Syndicated Strip Showrunners: Chris Rantamaki

Dec 6, 2004  •  Post A Comment

On shooting days at “Ambush Makeover,” the field control room is “chaos,” executive producer said on the phone from a location shoot in Miami.

“You’re balancing all kinds of demographics as producers call in with info on sex, age, ethnicity, whether the shoot’s a setup or not a setup,” he said. “The producers are all calling in for approval and the locations are booked on the fly.”

Yet when “Ambush” debuted in national syndication in September, Mr. Rantamaki said, the “nightmare” was actually behind them. “The great thing is we were able to tweak things for the national launch,” he said.

“Ambush,” produced by Banyan Productions (“Trading Spaces”) in association with the show’s distributor Twentieth Television, is unique among this season’s freshman crop of strips because the production was already up and running for more than a year before its national rollout. It started out as a regional test program on a handful of Fox Television Stations outlets last year.

Still, daytime of any kind is a “real challenge,” said the former producer of daytime cable staple “A Dating Story.” “I’d love to say it will be easier next season, but it probably still will be challenging.”

Now that “Ambush,” which has a staff of 65 and offices in Philadelphia, is up and running, the show is on the road seven days a week with five different crews scattered throughout the country.

“Ambush” is a half-hour show featuring six celebrity stylists who travel the country to ambush unsuspecting people and offer them complete makeovers. Sometimes makeover subjects are set up by a friend or family member; other times producers just find them out and about.

Finding local crews across the country to handle the run-and-gun style of production on the show is tough, Mr. Rantamaki said, but Banyan, which has several reality series in production, is often a great resource. “We just have to make sure we’re not shooting at the same time in the same city they’re doing another show, because it is so hard to find strong camera crews,” he said.

In addition to talented staff, “We’re always looking for strong stories,” Mr. Rantamaki said. “Just walking down the street, you’d be amazed what we find.”

Among the street stories, “Ambush” has found a woman on her way to meet for the first time the son she gave up for adoption.

“I used to walk down the street and enjoyed thinking, What is that person thinking?” he said. “It’s been fun to find that stuff out.”