The Making of Fear No Art Chicago Episode 2

September 29th, 2010

The Making of Fear No ART Chicago

So many people who watch Fear No ART Chicago on WTTW or the webisodes on say to me, “ Wow, it seems you just plopped into their studio to have a chat!”  It seems this way, but it isn’t – – not even remotely close.

So much planning and preparation is required to put together Fear No ART Chicago. This will give you a glimpse of what it takes.

The Planning Stage (after the humungous fundraising stage)

After months of researching artists, I finally narrow down three.  About 1 month before we actually shoot, I go to their studio to talk to them about their work, their life, and what they have going on at the moment. I don’t actually ask them the interview questions because I want those to be spontaneous I just want to get a feel for their speaking presence and our chemistry together.   I also nail down with them the locations and timing for the interviews.

I then pre-script the show (write my intros and exits and map out all the interview questions) and what happens around the script.  Is there painting? Cooking? Singing? Dancing? While exactly what we do will be spontaneous, I need to leave time in the script for it and accommodate whatever demonstration the artist gives.

A few days before the shoot, Field Producer Catherine Hickman, Head Videographer John Ford and I will head to the locations to make sure the settings will work for the shoots and check lighting. I have given Catherine the shoot itinerary for that day so everyone knows exactly when we need to be where, as each interview is carefully timed.

The Shoot Day

The shoot day comes (after a week of me figuring out something to wear on camera. The show is way too poor to have a hair, make-up, and wardrobe person!) and we have John Ford, Catherine Hickman, Videographer Tim Barron, Grip Josh Jones , Sound manager Joe Lukawski and intern Nicole Nelson.   For budgeting purposes, I organize 3 interviews in one day and have worked out how long we can be in each place, along with travel times, so that we can actually do 3 in a day – which is an INCREDBILE pace.  It’s a long day:  a solid 10 hours for me and 13 hours for the crew, with no room for errors, traffic jams, or botches.

After setting up and taking down all the gear for the 3 interviews, the actual interview portion with the artist is 60 – 75  minutes of pure in-the-moment talking, and at this point the artist and I are very comfortable with one another.  The interviews really are as spontaneous as they seem and when I am in them, I am in that wonderful moment of discovery!

In my interview with Frank Orrall from Poi Dog pondering, I had no idea what we would be doing in the kitchen for lunch – even though quite a bit of thought went into how lunch would be a part of the conversation – or what he would be singing.  And the segment with tango dancer Jorge Niedas?  We had no prep for the dancing.  None at all, except about 10 minutes before!  With ceramic artist Jay Strommen, I had never touched clay before…ever!  This part of the day is really pure joy and I hope it comes through on camera.


Oh my God, if I knew how long it would take to script and edit, I am not sure I would have jumped into the TV gig so quickly.  Catherine and I will go back and forth on scripting the show 3 times.  From 75 minutes of footage, first we build the 8 minute story.  Then we layer in the b roll/background shots.  Then we review.  It sounds easy?  It’s grueling and it takes 7 solid days.

We then turn our outlines over to the fabulous Ms. Kristin Klinger at HMS Media and she brings it all together, plus sponsor spots, intros, outros, music, credits, bloopers – in 4 days – while Catherine and I review from over her shoulder.

It is labor intensive and there is no shortcut.

From here we send the show out to be transcribed, and it heads to closed captioning and is turned in to WTTW two weeks before the first air date.  At this point the marketing wheels start turning, and I gear up to market this show and search for funding for the next show – its own enormous endeavor.    The whole process, not including fundraising, is over 12 weeks.

I hope you will watch Fear No ART Chicago on WTTW on October 8th @ 8:30 PM, October 18 @ 10:30 PM, October 24 @ 5:30 PM and October 31 @ 12:30 PM.  It is a mountain of work, a labor of love, and 3 really joyful, fun, exciting, and eye-opening interviews.  I hope you enjoy it!

-Elysabeth Alfano

Elysabeth Alfano is the creator, executive producer, co-producer and host of Fear No ART Chicago on WTTW.  She is also the creator, executive producer, writer and host of Art Scene on

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