6/19/07 Discovery LiveChat: Deadliest Catch Executive Producer Jeff Conroy
Discovery: Welcome to the final chat in our weekly Deadliest Catch chat series. Our guest is Jeff Conroy, co-executive producer of Deadliest Catch. He's been producing the series since the beginning, so get the inside scoop on this season and the entire series. Ask your questions now.
Jeff Conroy: Thanks for inviting me, and thanks for watching and enjoying the show. It's great to see that other people enjoy the show as much as I do!
captainrik: Hi Mr. Conroy ... Thanks for talking to us ... I was wondering how many camera guys do you have on each boat? Jeff Conroy: Basically the setup is two camera guys per boat. One is a cameraman predominantly, and the other predominantly a producer. But my caveat would be that we do some boats where we just put one cameraman on. to spread our net wider.
Juneau: The crew members talk about getting seasick even after years crab fishing...how did your film crews manage? Jeff Conroy: Usually the first 24 hours can be rough although I must say I had some guys who didn't get sick at all. On a side note - I had one crew that came in on an offload and they'd been sick the whole time. Usually we let them get off the boat and stay at a hotel, but they refused to get off the boat because they'd finally acclimatized to the boat and didn't want to get seasick again when they got back on it.
captainrik: How many camera guys have quit do to the adverse conditions? Jeff Conroy: No one has actually quit. As in "get me off the boat NOW!" But I've had people who didn't want to return and I've had people who didn't function in their job very well. But in the third season, that doesn't happen any more because I think we can screen them pretty well now and we get so many return that we know what we're getting.
sugarland: First, job well done to your guys on this show...I'm addicted. How many more seasons do you think you'll be doing, and are any of the boats in for another season yet? Just can't get enough of this great show. Thanks Jeff Conroy: Well first off, thanks very much - that's very kind. I hope we go on forever! I hope this is the American Idol of the Discovery Channel and every year we just keep going! We actually haven't decided which boats we'll be doing next year. We're open to suggestions.
vitoman: Why did the Maverick and Rollo decline to participate? Jeff Conroy: First off, each of their circumstances were different and it's based on what stories we can tell. We love the Maverick, and we hope to go out with them again if they want to. During king crab season, we had a new story that we hadn't heard, and that was Blake on the Maverick, as a greenhorn skipper. In the opie season, we have to make decisions every year about what stories will be in the show and what won't. And this season we had other stories that were stronger on other boats so there had to be decisions made. What can we lose? There were only 12 episodes, and we'd already had great stories from The Maverick. The Rollo was a great boat in last year's season. We just wanted to tell some new stories. I try to keep the show fresh, but bring some of the old characters back and it's a tough balance, and requires tough decisions.
mystic: Is a mini series about the crew's lives on land a possibility? Jeff Conroy: That's a really interesting idea. If you know any of these guys on land, it's a really interesting mini series. At this time, there's nothing in the works but it's a good idea to consider, that's for sure.
Patty: How did you decide the placement of the camera crew on which ships? Jeff Conroy: That's a great question. Figuring out which camera crews go on which ship is based on a combination of skills and personality. I try to think about the personality of the cameraman and producer that we put on each boat, first as a team, and second how they'll get along with the people on the boat. It's such a unique filming experience, you don't get to say "Cut!" and walk away. To work on a crab boat, you really have to get along with people or it won't work.
Saudi: Thanks to you and all F/V for a terrific show. What was your most memorable moment? Jeff Conroy: That's a hard question! I can tell you a funny moment - we were up in Dutch Harbor during opie season and the guys on the Time Bandit decided to have what they called Club Time Bandit. If you're a Deadliest Catch fan, this was Nirvana - it was basically a party on the boat, and it was really cool.
Patty: Will you be filming on the same ships next season? Jeff Conroy: We don't know yet, actually. We're still trying to figure that out. I guess I'd ask you Patty, do you think we should? You can talk on the discussion boards about whether you think we should or not.
Patty: Who came up with the idea of filming crab fishing? Jeff Conroy: That would be Thom Beers, the creator and executive producer. Actually, he was on a crab boat in 1999 filming, which seems so long ago now. It took a little while for the idea to be accepted and become a show.
MELID1970: How did you choose which F/Vs would be on the show? Jeff Conroy: I've said this before - the first thing I look for is straight shooters. We want people who are willing to be honest and be themselves on camera. Actually, that's not too hard to find in the crab fishing world! This is a group of guys who are going to be who they are regardless of who's there. Then we also look for interesting stories. I used the example earlier of Blake as a young captain coming up, and those are interesting stories. You don't know what's going to happen in a new situation. Another example would be with Phil and his son being on the boat - that's just a dynamic we had nothing to do with, but because he was fishing with his two sons, we were interested in going to see what happened.
