Randy Douthit Discusses the Difficulties Of Producing In A Pandemic.

Even for Randy Douthit, an experienced producer who helmed the Emmy award-winning courtroom program Judge Judy for 25 years, the COVID-19 pandemic posed a unique set of challenges to which he needed to adjust. Producing a TV show is messy and unpredictable by nature. The slightest changes in location or staff can upend entire projects and leave everyone scrambling. And that was before a deadly virus began killing millions of Americans, shutting down airports, and disrupting the supply chain.

“All my meetings in the studio were canceled,” Douthit says. “If you’re trying to get approval on a script, if you’re trying to schedule an actor or get some set plans approved by the building inspectors, all that stuff is done over the phone, because everyone is so worried about being out in public. As a result, the execution of our scripts came to a grinding halt.”

The biggest challenge for Douthit was to decide how to integrate the show’s long-running courtroom scenes with the new reality of COVID-19. “We kind of had this in our minds that we wanted to blend in the courtroom scenes with all of this stuff,” he says. “However, there were also a lot of things that needed to be toned down or adjusted for the pandemic on set. The audience was not just watching trial scenes.”

At the same time, though, Randy Douthit realized that the show needed to continue with its shorter scripts and quick, entertaining courtroom proceedings. “We didn’t have time to do a lot of analysis,” he says. “So we had to go with what we know best and put in the hard work of making sure that it was entertaining enough to get through. There were times when we needed to improvise lines, and then quickly put them back into the script. Some of the improvisations were done on set, while other parts were done in post-production.”

For Randy Douthit, though, working through these challenges was just as much a part of his job as it always was. “I don’t like being told what to do,” he says. “I was working with a lot of people who were not familiar with the show and just did their job as best they could. But in the end, it was all about producing a good show. I was never bothered by the pandemic going on around us.”

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