BOSTON – Cut the lights. Cue the music. And, don't drop the balloons and confetti too soon. The Democratic National Convention (search) is a made-for-TV spectacle with the scripted glitz of Hollywood, which shouldn't be a surprise since the man behind it is a show business veteran.
"It's not an entertainment show," insists Don Mischer (search), the convention's executive producer and a Los Angeles veteran of everything from Olympic ceremonies to a Barbra Streisand (news) concert.
"We are trying to create, and make as interesting as possible, four days of history," he said Sunday from his perch in the operations nerve center overlooking the convention floor at the FleetCenter. "We tried to project a sense of humanity and activity and energy."
The convention set inside the converted FleetCenter sports arena is massive, with dark wood panels and faux peach marble that try to project a presidential image.
Yet, the effect is intimate and welcoming, too. Producers worked to bring Sen. John Kerry closer to the bustling activity on the convention floor, rather than have the already towering candidate — at 6-foot, 4-inchs tall — hover above on an otherwise empty stage.
Blue-carpeted steps lead up the center of the stage from the convention floor, allowing choirs, including one children's group singing "This Land is Your Land," easy access and proximity to the delegates.
Several dozen maroon chairs ascend the back of the stage, where rotating groups of delegates will sit to get up-close views. Movable screens separate the front of the stage from rows of computer terminals at the back where Democratic National Committee staffers will work each night.
Two podiums — each decorated with silver seals of an American flag — will be raised and lowered throughout.
Behind the podiums, banks of flat-panel television screens — and above the stage a giant 90-foot by 18-foot screen — will project thousands of live and taped images to delegates on the convention floor and television viewers at home.
Each night, vignettes by a documentary film maker will feature everyday people testifying that Kerry changed their lives. On Monday night, footage of supporters in four cities — Canton, Ohio, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Little Rock, Ark. — will be beamed in via satellite.
Later, the cameras will cut to a firehouse in New Hampshire to discuss concerns of firefighters and emergency workers. Then, it's to Iowa to talk about issues facing farmers.
Just as Kerry finishes his acceptance speech Thursday, a 13-piece band will be cued. From the rafters, 100,000 balloons and 1,000 pounds of confetti will drop.
Cameras will capture it all — a picture-perfect, made-for-TV event.
Although he insists the show is not entertainment, Mischer does allow that with 31 hours of content mapped out from Monday through Thursday, "I'm hoping some of the things we have created will encourage more television coverage."
After all, free media coverage is largely what political conventions have become now that much of the suspense is gone.
"There are thousands of people in the audience right there," said Jim Mulhall, a Democratic media consultant. "But there's an audience that's in the millions watching this from home."