooting [the new season of “American Ninja Warrior”] in Los Angeles. We were all ready, all set to go – and we canceled it too,” he said.

As quickly as the entire production industry came to a halt, projects soon began to resume production in the summer of 2020, albeit with significant adjustments. Two years later, there are still differences from the pre-pandemic productions, but they are fewer.

“We’re doing shows again, and we’re doing shows at the level we were doing in 2019. We just showed two seasons of ‘Hell’s Kitchen,'” said Smith, whose company has produced more than 200 hours of programming. in the past year. He added, “the quantity of production and the types of production [going on today]it’s basically back to normal.

Here are some highlights from the conversation, which have been edited for length and clarity.

Produce in a bubble

I was very proud that these six shows returned to production in July [2020] “Ninja” being the network’s first major event to go into production. And we did it differently. We shot at the same place. We shot in a domed stadium in St. Louis because all domed stadiums were available at the time; nothing was happening [with major sports leagues postponing or pausing their seasons]. And we did the show. We created our own bubble, and everything was very safe.

The return of the public in person

The only thing that is different and evolved is the [live, in-person] audience, have an audience, or have no audience. But now we have them again. “Ninja” this year is back to having an audience, and “Ninja” in July had no audience. But we found other ways. We made our massive screens and asked the public to watch at home to give that energy. But that’s what has evolved: bringing the public back.

The continued role of remote editing

It’s something that’s here to stay, remote editing and the ability to edit like we can now. It created opportunities for things to be changed more quickly or for things to be done differently. And that’s great for editors because a lot of them are happy to work from home. It will probably be a hybrid. There are certain situations where the producer really wants to sit in the [editing] bay with the editor and work on it.

The current pitch process

In some places you pitch the organization [for companies] who have a streaming service and a network and a bunch of cable networks. It’s a competition show, and it can go on any of these [properties], and you cast that person, and they cover them all. And the way some media companies are set up, you have to feature different people [inside the company] the same show.

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