This is kind of a fun question and forgive me if it's not necessarily relevant to sound design:

But, I'm going to ask it anyway!

Have you ever missed or gone over the deadline for Television or Film?

I hear horror stories about a Sports post production facility that the guy had to run the tapes down the hall within 10 seconds before airing on live television.

What are some of your stories like that? Ever been in the eleventh hour and barely finished the mix that someone had to rush to the airport on time?

I'm very curious.

What happens if you do miss a deadline? What would happen if the newest episode of Sponge-Bob Square-Pants doesn't get done in time for broadcast?

For that matter, what would happen if a post production team on a film doesn't make their deadline?

I was fascinated by the Lord of the Rings trilogy and everything that happened with them on getting their movies done on time. I think they finished Return of the King on a Wednesday and the film premiered on a Friday?

Thinking about it, I guess it would be impossible because anything that goes on the air has to be checked first by someone to ensure there is no profanity etc. Right? But then again, that's why I'm asking this question - because I don't have a clue!!!

Thanks - Ryan

  • 2
    You are very curious indeed... And it's contagious! :) Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 21:05
  • 3
    One of my former General Managers used to say "It's only Television, nobody's gonna die." But he doesn't make TV anymore. Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 21:08
  • 1
    I remember on this year's Super Bowl there was this intro video thing with a whole bunch of the players talking to the camera and something was wrong because there were no voices coming through on the broadcast mix. Woops, someone muted the Dia Stem... "GET YOUR COFFEE CUP OFF MY MUTE, BOB!!"
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 21:18

5 Answers 5


"Deadlines" that I've missed always seem to have come from a last minute change to a basic element from a client's client's spouse. "So-and-so thinks that the narrator sounds too old. I know we've bought air time and were slated to ship tonight, but I think they're right and we really should change it."

However when it comes to late deliveries, my early days of political ads take the cake. Last minute script changes in response to an attack ad for a politician three time zones away has resulted in more than one courier catching a plane because we missed the airport drop off for FedEx.

Fortunately most of my clients these days schedule with enough lead time... (knocks wood)

  • political world is still very last minute for the same reasons, but fortunately everything is digital these days, so couriers and fedexes are things of the past.
    – Rene
    Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 23:36
  • wow. Never knew about politics like that. Cool answer.
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 20, 2010 at 23:37

I mix a investigative journalism show (kind of Canada's version of "60 Minutes") and we were always running up against the deadline in a near miss fashion. Once I was still finishing the mix of the second act's story while the first act was on air. Luckily now it has to be close captioned before it can go to air so the mix has to be done by the morning of the air date. So that just means I mix until 3am the night before most of the time. They did an episode on the earthquake in Haiti that was really down to the wire, so it could air in time to lead into a telethon fundraiser, that it first went to air "unmixed" (basically a realtime mix pass was done that relied waaaaaaaaaaay too much on the L1). Then A proper mix was done for re-airings later in the week.

The worst missed deadline I ever nearly caused was when I starting out and I once put a label sticker on the data side of a CD (back when each disc cost $35). I had to make a new disc so it could be laid back at the last moment and make its air time. Yikes! I can say I never made that mistake again.

  • Cool story. I like the CD.
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 22, 2010 at 4:43

I've missed some deadlines. Mostly back in the day when I was younger and stupider. If I miss a deadline now, it's for the same reason Steve mentioned. It's because of the client. I've had clients give me a very short window of time to do something, and I can usually pull it off. But this is often what happens when I show it to them:

Client: "That's not the way I wanted it"

Me: "This is what you asked for though"

Client: "I know, but I didn't mean it like that. I wanted it a bit different"

I used to get caught in that all the time when I was starving for work and taking no-lo pay stuff left and right.

Anymore, though, I do everything in my control to not miss a deadline. If it looks like I might miss the deadline for a legitimate reason, I'll let the client know ahead of time. If they are fine with it being a day or two late, then we're cool and the client really appreciates the communication. If they absolutely can't afford to get it late, I'll try to find someone to pull in and help me finish the work, or just pull an all-nighter or two to get it done.

  • True. I personally can't stand the client changing his mind and telling you one thing and wanting another thing later - and thinking it's easy for you to change it and re-work things and wanting it yesterday. But, I have learned to experience anything doing this job - in the end you're working for the director/client and it's their baby.
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 22, 2010 at 4:44

OK... my personal "last minute horror story"...

Infamous Animation Director/Producer... I'm due to start final mix and layback on the show at 9AM Friday morning for a Monday Broadcast (ship out by Fedex to LA by 7PM). Director actually shows up with the show at 9PM after a day of "He'll be there in a hour!". So after waiting around 12 hours, mixed the show, laid it back, then ran it to the Bus station (after a snowstorm) to put it on the red-eye to LA, so it could get on air. Played that Monday!

Oh ya... had to get to a music video shoot at 7AM that Saturday! Ouch!

  • There is actually an amusing Karmic bit to this story, but telling it might reveal the identity of the person involved... suffice to say Karma comes around! :)
    – Sonsey
    Commented Jul 22, 2010 at 21:36

I've never missed a deadline... I have, however, admitted that I couldn't finish one.

I usually give myself a two-week deadline, if the project allows for it. If I can't get a musical idea, or a sound design direction, I'll contact the person hiring me and break them the news.

If I'm paid up front, I'll leave that money untouched for that two weeks, so I'm able to return it in full.

  • Thanks for the answer. I bet most filmmakers appreciate the honesty.
    – Utopia
    Commented Jul 22, 2010 at 20:37

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