Photo: AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez
Chris Martin of Coldplay - "Super Bowl 50" Halftime Show, Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
The 22-minute miracle known as the Super Bowl halftime show is a fascinating topic in addition to being a production marvel, and there was plenty of material left over from the 9 a.m. conversation.
One tidbit is that the day before the Super Bowl is a “dark day.” The production crew is not in rehearsals and is more likely to be found doing laundry. That's not to say that rehearsal junkies like Beyonce are not spending eight hours working with her dancers, or that Bruno Mars is training with his crew, but no cameras are around.
It's also worth noting that even though the two artists didn't meet until Sunday, they were both very aware that the show is not for the stadium but for the little TV screen.
Both were “looking for the meatball” and knew which camera was active at all times while Coldplay's Chris Martin sang to the fans near the stage. It's an important distinction: the Super Bowl halftime show is seen by about 120 million viewers or, as one panelist noted, more people than the Rolling Stones have ever played to in their entire career. One may also be surprised to learn that nothing really changes with Super Bowl production.
Much like, no matter who is on stage at the Grammys, it is producer Ken Ehrlich calling the shots year after year, the production crew for the Super Bowl is seasoned and does not change whether it's Katy Perry riding a lion, singing about a tiger, or if it's Coldplay in the world's biggest Pepsi commercial.
Somewhere in the mix you'll find ubiquitous production manager Jake Berry as well as Nightwatch's Cap Spence making it run year after year. And as far as technological advances go, nothing really has changed as far as Spence is concerned: a career in production is based upon caring about the product or, as Charlie Hernandez put it, having the needle spike on the “giving-a-fuck meter.”
A newb who makes mistakes but cares will go a lot further in this career than a perfectionist who doesn't show interest. Also noted by Spence: he never feels the need to talk to an artist's manager, agent or handler. The person to talk to is the guy on the bus, riding alongside the artist. That's the person who knows what is really going on.
One audience member asked a question that was profound in its simplicity: Who decides who plays the halftime show?
The answer was quite simple. It's not record companies or Pepsi or, obviously, football fans. It's the league and NFL Executive Producer Ricky Kirshner.
Another bow to old-school, true grit know-how was the 2013 halftime show in New Orleans, famous for its third-quarter electrical blackout that delayed the football game.
People were shocked – shocked – that such a thing could happen and was it a conspiracy to win a bet (yes, there was a betting line that the Super Bowl would have a power failure)?
The production crew for Beyoncé's halftime show was not nearly as surprised. A power fluctuation during the dress rehearsal shut off up to six cameras, which caused the production to bring in TwinPack event generators. The entire halftime show “could have been produced in Iowa.”
There actually was a short-lived controversy that Beyoncé caused the third-quarter outage and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had to quickly dispel the notion that she was somehow responsible.