Tartar Sauce: Did you go to film school? Or apprentice? What other productions have you done to prepare for this gig? Jeff Conroy: I did not go to film school. Probably the best known show I did before this was Monster Garage. I went to the school of "get someone a coffee until you can get another job." Like most people in the business, I started as a production assistant and tried to find any piece of creativity I could to move myself up. And I got a lot of coffees too! :-)
With this environment especially, we do a lot of supplemental story training and obviously Doug Stanley, the director of photography, really loves to teach any of our younger guys or girls about filmmaking and camera work. So it's good to have an environment where people do that from within.
Delaware don: Hi Jeff. I'm curious how we find out where the crab is sold from these guys to help support them? Jeff Conroy: Oh man, I wish I knew that! There is certainly a number of the boats that deliver to Trident, one of the biggest if not the biggest crab processors, so you could link through their page. I think the Maverick sells their own crab, so you could go to their website.
vitoman: There were a couple different conflicts on the show this time in opilio season. Being executive producer, do you think that there was a chance that they were influenced playing for the cameras or the situations were totally real? Jeff Conroy: Really, that's our biggest fear - if someone plays for the camera, we're not really interested in that because what makes the show work is when you're watching it, you're watching something that's real, with real conflicts. I don't think those conflicts were faked. There was a lot of stress, a lot on the line, people were stressed and not sleeping enough. It's an environment made for tension. So the answer is, I don't think so.
deb: Jeff, I missed the show tonight because I'm staying in a fancy hotel and they don't have Discovery, they have Discovery HD instead. Are there any plans to film Deadliest Catch in HD and what would that entail? I think it would look amazing in HD. Jeff Conroy: You can stop staying at that hotel immediately! Actually, we did shoot the show in HD but I'm not sure when it will go to HD. It will at some point, but due to technical challenges it will be delayed a bit in HD.
Patty: Do the ships that you are filming on receive any profit from the show? Jeff Conroy: The simple answer is that we do pay them a location fee, but I wouldn't call it profitable necessarily. We cover the impact we have on the boat, like we do when we film in someone's house; we don't cost them any money. We cover expenses so our impact is not felt financially.
sasha: Hey, what impressed you most about producing the show? Where you more impressed by the danger of the job or by the work effort it takes to complete the job? Jeff Conroy: You know, I hate to give a middle of the road answer, but I'd say both have a great impact. If it was just a dangerous job, it would only have one dimension to it. But the fact that it is amazingly difficult work under strenuous circumstances makes it multi dimensional, and thus attracted us more.
sigfan47: Hey Jeff, thanks for the awesome show! How much convincing did these captains need to let you guys do this? Jeff Conroy: In the beginning, a lot. I wasn't part of the original team that was out there scouting, but my understanding is that it was very difficult to convince captains to let us on their boats. It makes sense - it's tight quarters. We're doing a behind the scenes show that will air soon, and you'll see that with 2 extra guys on board, it has quite an impact. But now that they've seen the show, a lot of them for the first time find their families know what they actually do, so more skippers actually want to be on the show. We don't have as hard a time convincing them to be on it now.
Brandon clan: The camera crews should be getting "combat pay" for filming on these ships. How much time have you spent on the ships?? Jeff Conroy: I've spent a week with the Cornelia Marie during king crab season the year before last, and 2 days to a week on the Time Bandit. But with my job now, it's hard. You're so isolated out there that it's hard for me to do my job out there.
Elizabeth Joy: Like the deckhands, do the cameramen also only have to work during the crab seasons to earn a living or do they have other dangerous filming jobs to look forward to? Jeff Conroy: These guys - I suppose some could not have to work, but all these guys are adventure cameramen. Three of them have been filming in the front lines of wildland fire, so for these guys, it's in their blood. They're adventure junkies! I'm basically just feeding their addiction.
PETER: How much did the crab weigh that is in the picture before we enter the live chat? Jeff Conroy: I didn't weigh it, but I was amazed at the size of it. Great question. I should have weighed it.
yomama53: What's it like being executive producer for the largest television series on the whole freaking east coast? Jeff Conroy: I don't know - I haven't had time to think about it! It's awesome. This show has been a great adventure for me as well, and I'm just really proud of it. It's amazingly rewarding.
farleyck: What is the most weirdest thing that you have ever seen happen since you have been doing the show? Jeff Conroy: I'll have to think about that...Well, I tell you, it's weird to me to be with some of these captains in the streets of Los Angeles or New York and see the amazing response the public has. If you meet these guys, they're crab fishermen. To see that in some ways, they've touched the general public almost like a celebrity - that's weird to me. But cool!
bobbittlee: Has any attempt been made to track the crab biomass in their migration movements. I just wonder about the captains and their struggle to stay on the crab, with the GPS and other techno advancements. Jeff Conroy: The Department of Fish and Game does do some tracking. I know they do test pots every year. to kind of keep track of them, and those reports are available to the crab fishermen. A crab fisherman will tell you it's not an exact science - you have to use a lot of instinct.
