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'MasterMinds' production team met the challenge

Those modest questions that get gossiped about -- “The kids didn’t know the answer to that?!” -- yeah, well, I wouldn’t know answers to those either. But, of course, as wisdom guides, it’s best to raise eyebrows with everyone and disapprove of ignorance on the sets of "MasterMinds" quiz show than to be too honest.

Clearly, for me to produce "SCCC presents MasterMinds," Proctors’ quiz show spanning over 15 one-hour episodes, was quite a challenge. Thankfully, Scott Kroner and the brilliant team at "MasterMinds" owned responsibility for the 18-minute quizzes, the key component of the hour-long show. They worried about the questions, answers, rules, scoring, and all that complex stuff that makes a quiz show production a daunting task.

I got to play with the frills, as my job was to package the 18-minute quiz into a TV show. It was like designing a goodies box, a combo meal package. On the plate was plain cheese pizza. I had to add five extra toppings, serve it with a pina colada and a cupcake with coconut frosting and sprinkles.

You might say, “Well that’s easy enough!” I’d reply, “Well, come into my kitchen, see for yourself.” Not easy; hell no. Not when it’s your first real job in the United States, first three months into the job, first time producing a quiz show, first time with a crew consisting mostly of volunteers, and first time your employer produced a TV show of this scale. Reputations were at stake. It was a do or die.

And I didn’t die, thanks to Richard Lovrich, art director extraordinaire at Proctors. I pitched to him my initial idea for the look of the show. He knew me only briefly, but agreed to ride the dream wave. He got the Albany Times Union, Paul Mitchell The School and Mohawk Sign System involved in the show, and the result, as viewers will see, is gorgeous. The huge panels on the set are Richard’s creation and so are some smart ideas that give the show that cool, techno edge.

One phenomenon that occurred while this show came to life was that team Proctors expanded to the realm of TV production. Proctors CEO Philip Morris got behind the camera for a few hours; Youth and Community Affairs Manager Joey Hunziker got in action interviewing students "behind the scenes." Technical Director James Petersen co-created the lighting design for the show. Corporate Advertising Manager Francesca Mancino became the still photographer on set. Theatre Tech Teacher Jeff Knorr built the set with his students, who also did some awesome work behind and in front of the camera.

Some talented and experienced volunteers comprised our team. The star of the show, host David Guistina of WAMC, was in this list. David was the first one to get on set in the morning, and went on relentlessly over four tapings in a day for four days. So did Bob Shenise, the lighting director of the show who donated an enormous amount of time and brought in his valuable equipment for us to use during the show.

The crew consisted of the thoroughly professional Technical Director Arthur Hunsinger and talented Assistant Producer Gary Arzberger, who made sure the show ran like well-oiled machinery. Theresa Taylor, a student of our principal sponsor SCCC, also did a terrific job as production assistant. The show brought to light talented producers like Nick Lyman and Huldah Thompson, whose editing work you’ll see during the show.

Television is teamwork and that was reflected beautifully during the production of this show. Several people complimented us on the positive energy and calm that was palpable on the set.

Talking of positive energy, I have to share something with you. I think the single most important factor that resulted in the successful completion of this production, despite the huge challenges that I was faced with, was this: In my heart, the work for this show was done with dedication to God, who I call Krishna. I follow the philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita, which asks to dedicate everything we have, produce and consume to God. Looking at the final show now, I’m thinking, Krishna must have enjoyed the five-topping pizza, pina colada and cupcake with coconut frosting and sprinkles.

Richa Khandelwal Bhat is an award-winning television producer, a screenwriter and prime-time television host. She will produce her first feature film, "Bhoomi," in February 2013, if the predicted apocalypse turns out to be a mere lie. Richa hails from New Delhi, India.

To learn even more about Proctors, visit or click here.

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