In Search of J.K. Rowling: A Producer's Tale

To be honest, the search wasn't that hard. She was exactly where she had agreed to be at exactly the time she agreed to be there. Actually, a half hour early, which presented a tiny issue of its own.

But let me back track.

Lots of times when I tell people I produce for “Good Morning America,” they think it's a super glamorous job. And often I let them think that. Even though fully 75% of my time is spent in a tiny dark edit room or sitting at my cubicle logging tapes and writing scripts.

But every once in a while we get thrown a bone.

So cut to August. I am asked to come to a meeting with Cynthia McFadden.  She is interviewing J.K. Rowling. In Scotland. And would like me to produce.



Now my guess is you've heard something about J.K. Rowling releasing a new novel for adults at the end of September. It's one of the most anticipated books of the fall.  And I am also guessing you've heard nothing of what the book is actually about. And there is a good reason for that.

It's top secret.

So top secret, we couldn't get a copy of the book to take home and read in advance. We had to go to the publisher's office to read the manuscript. And it was guarded whenever we left the room for a break.

Top. Secret.

Fast forward to September and the trip is actually here. I have spent an inordinate amount of time working out a myriad of details: painstakingly timing out how to get everything done in the time I have to do it; how long it will take to set up the multi-camera shoot (three hours); how I will be able to shoot video of Rowling and Cynthia walking outside in one location and simultaneously get pretty footage of the city Edinburgh (split up the crews).

We fly out on a Saturday night -- myself, Cynthia and Patty Neger, our senior Book Producer. The shoot is on Monday. And I am feeling fairly under control by the time I hit the airport. And then I check the weather report for Monday in Edinburgh - 55 degrees and pouring rain. Not helpful for shooting outside. Awesome. Control. Gone.

After a long if uneventful overnight flight we land in Edinburgh, Scotland late morning on Sunday, clean up, rest a bit, and then realize we actually have a few hours of free time to briefly be tourists.

The three of us all agreed that what happens in Edinburgh stays in Edinburgh...but I am not all that trustworthy, so here are a few highlights and confessions:

*Cynthia is a laser-focused, heat-seeking missile when it comes to shopping. Within minutes of walking down Edinburgh’s charming streets she had found an amazing women's clothing store and bought the place out.

*I don't want to name names, but one of us (Patty) got herself locked in a bathroom and had to be rescued by a random Australian. (Thank you Leslie-from-Australia, wherever you are.)

*We tried haggis. We felt like we had to. The restaurant was lovely and our food great, but Cynthia said we had to order the haggis. It was a fancy, nouveau version, wrapped in phyllo dough, but still tasted like lambs stomach to me and Patty. And not in a good way. Cynthia confidently proclaimed she liked it. I think it's because her last name is McFadden.

The evening passed and I tried to forget it was supposed to pour the next day. All of us were jet lagged, so sleep was difficult but I awoke Monday morning to discover blue sunny skies -- a producer's miracle!

The interview is scheduled to start at 11 am. The crews and I meet a little before 8 am and start trying to make a big empty room look like an intimate place where Cynthia and J.K. Rowling just happen to be having a conversation. We have three hours. And I have two great crews. No problem.

Except a teeny problem when Rowling comes in a half hour early. We're excited! And then ever so briefly panicked.  A brief but strong tornado of activity occurs (thank you to our amazing cameramen Sean and Adrian) - and then it was happening.

I won't say anything about the interview because you will see it soon enough on the air - but I will say that as a massive Harry Potter fan, Rowling was everything I had hoped she would be. She was interesting and fun and thoughtful and very, very nice.

That's the good news. And the most important news really.

The bad news is the skies opened up later in the day and our footage of Edinburgh got pretty water logged. It’s possible you may not see many shots of Edinburgh in our finished pieces -- but trust me, we were there.  I have still have the taste of haggis in my mouth to prove it. But all in all -- a highly successful shoot.

Since we agreed that what happens in Edinburgh says in Edinburgh, I won't go into why Cynthia nicknamed me "Dora Doom" (it may or may not have something to do with me over-reacting to the news that our plane home was delayed several hours because of mechanical issues). What's important here is the interview tapes are safely in my suitcase -- and if that's the worst thing to come out of this adventure, I can take it.

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