dietzboy: Have you ever been seriously scared on the boat? Tell us where and when. Jeff Conroy: Not as scared as you might think, because there's something strange - you have such faith in these captains. When you see them in their element, you can tell when someone knows what they're doing. I've been to sea with Johnathan and Andy and Phil, and I wasn't scared. But one time on the Cornelia Marie I had the idea to go out and adjust a fixed camera on the deck. The waves and wind picked up while I was out there, and it was so cold and so slippery, I remember thinking I had gotten into a bad situation. I held on to the railing so tightly to get back into the deckhouse. That was probably the closest I've gotten to being really scared.
Winnkidd2: Do you have chase boats, to keep everyone safe? Jeff Conroy: We had a chase boat, but you wouldn't be able to keep anyone safe. The Bering Sea is so huge, and the boats are so spread out. We'd track one boat, film it, and track another. They are definitely out there on their own.
PETER: How many hours of film do your camera guys use? Jeff Conroy: I think the total gets up to, between deck cams and everything, about 5000 hours, maybe even more. I'll have to check. It's a ridiculous amount, let's just say that.
siggirl: I have some things I want to send to the producers as well as the guys on the Northwestern. How would I go about that? Jeff Conroy: The Northwestern has a website, so that's a good bet. Original Productions has a website, and it's origprod.com. I believe if you go there, you can find an address.
dietzboy: What happened to the Aleutian Ballad? Jeff Conroy: I don't know exactly what you mean by what happened to them. In last year's show they were hit by a rogue wave, and the boat righted itself and was fine. They actually had their last king crab season last fall - I think their boat is retired now.
deb: What happened to the really enthusiastic crew member who shot the plastic bucket that ripped his pants? I think he was on Sig's boat. I didn't see him around this season. He seemed so into fishing. Jeff Conroy: I think you're talking about Mike, when he was on the Time Bandit. Mike was the one who ripped his rain gear last season. I don't know what happened to him - I wouldn't be surprised if he's back on the Time Bandit next year because he's friends with Johnathan and Andy.
siggirl: If you are indeed open for suggestions, PLEASE keep Sig and the Northwestern and please do not change the opening to Wanted Dead or Alive. It's awesome, gives me chills! Thanks. Jeff Conroy: OK, done!
CAG: What was the most serious injury a camera man endured? Jeff Conroy: We've had a number of bruised and possibly cracked ribs. I think that is the worst injury. We did have some teeth get knocked out, but that was at dock. The rib injuries happened several times, and that's not surprising - you have to hold the camera and look at your shot, and the boat is tipping violently, and sometimes you don't have a spare hand to catch yourself.
candlesrato: I saw an episode of the Deadliest Catch out of Mass., will there be any more from the east coast? Jeff Conroy: I think you're talking about Lobster Wars, and I believe the new season of that show airs in August. We did that show as well - great show! Totally different environment and group of characters - it has its own thing, that's for sure.
Todd: Did Blake ever find the fish that Edgar put under his seat? Jeff Conroy: He did. And that was one of the shots we missed. He did find it, and it was when we were asleep. I think Ed Green, the greenhorn on that boat had something to do with finding it. They just smelled it, and eventually they started tearing up the wheelhouse, and that's how they found it.
dlgordon8: When do you actually start filming? Is king crab season the next one? Jeff Conroy: Yes, king crab season is the next and generally that starts around Oct. 15. So we get there a couple of days before the season.
AB_Thames: Why don't you follow the boats through cod or other fishing? Jeff Conroy: I think the nature of crab fishing, the way each pot tells a story, each pot is either make it or break it makes for interesting stories. We have covered cod in the past, and we may do it again. Crab fishing is so exciting that we may consider other fisheries.
Crabhappy: I love the show, the guys, and watching the experience. But, it's way too long until the next season. Have you thought about expanding the season by filming on more boats? Jeff Conroy: That's an interesting idea! I appreciate that and I think there is something nice about having a break and anticipating the next season. I think it makes it more special this way.
Brian: Has the change from rally style to a quota system changed the way you look at the show, from an entertainment standpoint? Jeff Conroy: Yes. The change to rationalization made it more of a character-driven show because the guys fish longer, and you can follow these guys and learn more about them. When it was a derby, it was only 2-3 days and that was it, so you really didn't get a chance to see as much.
dc_fan_1: How did the idea for the After the Catch show come about? Jeff Conroy: That came from Discovery. We loved the idea, and always wanted to tell the stories that we never had time to tell. So as soon as it came up, we jumped on it.
