Through the Wire

'Santas’ Meet TV Execs Playing Extras

While some video executives spend their entire careers merely transmitting movies, some occasionally get the chance to move in front of the camera.

The Hallmark Channel cast three such executives in a holiday movie, Meet the Santas, being filmed in the Los Angeles area. They obtained that few minutes of cinematic glory by winning contests at such venues as the National Show. (You might recall Adelphia Communications Corp.’s Abby Aronsohn’s bit part as a murder victim last year after winning a similar contest.)

The winners arrived at the set — outfitted like a mall food court at Christmas — at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7. On hand were Amanda Batson, CEO of ADB Partners Education on Demand (and former head of the Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association), and daughter Alicia; Jennifer Fleming, the National Show winner who’s a marketing specialist at Comcast Spotlight in Sacramento, and guest Matt Baldwin; and Tom Davis, sports marketing director for DirecTV Inc.

After the executives’ outfits were certified as seasonally appropriate by the wardrobe department, they shot their scenes as “atmosphere:” people walking by in the background during scenes or drinking coffee behind principal stars Steve Guttenberg and Dominick Kay Scott.

They finished the day posing for pictures with the stars and enjoying a catered lunch with cast and crew. The flick, a sequel to Hallmark’s Single Santa Meets Mrs. Claus, is scheduled to air Dec. 17.

Forget About Overtime, They Want Hazard Pay

Talk about preparing for a video shoot: The film crew of Push Creative Advertising carried more than just video equipment around for the recent filming of interstitial segments for a Spike TV Ultimate Fighting Championship marathon featuring controversial rap star 50 Cent.

Given that the rapper — an avid UFC fan currently on national movie screens in Get Rich or Die Tryin’ — had a penchant for attracting gunfire during his meteoric rise to stardom, Push Creative president Rudy Gaskins had his crew don bulletproof vests during the day-long shoot.

“I wasn’t going to lose my life over 50 cents,” Gaskins said, referring to four bits, not the rapper. “I first told Fifty that I was wearing a vest when we were on location going over the shooting plan. His response was, 'I’d wear one too, if I was working with someone who thought they needed it.’ ”

After all that, the taping took place without incident.

Finally, a Purpose for Those Dust Collectors

To decorate the venue for the 25th anniversary dinner of the Southern California Cable Telecommunications Association, executives put out a call for memorabilia emblematic of the last quarter century.

Dinner-committee members were amazed by the breadth of premiums hardware people have held onto over their careers — and the accessibility. “I’m surprised people hung onto this stuff,” Neal Flyer, the president of Hamilton Direct and the association’s treasurer, remarked. “Apparently, some people are pack rats.”

People donated receivers from On TV and SelecTV, a pair of regional one-channel premium services driven out of business in the 1980s by the growing cable industry. They summoned up jackets, watches, mugs and pens from shuttered regional favorites SportsChannel Los Angeles and Z Channel (the latter was famous for its eclectic filmmaker showcases).

Former Los Angeles operators are well represented. From TelePrompTer, someone sent in an old budget notebook. There’s an old Jones Intercable channel-lineup card, a coffee mug from United Cable, a Paragon Cable hat and a Falcon Cable jacket. People even saved past marketing materials from Colony Communications.

Some debut items will be displayed, too: the first ever premiums from little networks called MTV: Music Television, VH1 and Sci Fi Channel.

Hardware is also represented, such as a Hamlin slide converter and several dinosaur analog converters.

The organization will celebrate its anniversary Nov. 14 aboard the Queen Mary, now a hotel in Long Beach.

AMC’s 'Shootout’ Flies Biz Class on US Airways

Video on demand isn’t just the buzz on the ground, but in the skies.

If you’re flying business class on US Airways anytime soon, you will have AMC’s Sunday Morning Shootout among your viewing choices. Scott Sternberg Productions licensed the show to the airline to celebrate the 100th Shootout episode, a milestone coming this spring. US Airways will feature a new episode each month of the interview show hosted by Peter Bart, editor in chief of Variety (sister publication of Multichannel News), and producer Peter Guber.

JoJo the Balloon Has Veteran Handler in Ross

When the new JoJo (of JoJo’s Circus) balloon debuts at 79th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, one of the 50-plus handlers walking it along the streets of Manhattan will be Disney Channel Worldwide president Rich Ross.

That shouldn’t be surprising, as JoJo is a Disney Channel star and as Ross will be the presiding host when the channel hosts a party the night before Thanksgiving at the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West, a perfect spot to watch the balloons get inflated.

What might be surprising is that it won’t be Ross’s first time in the parade — or even his first time in the parade in a clown suit. Channel communicator Patti McTeague tells us Ross was a clown in the Macy’s Parade in 1978: his dad was in the apparel trade and had Macy’s as a client, so younger Rich was recruited to take part.

Other JoJo balloon facts: the “flight management team” includes a pilot, two co-pilots, a captain, two co-captains and more than 50 handlers underneath. She’ll inflate to more than 60 feet high and will be juggling balls – that activity is a first for any giant balloon in the parade. And there’s a lot of choreography involved along the 2.5-mile route, as JoJo’s hands need to be raised and lowered and an independent third ball floats ahead of JoJo, creating the juggling effect.

So if Ross is tired at turkey time, his family won’t be surprised, either.

Obligatory program notes: a primetime JoJo Thanksgiving special airs Nov. 20 and a JoJo 12-episode marathon airs Thanksgiving morning.

Contributor: R. Thomas Umstead.