Tonytn36: First, this is the best show on TV, period. The mini-series After the Catch is great. Please don't commercialize the show like many of the other networks have. How much film footage gets left on the floor at production time? Jeff Conroy: First of all, commercials pay the bills. We hate to have them, but it pays the budget for production and allows us to get out there. If you think about it, I guesstimated that we had about 5000 hours of tape, and the shows are only 12 hours total. So that makes 4,988 that don't get used. A lot of hours!
Summer79: Would you ever want to be a deckhand? Jeff Conroy: You know, I don't think I would. I love the adventure, and this is something that's cool about crab fishing - it's kind of like going to camp in my mind. It's a brutal camp, sure! But you go to sea, you eat whatever you want, you don't have to go to bed or take showers, you can hang with the guys. So there's a fun thing I think is attractive. But my hat goes off to these guys - this is a tough job. There's no easy version of being a deckhand on a crab boat.
Cherokee: Are there any females on the camera crew? Jeff Conroy: There are on land. We had a female go out on the first season, but not since. They have not asked us not to send women. Sometimes they had women on the boat that are the Fish and Game observers. A good portion of the Fish and Game observers are women.
Wildmikey: Was it more difficult to film after the fleet was trimmed? Jeff Conroy: No, it wasn't any more difficult to film. We can't be on every boat, so we're on a limited number anyway.
dc_fan_1: Does the crew chip in for food and supplies on the ship? Jeff Conroy: Yes, we definitely do. We pay for our food and supplies.
Jenny: Do you have any input in the deck hands? Seems like you screened the captains and the boats, but with the turnover of deckhands each season, it seems that there would be the risk of getting those that are there for the camera and not the crab. Jeff Conroy: We don't have any say in the deckhands, and I actually like it that way. That captain on the boat is the captain of his boat, and he should be deciding who goes on it. I don't think it's happened yet that a deckhand has been there just for the camera.
nichtijo: Was there a lot of damage to the Time Bandit? Jeff Conroy: There was a significant amount of damage to the Time Bandit. I heard Andy saying that years ago, he had suggested reinforcing the bow, and Johnathan had been "No way!" and when they got back, Johnathan said, "Maybe we should put on that bulbous bow and reinforce it!" So I guess the circumstances changed his mind.
zebo0916: Do you believe that this was the wildest season yet? Jeff Conroy: Yes I do. Two obvious reasons for me are that we saw two people get plucked from the ocean, and I think that's pretty wild.
NYMETALHEAD: Do any of the captains or crewmen get upset with any of the scenes you choose to air? Jeff Conroy: I think yes, they do at times. In the process of telling an honest story, we're not all perfect all the time and people don't want to see a side of themselves that isn't ideal.
grease_monke: What do you need to do to stop the cameras from freezing up? Jeff Conroy: There really isn't anything. We've tried a number of things, and none has been completely successful. We haven't had a problem with them freezing and shutting down - water is a bigger issue. If you watch Behind the Scenes, you'll see a cameraman chipping the ice off his camera.
nichtijo: Are the captains truly the way we see them or do they tone it down at all. Jeff Conroy: Depends on whether you think what you see on TV is "toned down"! There's a spirit of Alaska, and a spirit in the crab fishing world, along the lines of take me as I am. Love me or hate me, this is the way I am. And I think that attitude comes through in the show.
Cherokee: Have any crews declined having cameras on board? Jeff Conroy: Yes, definitely. It's a business, after all, and you have to be wiling to have these people not interrupt your business, but be in your business.
Michelle: Thanks for the great show, I think there are a lot of people emotionally attached to these guys like I am. Do you give videos to the guys on the boats? I bet the families would love to have the memories. Jeff Conroy: We don't give up the footage, because we tend to keep using it and finding new ways to show it. We don't give out the DVDs, but I bet the captains have them already!
ghostrider39: Did you like when they played pranks on the boats? Jeff Conroy: Yes, I think it's pretty funny. But that's got to really be between them. For us, we're just there to film it. I think it's funny though.
mustangman58: Hey Jeff, I noticed footage of the boats on the Bering Sea and learned the Time Bandit is the "chaser." Why did you choose them as the "chaser"? Jeff Conroy: The Time Bandit had a smaller quota to catch so they could catch it faster.
Rebecca: What is the most important lesson you have learned from these captains and their crews? Jeff Conroy: That's a good question. There can be only one person in charge. And hard work pays off.
Discovery: Jeff, thank you for being here tonight, and for bringing us the stories of Deadliest Catch! Our time is almost up, but is there anything you'd like to add, before we have to close? Jeff Conroy: It may sound corny, but I'd just like to thank the fans and the people who watch the show. It's really a labor of love for me and my crew, and you watching makes sure we can do it again next year. So I just want to say thanks.
Discovery: Thanks so much for joining our weekly Deadliest Catch chats. We hope that you have enjoyed them and learned more about the fishermen and their amazing craft. Keep checking the site for continued updates on the guys and the upcoming season in weekly podcasts.
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